Dad’s been dead for 36 years — a lifetime during which I’ve finally salvaged the real me from his control freak destructiveness. And as a recovering daughter, I’m starting to reflect on the good stuff he gave me.
So I recently took a good look at a photo of us that’s been hanging in my bedroom for ages. A very sweet shot of us in the backyard of the New Jersey house we lived in when I was very young. By then, he was already quick to bark disapproving orders but it wasn’t too bad yet. There were still opportunities to sit in his lap and share the gardening that he loved.
Thinking about all this made me feel too raw.
I took the picture off the wall.
Made me feel too much.
If my dad, the first man in my life, had been easier to talk to, would my relationships with men have gone differently? Would I be divorced…and still single?
Part of me wants to banish the picture to the attic. Then again, if I am really my own person now, there’s no need to punish him anymore — or me, especially since Bad Dad is dead. No more of his yelling. No more soul-crushing demands that I study medicine or accounting or marry within my race. No more tiptoeing around to avoid his temper tantrums.
The other morning, I was admiring my backyard. While I am not into gardening, I like pretty plantings (and hired people to do the work. Haha!) No doubt, hanging out with my father in his beloved rose beds had something to do with my appreciation for natural beauty.
Writing about this here has given me a new thought….maybe I’ll hang the photo in the downstairs spare bedroom which I turned into my art studio. Since starting my new digital reporting job on Jan. 1, I have NOT picked up a paint brush even once. Maybe it’s time to do that soon, and to bring Dad with me.
At last, we’re ready to begin a new relationship that includes my terms.
P.S. — If you want some help working through issues about your dad, please check out my BettyMingLiu.com post about Peggy Drexler’s book, “Our Father’s, Ourselves.” :)