One of my most…no, my #1 MOST FAVORITE activity is to devote large blocks of time making up complicated hypothetical dilemmas and then challenging myself to find an efficient solution that still has a little bit of panache. I don’t like it when people walk around with their chest puffed out because they performed an act of kindness. Questions form. Did they do it for the accolades? Is he going to write a Facebook status update about his bravery and pray for at least 15 likes? But I also don’t like it when heroes act like it’s NBD. I tread a fine line. I never ask for a parade or anything extravagant at the end of my make-believe dramas, but will I turn down an edible fruit bouquet? That’s just stupid. Fruit is a wonderful source of vitamins.
Once in a while, I allow myself a happy scenario. A place or a situation that could never actually exist in real life but I can’t help wanting anyway. My father is in most of these moments. Sometimes I pretend that he stayed for my entire high school graduation. I erase all the shame I used to feel when my friends saw my father in his industrial coveralls and Volt sneakers from Wal-Mart.
I don’t talk about my father a lot, but it’s not because I dislike him or because there aren’t any stories about him. He’s been absent for so long that I just don’t think about him that much anymore. At least I think I don’t. But my behavior seems to indicate that I have daddy issues.
I never wanted my badness to be the result of anyone else. I refused to accept that other people influenced my choices and my outlook on life. I didn’t want it to be about other people because I can’t control other people. I can only control me. And I’m not even good at that. Ask me about the entire bag of wasabi peas I just ate. Lord Jesus, my esophagus is on fire.
My father was rarely at home as I was growing up. He worked odd hours as a government employee, and on his free days, he spent most of his time in the garage, tinkering with cars in various stages of crisis. I only went out to the garage once before I left home permanently at the age of 17. He preferred solitude, but he let me stay just this one time.
As I sat on the hood of his car, he showed me pictures of tools that he wanted. They were some brand called Snap-on. He said those tools were serious business and very, very expensive. One day when I grow up, I thought, I’m going to be a millionaire and then I’ll buy my dad the whole entire set of Snap-on tools. Even the little accessory parts and a red Craftsmen chest to store them. The rolling kind.
To this day, every time I see a Snap-on company truck drive by, I think about my father and my unfulfilled promise.
But maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Maybe he’s the one that was supposed to give me tools. Tools so that I could navigate adulthood. Tools for me to repair the cracks in my relationships and seal the leaks in my friendships and tighten up those loose ends that happen when you focus on one area of your life for too long and let everything else slide.
I spent four months locating my father in 2012. We hadn’t seen each other since he divorced my mother in 2000. When I found him, I flew to Texas and we met for lunch. I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to say. I just wanted to see my father. And I thought he might want to see me all grown up.
I told him that I turned out okay. You know, in case he was worried about me. I always feel better when I know Cal is safe. That doesn’t mean I coddle her or anything though. She’s on spring break right now and when she asked about the activities I had planned, I told her that she would be building me some Ikea furniture. Nothing crazy. Just a bookcase and a rolling cart. Some people are really sensitive when it comes to child labor, but I’m not one of those people.
Ironically, on the day that I was in Texas having lunch with him, this Huffington Post piece about the absence of my father came out. We exchanged phone numbers after lunch. He wanted to plan a get-together for the summer with my aunts and uncles. He said he would call me. I don’t know why I believed him because he made that exact same statement years before.
I haven’t heard from him since. I think my father needs to work on follow-through.
Sometimes I think about what that phone call would be like. You know how you talk to someone on the phone and there’s not one awkward or dull moment? And in that giant expanse of all those words, there isn’t one tiny moment of stupid? And then you want to talk to that person again?
It would be just like that.
“This is what I know: People’s hopes go on forever.” -Junot Diaz
Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (evidence of child labor, that lap dance I gave a panda at SXSW, me and some rappers) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)