My Father

If you’re looking for an inspirational story about father figures, this will not be it. Fair warning.

In real life I don’t exactly enjoy talking about people. I do talk about people and I try to do it only when there’s a good example to learn. Sometimes to attach meaning to a behaviour, especially when it’s peculiar, I would talk about people. I also like to postulate mental illnesses people have by what they post on social media, or how they behave in real life. We are after all humans. We interact with people. Sometimes we just need to bitch about people to get shit out of our system.

My dad just got home five minutes ago. He sat on the couch and started teasing my cat. As a proud and a bit indulgent cat mom, I do not believe, at all, in manhandling my cat, well, this extends to the entire animal kingdom (unless one’s life is threatened). I do not look at my cat as though he is so precious and not naughty. He has his moments, and is the chief reason my house is not immaculate. It’s like having a three-year-old. But he is generally a good cat, enjoys my company, and accompanies me do things around the house. The feelings I have about my cat are mostly of affection. I asked my dad why he would tease or even pinch my cat. He had no answer, and quickly changed the topic to some other cat dying about five minutes where we stayed. I had no interest to listen.

That sums up the relationship I have with my father. Almost non-existent, and if we talked, it would somehow lead to an argument or misunderstanding. The latter happens more than the former, and while I wouldn’t say our relationship deteriorated after my mom’s death, I would say I do not particularly care for his presence. In fact, before my mom died I had almost zero interaction with him. After her death I thought OK, this was who I had left, so maybe show some respect or filial piety. I used to wonder if he were smarter, or a good conversationalist, or a supportive father, would I have liked him more? Maybe. I wouldn’t know, and it’s not something I’d now waste my time ruminating. Why put myself through agony?

We are as different as night and day. He usually talks shit about me to my other siblings when I am not around to hear, so I am not surprised he doesn’t have friends. He had colleagues, I don’t know many, or any of them, and one sleazy ex-colleague of his actually texted me last week and called to “hear my voice” and ask for a selfie. I did not mention it to my dad because it’s not something I couldn’t handle. Blocking people on an app is not difficult. Even before blocking I can opt to ignore the calls and messages. I’m about to go on a rant about men being horny, but this entry is about my dad so we’ll stick to that.

I once mentioned to my sister that when he died in future I was certain it’d just be a handful of us who would turn up for the funeral (mean, I know, but it would be true).

I am saying all this because for single people (meaning not married, but maybe you’re a woman in a relationship with a man) this is important if you are considering a man to be your life partner. Maybe someday you would like to have children, too. While you can choose the person you marry, your children can’t choose their parents. There may be detrimental effects when you make wrong choices. I think when we date someone, and as the relationship progresses, it is important to talk about values, and compatibility. Most people I dated were on the same page. We were, still are, individually, and collectively, not pressured by society or whoever to give birth to a few children.

My dad was mostly absent, both physically and emotionally, when I was growing up, and I’ve already told you the story about how he married another woman while still married to my mom. When he was in Singapore (he mostly worked overseas) we would talk sometimes but they’re weird questions asked by a non-intellectual adult (which was fine, he didn’t have much education in the first place). I also don’t blame him at all for my daddy issues (thankfully, not severe!) even if he ’caused’ them. I am more comfortable dating much older men, well except for S (who is my age, but is like a dad, a mom, a lover, a brother, a business partner and above all, a best friend), and while I joke sometimes about daddy issues, they are real, I exhibit one trait strongly, and it’s not what I wish I have, but I am well aware, but not too concerned.

11 months ago I was ready to commit suicide. I picked a date. Told my best friend. She freaked out. And I still don’t know what transpired between the time I told her and the time my brother appeared at my doorstep. He cried like a child. I tersely told him mental health wasn’t a topic I felt comfortable talking to him about, and he just stayed at my house well into the evening. When my brother asked my dad if he knew anything about it, my dad got extremely defensive and went “She never tells me anything!” and behaved as though this was none of his business. (I don’t want to get into the story about suicide, because it kills the mood, but this really happened).

For months after that I was not allowed to be in a room unaccompanied, and if I wanted any privacy I could have it only with the door unlocked. People are bad at preventing other people from committing suicide. I did tell them actually I wouldn’t pick a painful death, such as slashing my wrists or jugular veins, or jumping off from a tall building, or I don’t know, run through traffic. Those aren’t my style.

Also, if you are reading this randomly, and we don’t know each other, and for some reason you are contemplating suicide, I have been there many times. Those were my darkest days. I definitely do not respond well to ‘Think of all the people you’re leaving behind’. When death seems like the only option, when you feel so lonely, so isolated, people won’t even enter your mind. In a less savoury fashion…. I meant to say ‘who gives a shit?’ I certainly didn’t all those times. I only thought about my mom when she was alive, because I knew it would have killed her to bury her child, and then my cat. I do not have sage advice, but think of whatever you are going through as temporary. I needed a lot of reminders for this over the years, S does it all the time for me, but think of the situation as temporary. My heart goes out to you, you truly matter, so just sit down for a bit, and keep telling yourself the situation is temporary. But seek help from a professional. The hospital is always willing to help. You probably would have to wait, but that’s also temporary, so just do yourself this tiny favour by going to the hospital.

If you’re not suicidal, but if your loved one exhibits harmful behaviour (mentally), it doesn’t hurt to show a lot of support by talking to them, listening, giving them a huge hug and if you know you’re not equipped to help them, it is okay to ask if they would like to see a doctor, and bring them there.

Back to my dad.

My dad has his good points. He’s not lazy about work, and I inherited that from him and my mom. He went for a lot of upgrading courses despite not having a lot of formal education. But he doesn’t give a shit about anything, or anyone else. Most people have told me most Asian men are like that. They’re composed. They’re naturally manly. They don’t show emotions. The reason they’re not loving towards their wives or female loved ones is because the minute they show ‘softness’ women will climb all over their heads. I just cannot get behind this perspective.

I think as a conclusion, all of us have good and bad points. The universe lets us have relationships with people, both good and bad, to allow us to learn lessons. By being exposed to things I do not find desirable, I indirectly learn about patience, about resilience. I am aware there are things I should avoid doing, and to be more mindful about how I behave and interact with people. My dad, despite being responsible for some of my mental illness, helps me realise that even when he mistreated me, or didn’t care, I could choose the way I react, and the way I want to live my life.