#107 Tell My Dad What I Think of Him

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When I told my dad that I loved him as part of my last day on Earth post, I later learned from my mom that he was in a daze when he got off the phone.  “Do you know what Greg said to me?  He said he loved me.”  He couldn’t believe it.  That just shows you how often my family verbally expresses their feelings for each other.

It’s just something we never did.  It’s probably why I find communicating my feelings now to be scary.  And communicating them with my family even scarier.

It’s Father’s Day today and I already called him.  We had small talk like we always do.  My sister and I bought him a computer so he was pretty excited about that.  He asked about Clara.  “Tell her I said hi, if… if she knows about me.”  Yes Dad, I assured him, she knows I have a father.

I decided I wanted to tell him what I thought of him as a father.  It would be difficult to say everything to him over the phone so I sent him this email:

Dear Dad,

When I was just a kid, you were the best guy in the world to me.  I thought you knew everything, could do anything.  I thought you were Superman.

In elementary school, I started to notice you weren’t like my friend’s fathers.  You didn’t laugh and joke around with us.  You were quiet and didn’t say much when my friends were over.  I started to think you weren’t very fun.  You weren’t cool.

We never played sports together.  So when I got to junior high, I was humiliated during gym class.  I couldn’t shoot a basketball or throw a baseball.  Whenever I missed a shot or struck out, I blamed you.  And I started to resent you for it.

I was sensitive and compassionate as a teenager.  Traits that don’t go over too well for guys in high school.  I never felt like I coud joke around with the other guys.  Or when I did, I faked it.  I made jokes about girls and other kids but didn’t really want to.  I blamed you for that too because you were the same exact way.

When I was in college, I got angry when I felt you weren’t being assertive and strong like men should.  I thought you never stood up for yourself.  And when I found myself acting the same, it made me even angrier.  I overcompensated by acting out.  I’d punch walls or throw furniture when I was mad, to show how assertive and strong I could be.

In my 20’s, I found out that you wanted to be a writer all your life but instead you worked at a job you hated just because it was stable and you could make more money.  I had no respect for that. Why didn’t you follow your dreams?  You were too scared, I decided.  Too cowardly to take the risk.  I had no respect for that.

I blamed you for making my life difficult.  I blamed you for the man I had become.  A man I didn’t like.

But then I started to realize some things.

When I was in elementary school, instead of playing sports, I read books.  Books that you brought home to me when you got back from work at night, from the job you commuted to three hours a day to support your family.  Books that fostered my imagination and ignited my fascination with storytelling.  A big part of the reason I’m a writer today.

Because I was terrible at sports in junior high, I spent all day, every day in the summer trying to get better at them. I never did become great, but I was competent.  I learned how to work for something by myself.  To this day if there’s something I’m not good at it, I dive headfirst into it to become better.

That compassion and sensitivity I hated so much in high school is something I’m grateful for today.  They are the things about me that I’m most proud of.

I realized that you are assertive and strong in a different way.  You don’t have to pound your chest, huffing and puffing to make a point.  You stay calm and use reason.  It takes confidence to do that.  I try to do the same.

I’m ashamed that I ever lost respect for you about working at a job you hated for so many years.  Because now, I respect you more than you can imagine.  For sacrificing yourself to give your family a good life.  For sacrificing your dream so that me and my sister could live ours. But it wasn’t really a sacrifice to you was it?  As long as we were happy, so were you.

Now, I don’t blame you for anything.  I credit you.  I credit you for making me the man I am today.  A man who can be caring and thoughtful to people.  A man who has quiet dignity.  A man who is willing to sacrifice for the people he loves.  A man I’m proud of being.  A man I love.  Like you.

15 Comments to “#107 Tell My Dad What I Think of Him”

  1. Amanda 20 June 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Don’t mind me…just cutting onions here.

    That was a beautiful letter. That’s very cool how you’re continuing the legacy of writing.

  2. Stephen 20 June 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    One of your best posts so far, if not the best. Slightly different issues here, but similar in concept and to this day I cannot imagine being as open with my father as you just were. Congrats.

  3. Greg 21 June 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks for the kind words. My dad wrote a long email back and started out with “This is the best father’s day gift and I’ll forever treasure it.”

    I felt a little bad because he tried to explain himself for stuff that I mentioned growing up, even though I didn’t need any explanation. But overall, it turned out to be a great thing for both of us.

  4. buddingact 26 June 2011 at 3:12 am #

    Beautiful.

  5. Vivi 7 July 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    *tear*

  6. shan 28 November 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Hi Greg – I found your site through your sister’s blog, which I’ve been following for years without having actually ever met her. I obviously have a lot of reading catch-up to do and thus far haven’t commented on anything… but this post was beautiful. I’ve never told my parents how much I now appreciate the way they brought me up (nor how much I love them), yet I have no problems telling it to a complete stranger who is the brother of another “stranger” on the internet. Funny how our mind works. The whole premise of your website is great: simultaneously hilarious, honest, cheeky, poignant, among other things. This post in particular was inspiring. I hope to express similar sentiments to my parents one day, before it’s too late. I have a feeling they know already without my having to say anything, but just in case, you know?

    (sorry for writing my own post in your comments section :)

    Keep on rocking!

    • Greg 30 November 2011 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks Shan. This one seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people because I think we assume our parents and loved ones will always be around so we just don’t think of saying these things to them before it’s too late. Or we assume they already know but it’s always great to hear anyway. Thanks for the words about my blog. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Feel free to blog in my comments section whenever you want!

  7. Username 6 March 2012 at 5:09 am #

    So I was reading your letter and was thinking to myself and as i was reading i thought to myself that really takes some balls to say that and what a little shit you were for saying all that for your dad. Then I reached the bottom part of your letter and somebody seemed to have been cutting onions nearby.

    • Greg 6 March 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      The literary term for that is “the ole switcheroo.”

  8. Terri 14 March 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Its interesting to see how your writing is different from the first blog post. Your attitude sounds different almost. More…. Mature? Not sure but it’s fun to read.
    I went back and read my angry emo journal entries from highschool and I felt so shocked at how self-centered I sounded when really I know I was just ranting without editing. Things sounded a lot worse than I remember feeling. Also being Asian, i blamed a lot of my social awkwardness to my parents for never teaching me to express myself. It’s one of those do or die mentalities that most Asian parents have. Almost like “well they’ll figure it out” lol.
    Okay sorry for the long post. Onward to the next one!!

    • Greg 28 March 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Thanks for reading! It’s interesting to see how people going through the whole blog all at once see how I changed during the process.

  9. Terri 14 March 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Dude. That is an awesome painting!

  10. Denise 21 March 2012 at 5:16 am #

    Wow. This post gives me so much hope. I need to tell my parents how I feel about them even if my words don’t come out as elegantly.

    • Greg 28 March 2012 at 7:20 am #

      Everyone should. People just don’t say things like this until it’s too late.

  11. sherryshaoling 31 March 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    wow, your letter is amazing. reading it with tears streaming down my face!