I'm Sorry

June 15, 2008
By Yooha Park, Atlanta, GA

My gloved hand picked up another glazed Krispy Kreme donut. I threw it onto a plate and handed it to the little girl who was clutching her father’s hand.
“Happy Donuts with Dad day,” I mumbled and handed another plate of donuts to the next father. I had volunteered to help out with the annual Donuts with Dad day at my son’s elementary school. As I handed another plate of donuts to a man, I looked up at his face. He was different from the other fathers I had seen. While the others had worn pastel-colored dress shirts, he wore a black shirt and his looks were unbelievably different. His eyes were slanted and his hair was jet-black with the occasional prominent strands of white hair. I watched him clutch his son’s hand; he was a spitting image of his father.

Dad and I stood, hand in hand, waiting for the PTA mothers to hand us our own plates of glazed donuts and cartons of milk. I looked up at the tall man that could barely speak a drop of English, the man I called Dad. His eyes crinkled and he smiled as he handed me my plate of donuts. I pointed excitedly to my comrade of friends who sat in a cluster, chattering, and their fathers were in their own group talking. I seated myself next to my companions and began to eat and talk with them. I didn’t notice that Dad seated himself uncomfortably next to me. My friend Katie’s father turned to him and began to start a conversation with him.
“Your daughter is quite brilliant Mr. Lim,” he said. Dad looked up, I had expected him to smile and go back to eating his donuts. He didn’t.
“Oh, no!” he smiled and went back to eating his donuts. From the corners of my eyes, I could see my friends coughing back their giggles and their fathers smiling uncomfortably. My face burned in shame. In such embarrassment, I took Dad out into the cool hallway and looked him in the face.
“What was that for? You just embarrassed me in front of my friends and their fathers! I hate you! You can’t speak English and you don’t even know this country’s culture!” I yelled and stomped back into the cafeteria leaving him standing alone in the hallway.
That day was my last Donuts with Dad day I spent with my dad and also the last day he came to my school. Time passed after that Donuts with Dad day, it turned from minutes to days. I never apologized for my anger towards him. He never asked for one either. To this day on, I regret the apology I never gave him.

I blinked back my tears and the mound of donuts waiting to be filled onto a plate for the next father and child were blurred. I picked up a plate of donuts and grabbed my sweater and dashed out of the elementary school and ran to the nearby cemetery. I walked slowly to the smallest headstone—it was such a small headstone for a man that had done such great deeds. I kneeled over the headstone and felt my tears trickle down my cheek. I put the plate of donuts next to his headstone.
“Look Daddy, donuts… they were your favorites. They’re from the Donuts with Dad at my son’s school,” I looked at the headstone and sobbed.
Then, for the first time after I had yelled at my father, I whispered, “I’m sorry Daddy.”

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