Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Discovering Dad This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

For more than half my life, my father was my favorite parent. He never yelled, only gave short time-outs, and was very easily persuaded. He congratulated me even when I didn't win first place. He was always home when I was. When he had to be in his office, he would take my sister and me along with him. He was the parent who cooked American foods like pasta, pizza, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and rice pudding. He would make rice pudding for two reasons: to eat it, and to get my Asian mother mad for “wasting rice.” We would play board games together; he didn't care if it was Strawberry Shortcake themed.
My mother brought home most of the family income, made rules, and decided where we would go on vacation. My father was the one who asked about my day and checked my homework. My parents were definitely not like most parents I knew. While my mom never wore “mom jeans,” my dad swore by the very blue, very ugly, very shapeless variety purchased at Costco.
Despite his nurturing personality, he was and is a hardworking person outside of the house. Nine years ago after he'd written a book and was going to present it at a conference, I gave him a certificate and a huge thousand dollar bill I had made. When he returned, he brought back a TY bear for me, and – sure enough – a $1,000 prize for excellence for his book.
I think my dad was socially awkward as a child. His family were liberal Mormons from Utah. Growing up, his best friend was his brother. He sported a bowl cut, wore large-rimmed glasses, and played the trumpet. When I read his yearbook, I found lots of hastily written notes that only said things like “Stay cool,” “You're good at basketball,” or “See ya later.” The most personal message advised my father that if he stopped picking his nose, he might meet more girls. He has since undergone quite a change, I think. While he still is a liberal Mormon, the bowl cut has been replaced with what looks like a grown-out buzz cut. The '60s-style large-rimmed glasses are gone to make way for a pair of sleek wire bifocals. The only way he expresses himself musically nowadays is through hymns at church, and whistling nursery tunes to embarrass my sister and me.
Then a few years ago, despite having a decent job, two kids, a car, a growing bank account, and half of a duplex in a nearly homogenous neighborhood, he decided he wanted more. Maybe he would get a job in Washington, D.C., for the ­Census Bureau or teach at a college in Ohio or Utah. He had some interviews here in Hawaii and internationally. I cried about it. I prayed to God about it. I didn't want my dad to leave.
Then, the summer before my eighth-grade year, my father, the blandest, safest, Type-B individual I know, took a job 4,500 miles away, in a country that he had never been to before the interview. Although we have daily Skype sessions, my family has changed. The only American foods we eat now are frozen pizzas and Prego sauce. There's no one to complain about my friends to, no one to drive me into town, no one who can be easily convinced, no one who will listen to me rant about my weird teenage emotions.
This January, my dad accompanied my speech and debate team to our tournament on Hawaii Island. While the rest of the team ran around a large wooden playground, I sat in the rented van with Dad. Basically I complained and cried for half an hour. I'm not a crier. During the last four years I've cried no more than four times. I complained about how I could have had a bigger trophy had I just found an additional statistic or had my partner worked harder on her speeches. I whined about how I always do too much when I work in groups. He didn't tell me to man up or to grow up. He didn't deliver an “it gets better” speech. He just listened.
The next day, in the same van, we drove up the bumpy, unpaved road to Mauna Kea's peak. There are few things scarier than being about a mile above sea level in an extra large vehicle with a driver who's accustomed to a small Honda and who's distracted by the beautiful scenery along the narrow road. I must have told him to keep his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road at least ten times. We reached the peak just in time for sunrise. Never in my life have I felt so warm and cold at the same time – cold from the altitude and lack of gloves, but warmed by Dad's love as we stood in front of the rising sun.
The journey back down the mountain was almost as scary. The road was just as bumpy, and the tires started to smell like burning rubber. Somehow, Dad managed to stay calm, while the rest of us in the van worried about whether we'd make it to the airport in one piece. Did I mention that we almost ran over a nene (Hawaii's state bird) – a crime that could have earned him a year in jail?
I love my dad. Even though I talk to him almost every day, it's just not the same living without him. He left on Tuesday morning to spend another four months teaching college geography in South Korea. I'm not sure if the experience has turned out to be what he expected, but to me, he will always be the kind and nurturing parent.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!




Site Feedback