Dear Baba | Teen Ink

Dear Baba MAG

January 18, 2019
By zliang BRONZE, East Newark, New Jersey
zliang BRONZE, East Newark, New Jersey
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Forgiveness waits patiently in the first days of the new year.

It was a frosty winter night when I walked into my father’s bedroom and saw him holding a cigarette between two fingers, his lips trembling. His crimson face revealed he had been drunk at the family reunion earlier that evening. When he asked me to come sit by his side, I was able to sense his inexplicable sadness of an unknown origin.

The stereotypical father, mine had always been reserved, emotionless, and at times cold. Being a successful businessman and a well-respected leader never earned him a “Cool Dad” certificate as he missed out on too many important moments in my life due to frequent business trips. Instead, I never had much connection with him growing up because of the limited time we spent together.

As I started to walk by myself down our memory lane, he flipped the ashes off his cigarette and mumbled, “Zifeng, I am here to apologize to you.” I felt a heavy pounding on my heart, unsettled by the start of his confession. At 60, five years away from retiring, he had already lived many lifetimes in one. My father comes from a farmer’s family in a small village in rural China. He had traveled a long way to the city, to rise from poverty and give back to the villagers. The traces of his age and early labors in life were visible on his large, dark, bony hands. Now up close, I stared at the deeply carved wrinkles crawling all over his face and his weathered hair, faded from bright black to gray.

“Baba, why do you apologize all of a sudden?” The question rolled off my tongue as if I had been waiting my entire life to hear him say I’m sorry. Indeed, in my mind, he had been wrong for years for those innumerable absences – from my birth, to my concert performances, parent conferences, award ceremonies, commencements, and more. During my childhood, he seemed constantly busy, too busy to notice things, too busy to care. He looked down and paused for a long minute. He was intentionally avoiding eye contact with me, so I waited quietly.

He let out a muted whimper, breaking the earnest peace. In keeping with the night’s apology, it was the first time I had ever seen him cry. I was startled by the unusual emotional intimacy shared between us and could only awkwardly lay my hand on his back, not able to utter a word. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he whispered as he tried to catch his breath. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you. You have no idea how much I wish that I could watch you grow from a little kid. I just hope that I can go tell the world how much I love you ….”

I listened in silence until my eyes became watery, until I couldn’t hold back my tears. In his apology, I learned that while I was blaming my father for his disappointing nonattendance, he was also reaching out to me for comfort, warmth, company, and family support after a lifetime of long days of work. During those countless nights in empty hotel rooms, did he ever feel left behind by his family like I did? I was not there for him, either, so who was I to place blame?

At that moment, all my grievances and complaints seemed so selfish and cruel. I felt ashamed.

“Baba?” I said as he glanced at me. “I am sorry, too.”

In the silence that followed, we breathed the same fresh air of forgiveness, together. It didn’t matter how many days had been leading to this one. No more words were needed to understand. We entered the new year, for the first time, as father and daughter.

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This article has 1 comment.

surchin said...
on Jan. 28 2019 at 8:59 am
surchin, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
so nicely written!!