the water got high and she never got dry

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

it’s your fire, it’s your soul

My father is not an easy man to live with. I’ve had 27 years to get used to that and it’s still challenging. You can’t choose your family but I still haven’t outgrown my deep, childhood desire for a normal, happy-go-lucky family, preferably one that just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Being Asian, being an introvert, and having a dysfunctional family – these are the three strikes that have me perpetually feeling in the minority.

Our family has always been a casualty in my dad’s struggles with his personal demons, including cancer, depression, anger management issues, and alcoholism. Our relationship had improved quite a bit since I came to grad school; he appeared to have mellowed as a result of reflecting on his life and wanting to find a measure of peace.

But now with my wedding coming up, he’s fallen back into his angry, controlling ways. The psychologist in me assumes that he’s threatened by all the autonomy implied by my getting married. So he continues to treat me like a child rather than respecting me as an adult. I’ve let him play the domineering father role all my life but I’m not letting him do it anymore. I refuse to let him call the shots on how and when I’m getting married.

Is there a chance my parents won’t be at my wedding? Yes and I’m trying to prepare for that possibility now. Will I be angry and hurt that they missed out on it and that they’re impinging upon my happiness? Yes, but I can guarantee that my dad will feel worse, because he will have chosen to miss out on one of the most important days in my life.

And sometimes I think cutting him out of my life, as hard that would be, would be preferable to having to deal with parental tantrums every time I make some major life decision without consulting him. Moving, getting a job, buying a house, having kids – I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave me grief anytime those decisions weren’t in line for what he wants me to do.

Whether or not I actually break from my parents, I will break from them in spirit. I’ll be starting my own family and as much as possible, I refuse to bring ghosts of past sadness into it.

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