Father’s Day Post: Blood is not always thicker than water

Papi and me at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles.

Father’s Day 2011 has a new meaning for me this year. My biological father passed away this February. He wasn’t a father to me very much, nor for my half-siblings. He was too selfish to ever become a parent in my opinion. The last time I spoke to him was two years ago. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation. Apparently a majority of my relatives don’t really want to have anything to do with him either.

I came to the U.S. when I was eight years old.  My mother have been living in the U.S. and she remarried. I met my soon-to-be stepfather a year before when he came to Hong Kong to meet me. I was ambivalent at first because of my family’s screwed up situation.  He was a quiet sort. He had the roundest head for a Chinese guy I thought. He greeted me with a smile and somehow I knew things were going to be alright from that point on.

I didn’t expect anything from him, being a step-child and all. My stepfather became more like a father to me than my biological one. He went as far as to fully adopt me by having my surname changed to his. He said he wanted to be a part of his family, properly. His family took me in as one of their own.  As I’ve said before, I did not expect to be accepted by him nor his clan. I am very grateful for that.

He knew I had an appreciation for art, so he took me to galleries in SoHo, NYC every weekend. Museum trips were a must. He has an appreciation for modern art. One his regrets was not being able to take to the monumental exhibition of Picasso at MOMA in the late 1970’s.  My mother did not mind moving the family to somewhere in middle America, but my stepfather was dead set against it. He wanted NYC to be a base for me to learn about culture and art. He didn’t want me to end up like a country bumpkin.

Like all parents and children, we had fights. I think my temper has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. We would have screaming matches over the phone. After a pause, he would say, “So, are you done?” Gathering my breath and composure, I would reply, “Yeah, I’m done. It’s all good.”

I remembered his late mother came to visit and stayed with us.  It was the summertime. My parents were going out to dinner one night, but his mom came down with the cold. I was supposed to hang out with some friends that very night, but I decided to stay behind and look after his mom. He felt bad by having me staying home. I didn’t mind at all. I was honored to be able to look after his mom and get to know her a little better. For all the care and effort he puts into parenting, it was the least I could do for him.

For the record, I always address him as “father”, rather than “step-father”.

I felt bad that my father and my mother didn’t spawn a child to call his own. However, through all the good times and crap that went down, I am proud to be a member of his clan.

Blood is not always thicker than water. It is the people who step up and take the role of parenthood while others have failed.


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