Dear Pa, Please Forgive Yourself
It’s a day I will always remember.
It was the day I lost all respect for my father as I watched him strangle my mother with his bare hands.
Growing up, I had a great childhood - my father was my hero. He encompassed what it meant to be a man.
My father quit school at the age of 14 and supported himself by cooking Char Kway Teow. Naturally, he tried to cook for us at home - but I remember laughing at him because of how awful and horrendous his cooking was.
He was a great dad and we lived a simple life, but we were extremely happy and comfortable with whatever we had. We were so so happy.
My mother was the disciplinarian of the household. She was a tough woman, and nothing really flew past her. She might’ve been strict, but we really loved her. She’s the reason I am who I am today.
As a result, my dad was allowed to spoil my sister and me.
As a kid, my father had to work a lot so we only had time with him every night and on the weekends. Yet, he spent every ounce of his free time with my sister and I.
He taught us how to cycle.
He taught us how to swim.
Above all, he taught us the value of family - taking us out on weekly outings to the beach, flying kites at seletar, and taking us to play with our cousins.
My father was a kind-hearted man who stopped to pet stray dogs or cats, give money to beggars, and help the elderly in our neighbourhood.
He was a great role model for me and my sister, and we really looked up to him. We never doubted that we were loved. We just wanted to be like him.
Among all of these lovely memories, one stands out the most to me.
My dad and I would sit at the family TV with the Xbox he bought for us and spend hours tapping on the controls like a maniac. If there’s one thing you need to know - my dad is technologically illiterate. However, watching him try his best to connect with me was something I’d always remember.
Sometimes, we’d just sit silently next to each other as the speakers blared and the screen lit up. I would look over and enjoy the peace in the room. Everything felt alright…
It was the 2008 global financial crisis when everything went south.
My family lost a lot of money during the crash, and tensions were running high in the family. Money was so much tighter than it used to be - not that we had much to begin with.
I remember that things were so tight one time that my parents argued over being able to afford a jar of peanut butter.
The stress from the constant arguments started to pile up as they were constantly at each other's throats. Slowly but surely, my dad started coming home later and later… using overtime as an excuse.
I found myself alone, in front of the television with my Xbox, wondering why things weren’t the same. Wondering why dad no longer had enough time for me.
My father started becoming emotionally distant. He was constantly irritated and ignored my mother every time she questioned his whereabouts.
He seemed to be a shell of a man he once was.
I remember the nights mum would stay up till 2 or 3am in the morning - waiting for dad to come home. We’d pretend to be asleep while they fought and argued. She’d complain about him smelling of perfume, while he’d wave her off as a madwoman.
My mother grew suspicious and hired a private investigator.
Sure enough, we found out that my dad had been spending all that time with another woman - he was having an affair.
“What happens if Mummy and Papa don’s stay together?”, my mother would ask with tears streaming down her face as she held the both of us in her arms.
I was just a kid. How was I supposed to understand?
Day after day, I saw my mother sink into a deep depression, breaking down, and blaming herself for what had happened. I remember my mother sobbing alone in the living room, waiting for my dad to come home.
When my mum confronted my dad about it - all hell broke loose.
It was the first time I saw an incredible flash of red in him as he retaliated out of anger and started strangling my mum. As she desperately gasped for breath, I shouted at him to let go as my sister ran to call the police.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing - looking at the man I loved and respected strangling his wife in front of his kids till she turned reddish blue.
I lost all respect for him.
I felt so cheated.
I felt so helpless.
“Was mum not enough as a wife?
Were we insufficient as children?
You made a mistake, but why are you taking it out on us?
Were you angry at yourself? Or were you angry you got caught?”, I thought to myself.
For a long time after that - life was a blur. The sense of helplessness I had turned into anger; anger into bitterness; bitterness into profound hate. Soon, it became apathy.
As far as I could remember, we never talked about it. The guilt and shame was apparent on my father’s face. He just fell silent.
I wanted nothing to do with him - and it was that way for a very long time.
I wish I could tell everyone here that everything is alright, but there really isn’t this wholesome story of everyone crying, reconciling, and forgiving each other. In fact, things are still fragmented and messy. We’re all really just trying to live our best lives here.
Regardless of his flaws as a husband, he was a great father in his own right.
He doesn't know how, but he is trying day by day to earn our forgiveness. Trying everyday to right his wrongs. The fact that he doesn't know how but is still constantly trying to love his family was enough for me.
Though he’s unable to help his kids academically, he still constantly gives his kids his best even at his expense - waking up earlier to send us to school everyday, trying to strike up a conversation, or making sure that we have enough pocket money.
I really don’t know how to end this thing off. So maybe I’ll end this off with a little note to my dad.
I know we don't have that kind of relationship, but I love you.
I know you messed up in the past and you're still trying to right your wrong. I know you don't know how to forgive yourself and don't know how to love this family. But I hope you know that I forgive you and you are still the person I love.
Papa you've done your time, please forgive yourself just like the family has.
Don't you get that the reason I wake up at 5am everyday is to talk to you?
Thank you for loving us in your own way.
Published on 23/06/2021