Father’s Day Post: Betty Ming Liu on Making Peace with an Authoritarian Father
Betty Ming Liu on making peace with her deceased dad:
The war is over. Even though my father was a tyrant who made me miserable, I’ve fought hard to reclaim my life and get to happiness. So after all the years of weeping and blowing my nose at the shrink’s office, letting go is possible. This Sunday, I will celebrate. Finally.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
I love you, Dad.
To be honest, part of me can’t believe I just typed those words. But what a relief! This moment has been a long time coming. My father died 37 years ago when I was 19 and he was 70. It was 1976 and we had reached a tense truce in our constant arguing. To cope, I was a few weeks into a new tactic: Instead of talking back, I shut up and silently obeyed his orders. After all, I lived under his roof and had no money or means to survive on my own. (Or at least, that’s how I viewed the situation.)
It was soul-killing to be in college and have Dad insist on choosing my courses (heavy on business and economics, no English lit or art). By ceasing my back-talk, I sat through his lectures until he stopped and I could go to my room. Who knows how long I could’ve endured under this new strategy — probably not long. Still, I’m forever glad that I submitted because when he suddenly died one morning of a heart attack, my conscious was clear. No guilt about angry, unresolved episodes. There was enough closure to start the process of letting go.
After all, Mom and Dad both came to this country with big dreams. They ended up in a suffocating marriage that had them sleeping in separate rooms. With their constant fighting, they couldn’t turn to each other. Instead, they leaned on their kids to fulfill them. As the first-born (I have a younger sister), I was supposed to be the piano-playing medical doctor or, at least, become an accountant like my father. Not!
Oh, well. You know what I say now? The real power in celebrating Father’s Day is knowing that I can — and must — nurture myself. I have benefited from the love of many other good men in my life — my current shrink who offers such a helpful male perspective, good friends and colleagues that are men, guy teachers and professors who are mentors.
And all of that is the real reason to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day! xo
I’m preparing my own Father’s Day Post, and will have it up soon!