F is for Father, Phone, and Flum

Been pretty hammered at work this week; the legislative session is in full swing. But I was holding up a-ok—recuperating from Hobkin’s recent medical crisis and dealing with our pinched finances and all (to make the hefty vet bill even heftier, the powers that be have mandated three more furlough days for us, sigh)—until yesterday, when Matthew got a phone call from a friend of my stepmother’s.

“Stepmother?” I sez to him. “I don’t have a stepmother.” And then I dredged up a distant memory and recalled that, oh yeah, my dad remarried when I was in high school.

To ‘splain that: this information was not at the forefront of my mind because I have not seen or spoken to my father in twenty years. My last communication from him was something like eight years ago when he sent me an incoherent letter complaining that my mom was having the government dock his social security benefits for back child support and wanting me to do something about it.

Now, this is the man who took off when I was three and on our occasional father-daughter visits during my childhood did his very best to assure me that I simply wasn’t good enough at…anything and that my sole purpose in existing was to take care of him when he got old, while also asserting that the Chinese were the superior people and every other race was patently inferior. On the infrequent occasions that he’s tried to contact me since I became an adult, his communications have all been clumsy attempts to manipulate me into doing something for him, usually involving money.

Lessee, psychologically abusive bigot tries to use the fact that we share some DNA to manipulate me. Again. So, yeah, I ignored the letter and hadn’t heard from him since. But this whole being phoned out of the blue by a friend of my stepmother’s, and then subsequently by her, is all new. My first thought was: “Is my father dead? Dying? Really sick?”

But no. Seems not. Probably. More ‘splainy: there is a massive language barrier in play as neither my stepmother’s friend nor my stepmother speak English natively, and Matthew is, erm, not good with accents. And since I haven’t decided whether I want to speak to any of these people yet, all information is, by necessity, filtered through his limited understanding of their fractured English. But, according to him, Stepmother says that she called because she wanted me to get in contact with Dad because it’s Chinese New Year.


And with regard to the friend-of-stepmother thing, seems that friend works in some governmental place and so Stepmother asked him to track me down.

And again I say, WTF?

1. My father has my address. I know this, because he mailed a letter to me here.
2. I am plastered across the Internet. I’m a writer. I have a website. Google my name, there’s my website. Granted, when I married I changed my name, but I sent my dad an announcement when I got married, and also, if you Google my maiden name, it comes up with my address. And if you Google my address, it comes up with, tah dah, my website. I understand that folks of my parents’ generation may not be as Internet savvy as subsequent generations, but I’m really not hard to find.*
3. Why is Stepmother (and friend) trying to contact me instead of Dad?

So I am flummoxed. A lot. To the point that I couldn’t sleep last night. And I couldn’t figure out why this was bugging me so much until after much insomnia-induced rumination. I think I’m freaked out because for a moment, I seriously thought my dad was either dead or dying. And hell, he still might be—language barrier and all. And I honestly don’t know how I feel about the prospect, and it’s something I will eventually have to deal with. If I end up feeling upset, why will it distress me? If I don’t feel anything, will that bother me? Should I feel anything? Do I want to feel anything? Gah!

Thanks, Dad. What I really need right now is more stress because, y’know, I haven’t had enough of it lately.

* I thought about friends locking this post, but since the relatives in question couldn’t figure out how to email me via my website, I think it’s unlikely that they’ll discover my blog.

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8 Responses to F is for Father, Phone, and Flum

  1. threeoutside says:

    I officially give you permission to not think about this for even one more minute. Seriously. Yes, you will have to deal with it when your biological father dies. You do not have to deal with it right now. Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof. If/when his motivation to reach you overcomes his laziness/lack of real caring, then he will find a way to do so (users are very good at that). It is not your job. You do not owe him one minute of excess stomach acid.

    Live your life, be at peace, love those who really love you.

  2. j_cheney says:

    Sorry it’s causing stress (Like the last few weeks haven’t been tough enough). ::sending restful thoughts::

  3. cathshaffer says:

    Wow! Sending you supportive thoughts and prayers, compassion, and virtual hugs. This sounds very upsetting.

  4. cdennismoore says:

    Um . . . wanted YOU to contact HIM? I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works when someone takes off.

    Absent fathers are a strange breed (I worship my kids and couldn’t imagine not being in their lives). For my own part, it was just about the time I’d decided–at 27–to stop wondering where my father was or anything else about him that he, ta-da, showed up one day out of the blue. He’s been here ever since and we have a great relationship, but there are still days when I wonder if my own natural disassociation with people might have anything to do with his absence (there were no “frequent” visits; I’d “met” him twice before in my life up to that night in the summer of 2000).

    I say if HE wanted to get hold of you, he’d have called. But it’s easy for me to say that from the outside.

    Sorry about my lack of sage advice.

  5. Oh, ack. I’m so sorry. I really hope this blows over as quickly and cleanly as possible.

  6. basletum says:


    I hope things turn out for the good.

  7. shaolingrrl says:

    Gah is pretty much the word here.

    I think Terry has some good advice. I would add this: when he dies, if you do feel something, don’t come down on yourself for it. I don’t think it’ll be about him so much as it’ll be about the concept of “Father” and perhaps hold some regret for what he denied you. I’d lone you my dad because he’s pretty sweet, but he’s kinda out of it anymore.

  8. spitgirl says:

    Your dad might have too much pride to be able to talk to you himself, or maybe he’s figured out that he doesn’t know how to communicate with you. I know that this roundabout way of talking about things is -very- Chinese (my mom sent some of her desires about some wedding planning stuff through my sister, which drove me nuts, and my dad regularly tells me to do things for my mom because he thinks she wants it, or maybe she expresses it to him and he gets to tell me). Personally, this type of communication drives me nuts as well.

    An alternative is that your stepmother might be trying to do something “nice” for her husband without thinking about any of the emotional ramifications. For her, family is everything, and people just have to live with whatever abuse is meted out, whether verbal, emotional, or physical.

    Regardless of whatever it is, if he is truly that toxic and that absent from your life, you do not have to put yourself in that situation because you are being made to feel guilty for not making that effort. It’s a poor reason for getting back in touch with him.

    I guess ultimately, you have to make the decision about whether or not you will feel like you did the right thing in this situation when he does pass away. Will you have regrets?

    And yes… Chinese parents are really weird this way. Those who are particularly socially obtuse (or super old fashioned) don’t get that filial respect goes both ways.

    One thing I will say about my own (Chinese) parents – they have really mellowed out over the years. People change, even when they are older, especially as they see their loved ones grow older, infirm, and pass away. They realize that they might have thrown away the only things that they value, and they, too, have regrets.

    Sorry for throwing more kindling on the flame here, but it sounds like you’re still processing, and I feel uncomfortable jumping on the “ditch your dad” bandwagon when I resonate with what you’re saying from a cultural level.

    Good luck, and feel free to DM me on twitter or send me a FB message if you want to talk a little further.

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