Preface: What I’m writing about today was suggested by my mom. Since it was her idea and I am such a good listener (note my sarcasm!), it took me a while to agree to her suggestion. However, since my blog is all about hope, recovery and change, I think this is a perfect story to share.
My Ah-Ba (that’s Shanghainese for dad) and I are very much the same. Both introverts, both stubborn, both firstborns—need I say more? This is why we can sit in the same room and not say much and it’s okay; that’s just how we’re wired. He is a man of few words and he shows his love through his actions. He and my mom immigrated from Taiwan to America in their early 30’s and worked hard to build a life in a foreign country from scratch. He started out at a pizza restaurant, then took his licensing test to become an insurance agent and later on started his own business. Because of my parents’ sacrifices, my sister and I attended the best schools in the city and went on to complete college degrees—never having to worry about anything financially. Looking back, I can see so much non-verbal evidence of both my parents’ commitment to ensuring that we would have a better life than they did. And by God’s grace, they did pretty well.
In the Asian culture, this is what parents do. The older generation works and works to provide for the younger one. They work so their children always have a place to live, food on the table and a good education. Love is more often shown than spoken.
Which is why it shocked both my sister and me when our dad broke down one morning and poured out his heart to us.
|Image courtesy of fotographic1980/freedigitalphotos.net|
It was the perfect setting actually. We had just run a 5k, met our parents at the finish line and set out to have breakfast, just the four of us. Such an occasion had not happened since before I got married, which was more than a decade ago. Without the distractions of husbands or grandchildren, we sat down for a good old American meal (ie. eggs, toast and pancakes) … and unbeknownst to us at the time, a history lesson of a Chinese family.
As we ate in silence for a while, I could tell my dad had something on his mind. He face was thoughtful, his posture a bit tense. He set down his fork and began speaking, his sentences mixed with reflective pauses and deep breaths. He relayed information about his past, some of which I already knew and some of which shocked me. He spoke of his gratitude at having our family and my mom as his support all these years. Then he did the most unexpected thing, perhaps the thing I had been hoping to hear from him all these years. He apologized. With moist eyes and a faltering voice, he apologized for allowing his temper to overtake him in the past.
I was stunned by his admissions. I had stopped eating at that point because it was becoming hard to swallow past the lump in my throat. I could only indulge in the genuineness of his words then, which tasted sweeter than the syrup on my pancakes.
This was an epic moment in our family’s history. Even still, it was a bittersweet one. Bitter, because of the memories that were dredged up; sweet, because I was able to see how much my Ah-Ba has grown.
I know for myself that it is not easy to acknowledge my mistakes, let alone apologize for them. However, I also know that character is built over time, usually over the long stretch of days, years and decades. Sometimes through our own refining though, others get wounded in the process. But for the wounded, we are given the opportunity to practice love. It’s a strange cycle of life, not a pleasant one to experience, but definitely a necessary one.
I am thankful for how far my family has come and for my Ah-Ba’s heart, but most of all for love, which “covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Here’s Jeremy Camp’s song, “Take You Back“, a song about ultimate forgiveness and love.
How have you witnessed love at work (in words and/or deeds) in your family?