Growing up, and even until adulthood, I would always be told this Chinese quasi-saying that goes, 《老父就是老父，老母就是老母。》(Lǎo fù jiù shì lǎo fù, lǎo mǔ jiù shì lǎo mǔ). Literally, it means “[One’s] father is precisely [who he is: one’s] father, [one’s] mother is precisely [who she is: one’s] mother.“ In other words: At the end of the day, your parents are still your parents.
My own father passed away a few months before I turned 13 – he didn’t live to see me graduate from even elementary school. We were emotionally “close” only as an omnipotent parent-provider and small child, never really man-to-man… though, admittedly, I was still in a most awkward time of my life when he passed. (Scratch that, I am still awkward.) So it’s inevitable for me to have so many what-if’s in my head, to this day.
I know of people whose relationships with their fathers have broken down, sometimes irretrievably in the eyes of the children. The fathers weren’t fatherly at all; one, a self-made man, even viewed his kids as his investments expected to reap returns for him. His putting his company first before his relationship with his children ultimately drove them away to live in other countries and never come back here. The children subscribed to Western perspectives that it’s perfectly all right – beneficial, even – to sever ties with someone highly toxic in their lives, even if it was an immediate family member.
I sympathize with them, I understand their viewpoint, and I do feel compassion for them. But I am also inspired by another anecdote of someone whose father was the worst person he could ever be to his wife and children – but she, firmly rooted in the saying I quote above, never ceased to try caring for him, and even taught her nephews and nieces the same.
It goes without saying that we are brought into this world because of two people, whatever the circumstances. We are who we are today because of the circumstances around us, because of other people – fathers included. We can never be so arrogant as to claim we have gotten where we are because of our own efforts alone – and it is a humbling thought. Sadly, a lot of people tend to forget this, thinking only of themselves.
For those of us who have been fortunate to have good fathers in our lives, raising us out of infancy into the people we are today, they have been our stalwart pillars, our loving heroes. They are, indeed, the roots of our family – going great lengths to ensure we are secure and stable, in both our basic needs and more. They keep us entrenched in our principles and values, they are a shoulder to lean on in times of trouble.
Today, we celebrate these wonderful men in our lives – our fathers, grandfathers, uncles; our brothers, cousins, sons, nephews; our godfathers, our father figures; our Father in heaven. We celebrate how they have keep us rooted, how they have made us who we are today.
Happy Father’s Day from the Roots Collective!