Inside the Minds: The Man I Used to Call “Dad”

A person hanging on to the “chain”.

I was trained to be an adult from a very young age. I had to know what to do, making decisions, and defining what is good and what is bad for the entire family. I thought that was typical for every kid but as I grew older, I knew it was not.

12 was my age when it happened. My parents got separated and I have been left to raise my siblings, not as an older child but as a mother. I learned how to behave, to take responsibility, and to do business while studying. It is everything from listing down all chores from week to week basis, shopping for household appliances, maintaining every device, and negotiating prices with the vendors for decisions such as school and hospital. Occasionally driving across the city, I had to memorize every person and their locations even if I only met them once.

The Debt

Borrowing continually from many relatives, my father promised to purchase properties such as land and houses. He did do that; it just wasn’t for us. It was for his other families. It was unfortunate for him that his realtor was the mother of one of his many women. My father was scammed, his property was put under somebody else’s name. So he did the first thing a madman would do. He shot her.

The debt started to rise exponentially when my grandma decided to save him from prison, selling every property and almost everything we had and borrowing more than we could ever repay. Many relatives agreed to lend some money with the collective liability under my grandma’s name. Perhaps everyone thought it was his first mistake. After all, how could it possibly be any worse?

People ask me why we saved him. Well, my grandma was manipulated by my father. She had been led to believe that he still had assets and that he would pay back all that he owed under her name. Nobody would have done what she did for a son, much less a son-in-law. Nobody could have guessed the horror that came next.

The Innocence

Perhaps it was his intelligence. Perhaps it was his ways with words. To this day, nobody seems to be able to uncover how he convinced the mistress and their daughter to justify his “innocence” at court. Either way, he wasn’t very smart with his Get Out of Jail Free card. It took him only one year to be right back behind the bars.

The year was 2008: much of my father’s land was unavailable to sell at that time. When it was, the interests already spiraled up beyond saving. As though this wasn’t enough, we also found out that the money he stole from my mother for his “investment” was the same money he used to build a house for each of his mistresses and sent all of their parents on vacation. So when he was fed up with my grandma’s sequences of confrontation, he just left the house while she was having a panic attack in the middle of the night and never came back.

The Comeback

A few months later, my father begged my mother to live with him in another rented house where he disappeared most nights, leaving her frightened of thieves and robbery in the neighborhood. She was drowning alone; nobody understood what went through her mind. All I knew is that she didn’t have a bright mind and didn’t know she could be saved. I don’t think my father ever loved my mother, but my mother surely did love him.

Here comes the part that my father tried to get back on his feet. He did it by organizing a night out with all of his mistresses, making each of them a trading partner for drug distribution and sales of illicit substances. With the chance to get acquainted, his lovers were exceedingly jealous of each other. Lady 1, having informed the police, gave the drug to Lady 2 as a lure into her trap. Fortunately for Lady 2, the police found the drug in my father’s possession and, without my grandma’s help, he was imprisoned for 8 years.

Despite it all, I believe my father is a great person. None of this would have happened had they not come to cross paths. It wasn’t a marriage of love. It was a forced arranged marriage. My mother was forced into this even if she explicitly declined at the age of 15. It was all but a ruined life she did not ask for and nothing could ever truly compensate for that. I have seen the time my father tried to love my mother. The more he tried, the more he hurt the family.

The Aftermath

I hate my father. I wouldn’t mind hating him though, because I really hate him. I would very much like to be left with the past memories of a good dad. I don’t see how this loop is going to end; it is a matter of me letting go at some point. As my grandma had cut all ties with him, I’m the glue that could make him sort out the things that are unfinished. In the end, all I hope for is to lead my life and be on my own. I am unable to choose my favorite career, concerning that it could not feed my family if something happens.

In spite of her mental deficiency, my grandma is the bravest woman I know. She protected us from my father’s manipulation. It’s the whole world against her; it always has been. She always knew how much we loved our father and she must be really powerful to have done all that she did. She must be really strong to have survived an eternal series of Inferno. Anyone in their right mind would probably have chosen suicide.

The sudden death of my cousin left me questioning my life. He was the reason I felt connected to my father’s side. Seeing him grow used to be my way of reflecting on my own development. In a blink of an eye, he just died. There is no him anymore. At his funeral, there was no him to greet me, no one to make me feel comfortable. It reminds me of how short life is and how crazy I could have been. But I must contain myself repeatedly from the person I wish to become and vandalize my odds of happiness.

It’s not just me hanging by the thread. I’m afraid of dating someone whose family would treat me badly because I have less than nothing. I’m also afraid that my grandma would not accept it. And I know I would choose my grandma over that person no matter how perfect they are. My fear of commitment interferes with my dating life as every person I’m attracted to has to be qualified for the qualities and standards set by my situation, not me. Hence, I am excellent at goodbyes, failing to express how I feel and thinking I spare everyone some burden, pain, and broken pieces.

The Chain

Sometimes it is staggering that people my age are supposed to be happy and carefree. It is a wonder to have emotions, identity crisis, and a chance at figuring out who you are. I’m sure that will never be me. Most of me is merely a consequence of adapting and learning to fix the mistake somebody else made. My father was chained against his will because of something he did. I, however, am left hanging willingly on to the chains.

In another life, I would be starting 3 businesses, having a master’s degree, and I would already be happily married. In that life, I would choose to be ordinary. In that life, I could use some space to make mistakes and learn from my own choices. If I could go back in time, I would not exist. There would be no me. I wouldn’t have let my parents get married. And I would be fine with this; no child was harmed in the making of this story.

I want you to remember me as a person who would think and would do the best that I could without giving excuses to do bad things. Having been through bad things should make one compassionate and empathetic. One should be kind to everyone because you could never know the whole story. For all you know, perhaps I am someone you already know. Perhaps I am you. If so, you need to believe in yourself and push forward no matter how dark and twisted the world might seem. You can’t count on good things to happen if you don’t try at all.

I knew what my father did when he was caught. There wasn’t any time to register what had happened. There wasn’t even time to prepare my mentality for all the things that fell upon me. If I had to be honest, there was little, if at all, knowledge about mental health in our Asian families. My own feelings were out of the equation. I acted like nothing happened, suppressing and concealing my true emotions. The only thing I could do was to make sure my siblings were not affected. The only thing I could do was to ensure that they are not chained like me.


VITAK CHEAV


For a different experience, read the story here

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