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Editor’s note: the commentator’s name has been withheld to protect his privacy.
When I was nine, my father started coming home late at night. He would walk through the door like nothing was wrong. But I knew something was. My mother would shout uncontrollably at him, and even threaten divorce. But these were empty words – my mother couldn’t afford to get a divorce, nor was it socially acceptable in Chinese culture.
I later learned that because of him, my mother’s bank account was cancelled, and all her hard-earned money was gambled away at the horse races.
This is the image I’ve had of my father for the past eight years. And in the personal statement essay I wrote for college, I focused on him as gambler — the source of my shame and resentment, and the cause of my mother’s anxiety.
Now, he is the source of my guilt. Every time I reread my personal statement, I can’t help but feel a pang of regret. I had given an entirely one-sided portrayal of my dad and let his gambling issues blind me from seeing his hard work and self-sacrifice.
His love had always been there; I was just missing the signs.
Though my dad wasn’t the best chef, every Sunday for lunch he took the time to prepare a healthy home-cooked meal instead of ordering some greasy take-out from down the street.
When he was working at a factory, he switched to a graveyard shift just so he could drive me and my siblings to and from school.
And — during my busy junior year of high school, when I was regularly pulling all-nighters, he would make me a cup of chamomile tea and tell me to go to bed.
Instead of thanking him, I criticized his cooking, blamed him for driving too slow, and accused him of trying to sabotage my grades.
Looking back I see that my father tried his best to take care of me in spite of his obsessive gambling problems. I realize that being a father is like juggling — personal problems in one hand, and familial responsibility in the other.
It’s not easy forgiving a parent when they’ve caused so much hurt, but I’m going to try.