What It’s Like To Have A Father Not Be Very Present In Your Life

by Sophia Wu

I’m probably not going to see my dad on Father’s Day.

He lives on the other side of the world, and I rarely ever see him. It’s been that way for most of my life; my dad is constantly floating between airports and walking in and out of doors.

He’d come home from Beijing, and we’d spend a week or so getting coffee, playing cards, watching movies and doing all of our other traditions together.

I’d show him all of my recent photos with my friends and tell him the parental-censored version of the stories in my life.

We’d have such limited time to grow so close again only to feel heartbroken once he left.

I’d watch him take his time as packed his suitcase the night before (always the night before), and he’d place it by the front door — a warning sign to me and my brother that our time with him was, for now, coming to an end.

Most of the time, I wasn’t sure when I would see him again.

Despite being an adult, as a daughter, I sometimes just need my father. My dad’s the kind of person who will truly listen when I turn to him for advice.

He will lay out the facts to me in a rational fashion that contrasts from the disorderly, chaotic way my mind seeks solutions.

If he’s worried about me, his body will physically not let him sleep because he is so distraught, even when I tell him to calm down and go to bed.

He’s flown in for birthdays and graduations, jet-lagged but never wanting to miss a moment, only to promptly leave the next day. He may not be very present in my life, but he certainly tries.

Having what I like to call a temporary father is not easy. From his perspective, I can’t imagine how helpless my father must feel when he wants to get to me and my brother and is forced to acknowledge he can’t.

This year alone, my dad has missed my brother’s award ceremony, my undergraduate thesis presentation and so many other life events that were important to us.

My dad always receives the after-information: the events and situations he can only hear about once they’re over without being an actual participant. It’s disappointing because my brother and I both want him so badly to be a part of them just as much as he does.

Yet, my brother and I recognize his job is important to support our family, so we make the best of every opportunity he comes home. We’ll cram in so many conversations and activities in a week-long period and try not get upset when he leaves again.

We remind ourselves we’ll always have next time to look forward to.

It’s simply how our lives have been for years, so all we can do is adapt and hope for better times to come. Maybe one day my dad will finally be able to stay home permanently, and we can spend time with him without worrying about an expiration date.

Fathers are more important to us than we think. We give most of the credit to our mothers because they’re the ones who birthed us, but fatherhood is quite the difficult job, too.

Fathers are the first men to have our backs. They’re the ones who discipline us even when it’s hard for them to be strict.

They’ll always be bigger than us, the strong men who picked us up and carried us around even when we knew we could have walked. They watched us grow up, but the feeling of needing to protect is still present, even as it becomes more difficult to do so.

This Father’s Day, I’ll Skype my dad and tell him everything that’s been going on with me for the past few weeks.

I’ll hear about his adventures abroad and hear him promise me he’ll come home as soon as he can, even though we’re both uncertain when that will be.

I’ll thank him for being the best parent he can because he’s so far away, and I'll let him know all of his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Our fathers are our rocks, no matter where they are in the world. They’re always thinking of us, even when we don’t think they are. We owe them so much, even though they ask for nothing.

We should never forget to appreciate everything they’ve done for us, no matter what the day is.