There’s something oddly comforting about a Bunnings ad. Perhaps it’s the neighbourly faces, the no-frills editing or the expectant jingle at the end — but this particular Bunnings ad left me in tears.
As each staff member proudly declared what they were thankful for their dad about, it dawned on me that Father’s Day was creeping up. At least I’ll save some money, I joked to myself. But the bunch of scrunched-up tissues on the table was a reminder that there’s no escaping one’s daddy issues.
Seeing Father’s Day ads when your dad isn’t in your life is a bit like being single on Valentine’s Day — you mentally prepare for the barrage of social media posts and swear off men forever.
The “d” word is heavily censored in my household. Mum and I don’t talk about dad (or dicks for that matter). After my parents divorced a few years ago, his absence has been akin to a death. While every photo and item of his has been removed, the emotional limbo of his departure still lingers.
This is not a smear campaign nor a pity party, but rather a public confession that I both miss and resent my dad.
The last time I saw my dad, he was being handcuffed and escorted into a paddy wagon. After an argument about me refusing to lend him money escalated, it was what I thought was a bittersweet denouement to the many years of chaos and confusion that had led to that moment. But the curtains did not close right then. Two weeks later (ironically, on Valentine’s Day), I was in court for his AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) appearance. Between starting a new role at work and fobbing off phone calls from various family members trying to intervene, it was a numbing time that I could not have survived without the handful of people I confided in.
This is not a smear campaign nor a pity party, but rather a public confession that I both miss and resent my dad. We never had the loving father-daughter relationship I so desperately wanted growing up. He was a stoic, traditional Korean man, so I quickly learned to be grateful to receive even a grunt as a response. I often wondered why he never truly took an interest in me — was it because he'd always wanted a son and his only child was a girl? Did he enjoy his drinking and extracurricular activities more than being home?
I know he had a tumultuous childhood, so it’s only now with the benefit of time (and many therapy sessions) that I don’t take his behaviour personally anymore. But for years, I struggled with his aloofness. Perhaps, if you want to get all Freudian, my truancy and adolescent misdemeanours were just a loud cry for paternal attention.
One of my best friends, Shona, is also not in touch with her father. She’s come to terms with his absence and for her, Father’s Day is just another day.
“I’m at a point now where it’s become a bit tokenistic and for me, it’s not a big deal since my dad’s not present every other day of my life too,” she says.
She’s learned to become “desensitised” to the onslaught of social media posts and has a ritual on each Father’s Day where she writes a card as if she’s writing a prayer.
“I’m fortunate enough to have been told every Father’s Day that there are so many different families — blended or broken. It reinforces what I don’t have, but that’s ok and it doesn’t make me feel sad anymore.”
Another friend, Helen, recently reconnected with her dad after her parents separated when she was in kindergarten. She grew up with her mum here in Australia, while her dad moved to Korea.
“I remember going to restaurants and seeing a happy kid with both parents and wishing that it was me. Father’s Day was more of a fear of missing out or not fitting in because I couldn’t celebrate like the other kids,” she says.
While things are still “complicated,” they’re now making up for lost time and Helen’s found that there are other reasons to celebrate Father’s Day.
“It’s still awkward and a bit foreign but I guess I want him to be in my life… It’s only now that I’m married I feel like I can fully celebrate Father’s Day with my father-in-law with a more genuine and thankful heart.”
While I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing this Father’s Day, I do know that talking about these feelings is necessary. Growing up in an Asian household has meant emotions always took second place to academic success. I still flinch at the sight of what could be his car (a Honda Accord and a very common car, it turns out) and feel a pang of jealousy whenever colleagues gush about the time they spend with their daughters.
But, I am my father’s daughter — so much so that one of his friends who'd never met me, once instantly recognised me on the street. We’re both partial to a drink and have brachydactyly (a toe thumb, or ‘Megan Fox’s fingers’ I like to call it). While our similarities end there, I wonder every day what he’s up to and even flirt with the idea of reaching out to him. My overthinking tendencies, exacerbated by the pandemic, even have me worrying about trivial things from who will walk me down the aisle to whether he has enough money to eat properly.
From every flat battery I’ve gotten and every jar I’ve struggled to open, I’ve learned that you can do just fine without a father. My mum doubled as a dad by working two jobs and providing (often unsolicited) advice on all my boy dramas. My nephew taught me how to change a tyre and a former colleague-turned-friend is the one I call when I need some blunt fatherly wisdom. I may never be the daddy’s little girl I always craved to be, but I am my own person, and that’s something to celebrate.