What comes to mind when you think of your dad? Is it the ugly Christmas sweater he insists on wearing every Christmas? Or perhaps it’s his constant leg shaking while eating at the dinner table? Or maybe it brings back memories of your childhood when he seemed so strong and invincible. To some what comes to mind can be rather complex. With Father’s Day coming up, I want to share with everyone what comes to my mind when I think about my dad, but before I do that, I need to give you a little background about my family.
I grew up in Japan in a bicultural home. My mother is Japanese and my father is American. Some time in his early twenties, my dad decided to marry my mom and start a family in Japan. My dad, being the only blond haired blue-eyed man in our neighborhood, stood out everywhere he went. Especially where we were, it was still uncommon to find a “gaijin” or foreigner raising a family. Growing up, I was the only child with a non-Japanese parent in my school for the longest time.
There is a famous Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. This proverb proved to be very true for me. Being half American, I naturally looked a little different from the rest of my Japanese classmates. I was picked on often for my “foreign” appearance and endured quite a bit of bullying. Those years were one of the worst years of my life. Every day I will come home from school feeling rejected by my peers. To cope with the hurt, I blamed my dad. I reasoned that I was only being bullied because I was half American and decided to refuse being seen with my dad. I begged him not to come to any school events or sports games that I was participating in.
If only I could take those words back now. Missing out on spending time with my dad during my childhood is one of the biggest regrets of my life. If only back then, I could show my dad how proud I was of him.
When I think about my dad, I am filled with various emotions. I feel regret that I missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow up and spend time with my dad. But, I really feel proud of my dad for having endured 14 years of being “different” from everyone else in Japan. While I felt the hammer of conformity, he chose to “stand out” and love me regardless. And I know that the only reason he was able to do so was because he loved us more than he loved himself. That’s why when I think about my dad, the pride that fills me is bigger than all the regrets and all the “only ifs”. And someday, I hope to be just like my dad.