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My dad is what you would call an extrovert. His words weave through conversation like water and that is a quality I do not share with him. We used to be very close unlike my mom and I, but there are many other qualities that I do not share with my dad. To him, because I am a girl, there are things that I simply cannot talk to him about anymore. That is the short story of how I’ve become distant to both of my parents and the only thing that keeps us together are those mandatory phone calls.
My dad likes to put on a different face every time he goes out. You would often see him being the story-teller at a party with everyone listening intently. Or the sometimes embarrassing life-of-the-party at a wedding after one too many bottles of wine. This was his version of escapism that he doesn’t do anymore. From middle school into high school if he came home early from work (which was a rare occurrence) I would often find him sitting in the back with a Starbucks coffee in hand smoking a cigarette while staring off into the distance. Despite whatever White-girl joke is behind Starbucks, my dad likes the coffee because it reminded him of Vietnamese coffee which was quite strong. When ever we took on those grueling 10 hours to North Carolina or one of us came home after the other, Starbucks was our go to. Starbucks became the coffee that we conversed over and it was only with this is hand that we really went beyond the routine small talk of how each other’s days were. While we talked, I would keep count of how many cigarettes he was smoking to gauge how he was feeling. That was his new version of escapism.
“You should stop smoking. It’s bad for your lungs.”
“It’s the only thing I have left.”
My dad is what you would call a fighter. He was about 18 when the Vietnam War broke out and had to serve in the army that he later deserted. He gambled his life for freedom when the South had fallen; escaping by boat. He has fought with everything he had to get to where he is, and he is still fighting. He’s fighting through the pains his own body is giving him to get me through college even though he should be retired. I was told at a young age that I was the only thing that kept my parents together and that he is fighting to keep the family together after I’ve left for college. I guess being a fighter is one thing I do share with him.
“No matter what you do, come out with a degree. Don’t worry about anything else.”
My father was a man of appearances. It’s a no-brainer to say that people treat you differently depending on what you wear. For my dad, something that everyone should have was a watch. For something so simple, it is professional and is a constant reminder that time is fleeting. A good watch and tux is all that he spends money on because he prides himself on his appearance when he leaves the house for an event.
“Dress well. People won’t be able to say shit to your face.”
We don’t talk much except for those phone calls home. Before I left for college he had told me something that we all have known but never acknowledged. That we were only family because of the blood that runs through our veins. We were three people living together and that was it. Yet, that did not mean that I didn’t miss home. That did not mean that my heart doesn’t ache when I hear about troubles at home and can’t do a single damn thing about it. Wearing a watch on my formerly bare wrists and drinking coffee from Starbucks are the little things that make me feel like I’m only a 10 minute drive from home.