The older I get, the more I realize that I’ve become you. I owe much of who I am to you, in positive ways and in ways that are difficult to admit.
I can be cold, stubborn, and closed with the people I care about most in much the same way that you are. I can be jovial and joking with acquaintances and yet find myself silent with those to whom I’m closest. I’m harder on them, too. By “them,” I mean you and Mom, sometimes close friends, sometimes girlfriends. Since I first caught myself and realized that, I’ve tried to loosen a bit, to carry the exuberance from my outer circle into my inner circle.
That’s not all I got from you, though.
My drive, my ambition, the way I care for people, the desire to grow things– I see these as a reflection of the fine example that you’ve always set when it comes to family. Everyone respects you. More than one person in our family has spoken of how important you are, how much they appreciate the way that you always look out for them. When we were in Kampuchea, we traveled in a pack of over two dozen family members, and you made sure that we stayed in hotels that all of us could afford. I envied Melissa’s family, who got to stay in a resort when we were at the coast, but I understand now that it was being together that was more important to you, not being in a fancy hotel.
You taught me about value not by showing me how much it took to get the things I want, but by teaching me how to evaluate whether things were really worth wanting. You indulged me in my wants often, more often than Mom did, but the wants that you indulged me in were almost always related to learning, to reading, to things of intangible value.
There is so much silence between us and I am not sure how to break it. I used to think of it with bitterness; it felt like the mistakes I made as an impetuous child made too deep an impression on you, and that I’d stopped being your little girl too soon. I can’t place all of the blame on you for that, though. I let the distance between us grow, I let the silence continue, I rejected you.
I don’t know how to mend that. We are such different people in many, many ways, and the ways in which we are the same create obstacles rather than bridges. I don’t think of that with bitterness so much as with resignation.
A part of me will always hope that things will change (though I may never admit it), and even though we may never recover the father-daughter relationship we once had, and even though I have a terrible time showing it, I am proud to be your daughter.