Selfless Souls

A Father’s Day Ode

My Father and me, San Francisco, 1977

When it comes to those he loves, my father is selfless and protective. Every choice, decision, and action he’s made is for the good of his family and others.

Fighting against the Vietnamese communist? That was for a free country to raise his future family.

Realizing he would have to start his Air Force pilot training over again in the US after the fall of Saigon (even though he trained with USAF during the war) and deciding to instead focus on engineering? That was him making a hard decision to give up on his dream in order to focus on a path that would more quickly ensure a comfortable life for his family. Keep in mind, his eyes would tear up for his first few years in the States whenever he heard a fighter jet pass by.

Working countless overtime for a decade yet never seeming tired or enervated? That was to build up his reputation as a go-to problem-solver, leading him to receive better and higher positions resulting in his providing a great life for his family.

There are many, many more instances, but you have the picture.

With all these sacrifices and selfless deeds, my Father not once threw it in our face or leveraged this card to play on our sympathy. Not once. He didn’t need to acknowledge them nor did he want to discuss them. He just did them because it was the right thing to do. For the family.

My Father would carry-over these traits within the family. Trying to help out with projects, speaking out on our behalf (whether we wanted it or not), righting a wrong against us, etc. Of course, as children are wont to do, I would get exasperated with his over-protectiveness, his need to intervene on my behalf even though I would continually protest that I was self-sufficient and could handle myself. Over the years, my irritation turned to frustration, then to angered exasperation.

In the past very rough year and a half, I have had close friends complaining to me that I was overly-protective, that I needed to stop being so supportive and encouraging, that I needed to stop doing positive things for them, and why did I have to be so damn selfless and continually helpful? It was shocking to hear. And incredibly hurtful emotionally. I didn’t understand their negative reactions. Isn’t this what friends do? Isn’t this what people who genuinely care and love each other do? I felt, and still feel, very alone, that it is unacceptable to care and love others so deeply with no strings attached, no need for recognition, and no need for publicity.

And then it hit me recently — I am my Father’s daughter. I now understand what my Father felt all these years when I rejected his selfless acts and protectiveness, yet he never once spoke a word of his hurt feelings. He continued to love and be protective, though now more quietly and afar, but not any less in breadth and depth.

I went from feeling alone this past year and a half to realizing there IS another person like me — my Father. To know he and I are extensions of the same soul, that is a powerful connection and comfort of mind. And a wonderful life lesson. And gracious respect.

We may be faulted for our love, but my Father and I are the ones who will always be there for others. No exceptions. With full breadth and depth.

Happy Father’s Day.