So Dad, what’s the ending?

Coming to terms with a parent’s absence by understanding that they have dreams to reach and goals to achieve as well


Michelle Zheng

I no longer waited for my dad to complete the story that he stopped at a cliffhanger, as I was able to create the ending myself.

Michelle Zheng

Before my dad started his own business around seven years ago, he and I had a nightly routine. As soon as the clock struck 9 p.m., I would hop into bed and eagerly await storytime while snuggled inside my warm Hello Kitty blankets. 

“Michelle,” my dad would sweetly call my name. “Are you ready to hear what happened to the tomatoes and the lettuces that were washed away by the flood?” My glittering eyes would widen as my dad reenacted the story to me. Before the small hand of the clock aligned with the ten, my dad would jokingly end the story with yet another cliffhanger and tell me that I had to go to sleep now in order to hear the next part of the story tomorrow. 

However, one night, the clock hit 9 p.m., and no story was told. The clock hit 10 p.m., but no “I love you” was said. That night, he never even walked into my room. I waited for him to come through the door for the next few nights, but he never came. To this day, I still have no idea how my dad planned on ending the story, and this mystery will probably never be solved. 

During the now rare conversations that my dad and I have, we half-heartedly joke about the stories he once told me when I was a child, but I never ask any questions about the endings. I neither try nor want to know. 

Fast forward to the present relationship between my dad and I. He spends most of the year managing his three companies on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Asia, returning home for a maximum of one month every year. When he’s not in America, we never contact one another. And when he does come home, my dad continues to live as if he’s in Asia, sleeping while I attend classes and working while I dream on my bed. 

He was not there when I graduated from eighth grade. He was not there when I started my first day in high school. He was not there when I first started driving. Is he even going to be there when I graduate from high school? After disappearing from my life for so long, I was angry at him. And, I have a right to be angry, don’t I? I mean, he chose work over his family. His family!

The anger increased day by day, and soon, it was too much for me to handle, and I had to get rid of all that built up emotion towards my dad. Therefore, last year, I decided to have a talk with my dad who had just returned home after disappearing for six months. 

Originally, I was going to lecture him on behalf of my furious mom for his absence on my brother’s 18th birthday and slip in my anger towards him, as well. However, that never occurred. I mean, how could I yell at him after seeing the way his eyes sparkled as he described his new achievements? Instead, I just sat there and listened to all the new events in his life. As he talked about his recent partnership with Apple, I realized just how much this business meant to him. While some parents may choose to sacrifice their ambitions for their children, I guess, to my dad, his dream was just too important for him to abandon. But, is his business significant enough for him to sacrifice his relationship with us

Before our last heart-to-heart conversation ended, I asked him, “If you could go back to seven years ago, would you still choose to start your business or to maintain a close relationship with us?” 

“Do we not have a close relationship right now?” my dad asked.

“You really think we do?” I questioned him.

No more words were said after that and my dad never gave me a clear answer to the question. We just sat like that, side by side, for a long time until he left to answer a phone call. But, to me, his silence was his answer, and while it stung a bit, thinking back, I would have hated myself if I knew that I had blocked my dad from achieving his dreams. 

I don’t ever want to hear my dad say that he had to sacrifice his own aspirations so that he could ensure that I grew up with his love. Therefore, just as he made his choice, I have made mine. While I have decided to root for his success, I have also chosen to stop trying to return to our past relationship. I am no longer waiting for him to finish our story.

So Dad, go do whatever you wish to accomplish. Go climb the mountains no one has ever reached before. Go discover the lands no one has ever touched before. Just know that while you were gone, I’ve already completed the story for us: the vegetables managed to escape the flood and reunite with their loved ones. And guess what? This time, it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger.