The Tie

The Tie

Five years ago, I was able to wish my dad “Happy Father’s Day” in person for the first time in decades… maybe ever. A month later, he passed, and in 2014, I decided it was finally time to let go of some of the sadness I harbored every third Sunday in June.


Through elementary school, it was a way of life to see my dad during his visits, perplexingly never in June. I remember his efforts to stay longer, but never lost hope for I was always rewarded with promises of next time.

Through middle school, it was a way of life to call my dad, purposefully every third Sunday of June. I remember answering machines, but never lost hope for I was occasionally rewarded with his actual voice.

Through high school, it was a way of life to think of my dad, poignantly every day in June. I remember the purchase–a tie, red, soft, and priced at $20, a fortune to a freshman who just discovered the world of work. I remember his wavering responses about a Father’s Day visit, but though I never lost hope, the visit that never came left me with the tie.

Instead, I was rewarded five years later at my college graduation, but his surprising arrival met with his not-so-surprising departure before Father’s Day, which, once again, left me with the tie.

Even still, my hope was rewarded six years later with a phone call–he was sick. As fate would have it, my cousin’s wedding was later that year in June, but also as fate would have it, I couldn’t find the tie. This pinnacle moment, years in the making, and the tie would not surface.

My August plans to visit and gift my gift were soured, for just before the end of July, he passed, and for one final time, left me with the tie.

These are the ties he left behind. My tie isn’t in there, but after years of trying to give him this one measly gift of fabric, it was he who was rewarding me with his inadvertently lessons to believe in people, in hope, in love, and in gratification that is not always instant.

Though he never knew of the tie and all its meaning during his life, I’ll never give up hope that he is in a better place where he now knows, and my tie to him was always there.

#HappyFathersDay. I miss you. 

The Tie

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Colorado River Panorama at Rocky Rapid Put In

Not-So-Whitewater Rafting the Colorado River

I just returned from a bachelorette party in Utah (I know, right?), three days in Moab sandwiched by some time in Salt Lake City. I packed conservatively for fashion, but excessively for sport should I get owned by nature repeatedly.

Albeit excited, I was terrified at the thought of my first foray into whitewater rafting. My wild imagination envisioned only the most extreme situations:

White Water Rafting Over Waterfalls

It seemed inescapable, me tumbling into the water’s icy cold, frothy mouth, and getting chewed up by the rocky teeth of the river monster:

Falling Out While White Water Rafting

I would see myself hanging onto the raft’s ropes with a white-knuckle grip that bests that of Rose and Jack’s, but I come to find all conditions are low: the water level, class of rapids (I and II), wind speed, and finally, my nerves. It is beautiful, and thus begins my epiphanous experience down this (Google Camera Emoji: me):

Colorado River Panorama at Rocky Rapid Put In

Life works its way down a fairly predictable river with inevitable rapids that move us faster than we would like. When the going gets tough is where we separate into those who fight for the wrong people, and those who take flight for the wrong reasons. That leaves the courageous who know that working through discomfort for the right people and reasons gets us further than many could ever dream or have the fortune to experience, who realize fate is what we make of it. These are those who dare.

Homer Simpson Drool, Mmm... CarbsThough we need our respite, there must also be excitement, so we stir the pot to progress, to disallow decisions to be made for us. We move forward and take risks toward grander fruits of our labor. So we paddled… A LOT! We need to earn that pasta dinner that awaits us! Mmm… carbs!

To break up the monotony, the Disney nut in me starts a delightful sing-a-long to Pocahontas’ “Just Around the Riverbend” at random turns and forks. Also, Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” is a GREAT song for keeping beat.

Henry's Fork of Snake River, Idaho

As we near our finish line, the wind is so strong, our furious paddling literally gets us nowhere. Frustrated, some give up or wait it out while others paddle to their own dissonant rhythm thinking doing something is better than nothing. Eventually, we give in to the forces beyond our control until we regain our strength, and find purpose in perseverance and partnership.

Six oars and six hours later, we complete a half marathon down the Colorado River, and although it is quite an impressive, and slightly drunken, feat, it is the journey that gives me fortitude.

Water, like time, will flow on, so you can fight against it, let it pass you by, or my preference, just enjoy the ride, drink in hand. #thesquished6pack

Group Photo Bachelorette Party #thesquished6pack


Photo credit:

  1. Mantis Extreme
  2. Wired for Adventure
  3. Vietca Do (me)
  4. Henry’s Fork Music Fest
  5. Gels

Happy Birthday, Dad

I wrote this four years ago, five months after he passed and following the Chargers’ key loss last night, I thought about how cyclical life can be. I would like to think that somewhere, my dad is still holding his breathe like me, because, sometimes, hope is all we have… and some intimidating odds. Good luck, Chargers, on your playoff run, and happy birthday, Dad.


Today would have been my dad’s 68th birthday and the first thing I thought of was football.

It’s January 15, 1995, the day of the AFC Championship game. The score is 17-13, Chargers. The Steelers have the ball with time for just one more play, and I am watching my dad’s every move.

He turns up the volume, I get really quiet. He scoots up in his chair, I scoot forward from the floor. The ball is thrown into the end zone. He holds his breath, I cover my face. I peek just in time to see a Charger tip the ball away!

I turn to see my dad jump so high, his hands hit the ceiling. Ignoring his injury, he picks me up and tosses me in the air while yelling, “Chargers go to the Super Bowl! Chargers go to the Super Bowl!”

That moment was all about love. Love for football, love for hope, love for family.

Right now, I feel he’s thinking about football, hoping for a playoff spot, and knowing I’m doing the same.

Like father, like daughter. Happy birthday, dad. ❤

Apples and Oranges: Her Story

Apples and Oranges

His version of our fight, though pained and insightful, lacked significant moments and my emotions, so, with great difficulty, my replay of October 18, 2017:

My on-and-off again boyfriend, of two years, and I have a misunderstanding about attending a friend’s wedding. I come over the next day, using the key he gave me for Valentine’s Day, but decide to drop the matter, afraid of his reaction. Funny I should have that fear at all, right?

Well, he brings it up himself. “Do you know why I’m not going? To teach you a lesson. To not get your way. So you know what ‘no’ feels like.” I tell him he doesn’t have to go, explain how I misunderstood, that this isn’t how to treat a partner, that…

He gets up and says, “Okay, stop talking and get the fuck out of my house.

Why is he so quick to anger? Is something else bothering him?

Now, our “resolution styles” differ: I want to nip things in the bud while he wants to drop them for another time. We’ve developed a good balance over the years, but tonight is different; I can feel it.

“Please, just sit…” He raises his voice, “Do you think I’m kidding? Get the fuck out!

“But, baby, you got so mad so fast. Calm d…” He jumps onto the bed to cover my mouth with his hand, pushing me against the headboard. Staring hard into my eyes, he says, “Shut up! Stop talking! Get out!

Deep breaths. He wasn’t trying to hurt you. Just wanted you to stop talking…

He breaks my train of thought by tossing my belongings outside. He comes back in yelling, “Why are you still here?! That’s it, I’m calling the police. You’re an unwelcome guest in this home.” I protest, “Hey! I’m your girlfriend, not some stranger!” He yells, “Stupid BITCH! Are you a dumb bitch who doesn’t understand the words coming out of my mouth? LEAVE!

He’s never called me a bitch before…

And then he did something next that I didn’t think he was capable of doing.

With one swift motion, he pushes me off the bed. I fall painfully onto my side, and before I could get up, he drags me by my ankles across the floor as I scream, “What are you doing?!” I kick free, brace myself against the doorway, and run away from him. He comes toward me and does another unthinkable.

He lunges at me, grabs both of my arms, and shoves my body against the wall, pinning me with a strength I have never known. His nails dig into my skin, drawing blood, his face centimeters from mine, his body shaking as hard as my knees. With dark, hollow eyes, he grunts, “Don’t. You. Get. It? I. Want. You. To. LEEEAVE!!!” With tears in my eyes, I whimper, “Baby, this isn’t you. You’re scaring me.”

His grip, eyes, and voice soften. “Please leave. We will talk some other time. For tonight, stop talking. Get out.” My mouth opens, to talk or take a breath, I don’t know, but before anything, he chants, “Get ouuut! Get ouuut! Get ouuut! Get…

“I hear what you are saying but you are not listening to what I am saying.” He says, “Yes, that’s true. Now get the fuck out.” He begins to pick at my insecurities–life, family, friends, career, us–ruthless. I think he finishes, but, “Oh, I can keep going.” He does, even threatens to break up, an old tactic, but tonight is different; I can feel it.

Between sobs from the pain of his words and my now throbbing arms, I hear him say, “I’m going to grab something from the kitchen, and if you’re not gone by the time I get back, I will be forced to use it.

Grab what? A knife, a bottle? He loves me. He would never hurt me… but he already has. Would he really hit me? He loves me. He would never… but he already has. Is this how I die? He loves me. He would nev… but he already has.

As his footsteps near, I throw my hands over my head, eyes shut tight, not wanting the image of what stands before me to be burned into my memory. Through my weeping, I plead, “Baby, this isn’t you. You’re a good man. I know you won’t hurt me. This isn’t you. Please put it down whatever you’re holding. You’re a good man. This isn’t you.”

His heavy footsteps retreat. I gather the nerve to step outside, and find him on the couch with a frying pan, defeated. I sit across from him on the coffee table. He picks up his phone, but I gently push it away. “Enough. I’ll leave. Just tell me we will talk about it, that everything will be okay.” He agrees.

I spend the next 20 minutes in my car wiping away blood and tears, wondering if that last hour was even real.


We talk two days later, but everything is not okay. We break up, spend hours talking about our flaws, which he agrees were fixable, but he no longer wants to put in the work. That he is at the lowest point of his life and blames me 100%.

What?!

I admit I’m no innocent, but that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. “Maybe, but I don’t care. I am fine walking away from this believing it is all your fault.

“I’m sorry for not leaving, so why can’t you be sorry for your role in this?” He sees my bruises. “Are those from that night?” I nod yes. “Well, I hope they heal soon.

“These aren’t the scars I’m worried about.” I stare at him staring into his hands, and that’s when I see it. He’s not going to apologize. Does he not see how he betrayed someone who entrusted her life and heart to him? That I stayed, not to “resolve,” but rather out of fear and confusion? Or maybe he’s just afraid.

From this, I know he was right to break up–we’re not in the right place for each other, or anyone, for now. I’m too naive and pompous in thinking I always know what is best, that love is enough, even if I mean well. I gave too much of myself to another and lost myself along the way. I’m not ready for a he or an us until I come back to me.

He’s too stubborn and selfish to compromise, thinking that being alone is enough, even if he means well. He gave too little of himself to another and lost the other person along the way. He’s not yet ready, willing, and able to receive, and earn, the love of someone in return. He’s not ready for an us or a she until he can let go of being “just me.”

The two people that broke up that day are gone. I neither expect nor hope for them to make it work. I only hope their future selves will be better, wiser people, and that maybe then, will they become the people they each deserve.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this: to this day, I have never judged him, that a part of me, scared as I was, still love and believe in him. I just hope he believes enough in himself to change, to stop fighting against it. We have reasons for what we do and who we are. Let them not be excuses, crutches, or hindrances to self-reflection and accountability.

I also know this: I was fighting so hard for the relationship, but realize I was also fighting for  myself, someone who stands up for her beliefs. He may be a good person who made a mistake, but he’s an emotional and mental abuser to keep people at arm’s length.  Hopefully, he sees there’s always work to be done, and realizes one can be independent and in love, and give wholly to another without losing any part of oneself.

He showed me I could be happy again, and I was really happy. He taught me I could love again, and I was really in love. He reminded me that heartbreak can hurt, and I bottomed out. But I don’t regret it. Any of it.

Do I regret not leaving or listening to my partner’s need for space? Yes. Is it my fault that I didn’t have more control to remove myself from a precarious situation? Yes. Is it my fault that he chose to put his hands on me? No.

Could he have compromised or listened to his partner’s needs? Yes. Is it his fault for not having more control to calm himself down from escalating to a precarious situation? Yes. Is it his fault for choosing to put his hands on me? Yes.

Will we ever let that happen again? Never. But the question is how.

Is my “resolution style” the best way to grow from this? Well, I’ve been staring it in the face, and it’s extremely difficult to take in all at once. Or his? Well, seems like he’s been more avoidant, which isn’t healthy either. Maybe we should put that developed balance to good use, huh? This is different; I can feel it.

Maybe we’re neither apples nor oranges.


Photo credit: The DI

Goodbye, Skinny Love

skin·ny love
/ˈskinē ləv/

n.

a relationship that is malnourished and, therefore, unsustainable

Today, I bid farewell to skinny love, a relationship that wasn’t loveless but rather starved and nonviable. All that is beautiful will wither without proper nurturing, and you must be both willing and able before you can be ready to give yourself to another.

He was constantly hesitating to contribute the missing ingredients while I was hopeful that love and time could overcome all. Eventually, he reached an apex of apathy while I settled with disappointment.

Only by being achingly honest with ourselves can we grow into better people. While I believe he’s a good person, that he’s capable of becoming the man I had hoped for, that anything is possible, the first step must be acceptance.

To skinny love, I hope you set aside pride long enough to realize, and learn from, your shortfalls, and earn any love you receive. Although I will never forget our peaks of happiness, I can no longer ignore the valleys of pain you caused. Today, I let you go because I deserve someone who is ready, willing, and able.

Thank you, Birdy… and Bon Iver.

Don’t Stop Believing

That mantra isn’t just for karaoke.

It’s been a few days since the anniversary of my dad’s passing (7/22), and this year, I consciously held off on a post, until today when a friend told me I had too much faith in people.

I, refusing to believe it to be a negative quality, responded, “Faith is what we possess and accountability is what people should have whether or not we believe.”

Story of my life, and invariably, my feelings toward my dad.

He was not a full-time father, but I was a full-time believer. Countless times he’d make well-intended promises that were not-so-well-executed, but my faith never wavered.

My memories are not riddled with fights of the number of Father’s Days, phone calls, birthdays, and graduations he missed. They’re filled laughter, joy, and love for when he came through.

It’s not my job to hold anyone accountable, to make them feel bad for their choices. I’ve made it my job to not take anything for granted, nor turn people away.

I know my belief in him gave him a home to come back to each time, even if it was for one last time.

So today, I know that although he passed alone, my dad knew I loved him, always.

❤ Việt Ca

PS. The Chargers are no longer playing for San Diego, but I’m still excited for us to catch some games when the season begins. 🤣

 

Thank Goodness for Regret

re·gret
/rəˈɡret/

n.

a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.

Today, I thank goodness for living with regret.

It’s been three years since my father’s death, and I think it’s time I stop punishing myself and let go of the guilt I’ve been harboring since then, the regret. This is my first time sharing this with anyone, so here goes:

My dad was receiving treatment in San Jose and because I was in San Diego, my visits were few and far in between. I even reasoned that it was best to put my would-be travel costs toward his medical expenses.

I flew up in April and June, and was planning another trip for late July, but my family encouraged me to visit sooner. The sense of urgency was thick, but I pushed it aside. Call it denial, or maybe blind optimism that there was more time. Regardless, I stayed my course.

On July 21, I was out when my dad called. I let it go wanting to call back in a quieter setting, but he rang a second time. Panic set in; I missed him again while rushing outside, but immediately called back. My uncle picked up and said my dad was already sleeping. He really wanted to talk to me, but was too tired, so I’d have to try again after he wakes up.

He never did wake up again, and I never got my phone call. He passed the next morning and in the seconds after hearing, “He didn’t make it,” the regret and guilt set in, and it never left.

Regret is typically a shameful word. We hide it deep in our closets, and hope it never rears its ugly head as a reminder of our transgressions, but today, I move that we embrace regret.

We’ll always wonder the what ifs of paths not taken, but so long as we fully commit to our decisions and their consequences, we will come out stronger.

Living with regret doesn’t have to be a bad thing because at least you’re still living.

I miss you, Dad. It’s Comic Con weekend, so I hope I can still have a #HappyFriday. Have fun watching my shenanigans and if it’s of any value, I think our last conversation would’ve been a great one.

I love you,

Việt Ca

Regret