The Men I Look Up To

All my life I tend to look for a father figure because my dad is hardly around. In retrospect, I have met and become acquaintances with the men that I had a great deal of respect for. Unfortunately, circumstances changed and so were their presence. Although they appeared in and out of my life, I am glad that they came along. My memory of them will never fade. They will always be apart of my life; therefore, this piece is dedicated to the men I look up to.

I landed in the US for the first time in Connecticut during the winter. It was freezing cold and my oldest sister’s husband at the time took off his jacket and put it on me. I immediately felt the connection with him. He took my side when his sons, who are just a few years younger than me, got into a fight with me. He helped me with my fifth-grade homework even though he had limited English. When he couldn’t figured out the answers, he took my homework to work with him so he could continue to work on during his breaks. I was glad that we lived under his roof as we started our new life in the States. Unfortunately, his marriage with my sister did not last. Although we have moved on with our own lives, I will never forget those time with him.

Years later, my older middle sister met her boyfriend who was charming and skillful at cooking authentic Vietnamese dishes. I always loved hanging out at his trailer home listening to Vietnamese music, watching Chinese TV series, and eating delicious food. At the time when ballroom dancing at Vietnamese party was the trend, he taught me all the moves: chachacha, rumba, tango, bepop, and valse. After he and my sister got married, they sold the mobile home and bought a real house. My mom and I moved in together with them. He got me into online trading. We had many deep conversations on life and stock. Unfortunately, his marriage with my sister did not work out. I still see him once in while when he comes to my sister’s house to pick up the kids, but we are no longer closed. Nevertheless, I will never forget those time with him.

In high school I dated a girl. Couple months into the relationship, she introduced me to her older sister who introduced me to her boyfriend. He was attending college at the time and he was a handy guy. He helped me fixed my car, like replacing the battery and the transmission belt. He understood that I could not afford to pay an auto shop to do so. We drank together a few times even though I was underage. Unfortunately, the girl and I broke up on a bad term. As a result, I have never seen him since, but the memory of him lingers.

In another relationship, I became closed to her aunt’s husband. He and I bonded over music, food, and drinks. I was already out of college; therefore, I was legal. Weekends at his house were always filled with delicious Vietnamese dishes, wines, beers, and laughters. He stuttered when he talked unless he had some alcohol in his system. He was normally quiet until he had a few drinks. He cracked some of the most hilarious stuttering jokes. For example, he once said that you can never win a street-style argument over a stutterer because he could say, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck you more times he you could say fuck him.” He was a generous man who often picked up the bills when we went out to fancy restaurants with the big family. He lived a simple live and strived to be an excellent father. Those were the two characteristics that I wanted to apply in my own life. I am sure he still has all that characters in him. Unfortunately, our relationship ended when his niece and I broke up. Disconnecting with him hurt me the most. In many ways, he was my role model and my father figure. I have tried all I could to stay connected, but all we have left now is the good old memory.

When I first met my wife, she talked a great deal about her father; therefore, I could not wait to meet the man that had a profound influence on the love of my life. I can still recall the day we came to pick him and his wife at the airport as they were returning from their vacation. He was skinny and wearing glasses that made him look like a teacher. He was, indeed, a teacher. One occasion, when my wife and I were still dating, I stayed with her whole family at her sister’s apartment for a holiday break. Her father asked me to help him fix the front gate. I did not know what I was suppose to do so he handed me a wrench and asked me to unscrew something. I held up the wrench, but did not know how to operate it. He said to me that my father is a house builder and yet I don’t even know how to use a wrench. I replied to him with a joke that I am not my father, but I actually meant it. He took me under his wing and taught me to be the man around the house. I was so happy that I had finally found a father who were willing to show me the rope. When my wife and I bought our house, he helped us out with painting the walls, changing the toilet seats, and replacing the shower heads. Whenever things broke around the house, I consulted him first. I determined to learn as much as I could from him not just how to fix things around the house, but also how to keep a marriage last. He and his wife had been married for forty years; therefore, the man knew a thing or two about maintaining a long-lasting relationship. Unfortunately, cancer took his life. I was devastated; life was so unfair. I thought I have founded a father at last, but then I lost him just like that. Although we are physically separated, I will never forget the man who gave me his blessings as well as his beautiful, precious daughter.

As I am reflecting on the men I have been looking up to, I realize that I still have one more in my life. My wife’s sister’s husband is like an older brother to me. No wait, he is my older brother who is kind, humble, and generous. He works hard everyday from dust to dawn, and yet I never heard a word of complain from him. He is outstanding at establishing his professional career as well as doing home improvement. Whatever fixes we need around the house, he is our first resource. Base on the first time we met, I would have never known that he is an introvert. Maybe he was just asking the right questions and I was just doing all the talking. These days we hang out at least three days a week. With our kids, we do almost everything together from going vacation to having sleepover. Because we see each other so often we hardly have anything to say, and that is perfectly fine. We are comfortable with just being around each other. I am thankful to have him and my sister-in-law living closed by. They are our immediate family and I hope that they won’t move anywhere else.

As for my biological father, he is still the man that made me. It is unfortunate that he chooses to live his life without me, even to this day. I do have some great memories of him, but they are as far back as when I was a couple years old. At that time I was too young to understand what bonding even meant. Now being a father myself, I have nothing to look back to guide me. As a result, I am improvising my ways through. Being a father is hard; therefore, I no longer hold grudges against my dad. I accept the way our relationship is meant to be. I am not a great father myself; I have many flaws. At least I am here for my kids. They can learn from my mistakes and not to repeat them. Whether I will succeed or fail, they can look back to their childhood to use as a guide as they navigate through life.