Published on 6/24/2020
My Three Fathers
This past Father's Day we video-conferenced our son's family online. I still remember how the new father, James, was holding our newborn son in the hospital. How can they become grandfather and father of five kids in the blink of an eye? Actually it has a lot to do with my three fathers.
My father betrayed my mom. When I was about 1 year old, my mom discovered that he had an affair and his mistress had already borne him a son. Mom did her best to intervene, but could not change dad’s mind. He held onto my grandmother’s complaint of "two girls in a row" as a reason for "outsourcing" for a son. Later, he formally made his mistress his concubine. Dad’s unfaithfulness not only hurt Mom a great deal, but also caused me to desperately attempting to break the overt sexual discrimination on my own. The tragedy of my family of origin casted a long shadow on my future relationships with my husband, my in-laws, and even my child.
Although dad was my biological father and provided for me and my education, it is a pity that we were never really close. Instead, it was my father-in-law (i.e. James’ father) who let me experience the love of a father!
In 1973, I came to the United States for college and met James at U.C. Berkeley in 1975. After courting me for one month, he couldn't wait to take me to San Francisco to meet his family. From the door of the restaurant where we were to meet, I saw a Chinese couple in their fifties holding hands as James' parents walked towards us. (I had never seen a Chinese couple in their generation shown such intimacy in public!) Their family of six hugged and naturally showed affection and warmth. They laughed easily and were obviously enjoying each other. As a stranger in a foreign land, I was attracted immediately by such a loving family and yearned to join them. So, after three months of courtship, I married into the Chiang family and was more than willing to call my in-laws Baba and Mama.
A few months after I married, my Mom died suddenly in Hong Kong, I found myself suddenly filled with resentment. Whenever I saw Baba meticulously taking care of Mama, I thought God was really unfair. How could mom died without the love she deserved, while Mama was loved so dearly. Although my in-laws didn't seem to have held the traditional discrimination against girls, I was skeptical of their love for me. After all, a daughter-in-law will always be a daughter-in-law, not a daughter. I envied James’ sisters who could visit their mother’s home at will. I watched how their parents would rush to help when they gave birth to their children. When James and I had no children, his older sister and brother-in-law returned to San Francisco from the East Coast with their two children to visit Baba and Mama, and drove them to visit us, as shown in the picture. I thought such happiness would never be mine.
I was surprised. A few years later, when our son was born, Baba and Mama came immediately to help. I bought a photo frame that year, wanting to capture our happiness.
Unfortunately, I still felt insecure because of the baggage from my family of origin. Whenever I was in a bad mood, James who is extremely rational could not understand why I was not satisfied even in the face of our achievement. On top of that, we often argued about how to raise our son. All these caused me to have a dim view of our marriage. I thought that I was an outsider of the Chiang family. I often avoided gatherings of the Chiangs under the pretext of "I’m busy at work" or "I’m too tired." To increase my sense of accomplishment, I immersed myself in the Silicon Valley culture and became a workaholic. This impacted our marriage even more negatively. For a period of time, James brought our son to San Francisco on the weekends seeking help from his parents for childcare support. Baba and Mama would gladly take our son and his two cousins to play in the Golden Gate Park. You would think I would appreciate their help, right? But no, I began to suspect they only love their grandson, not me.
Thank God that after 13 years of marriage, my Abba Father saved me through Jesus Christ in 1989 and I became a Christian. Feeling the unconditional love and acceptance of my Heavenly Father, my interpersonal relationships also turned a new page. Seeing my husband and son trusting in our Lord one after another, I finally understood how precious it was for James and his parents to love me. It was the love of Abba Father flowed through them. I was grateful that they did not give up on me!
After putting my trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, I started to treat Baba and Mama as my real parents, and began to enjoy them once more. They had intentionally nurtured love and kinship throughout their life by building up their family through healthy communication.
We got along very well, but only for a short while. Who could have guessed that James and I would have conflicts with Baba and Mama because of our faith?
Baba and Mama became Catholics in Taiwan. They continued to attend weekly mass after coming to the United States. They had no problem with me giving up my career as a computer software development manager to be a stay-at-home mom in 1995 and started attending Seminary on the weekends. Three years later, I graduated and James started Seminary study. Unbeknown to us, this had crossed a line in the sand for them. They did not take that decision well and thought James was out of his mind. James resolved to turn his love into action. He visited them in their San Francisco home every week to listen to Baba’s feelings and thoughts with an open mind. That continued for almost two years. Then one evening in 2000, Baba said to him: "Go home with a peace of mind, James. Don't worry. Jesus lives in my heart!" A few days later, Baba suffered a stroke and passed away soon after. Although we were saddened by his sudden departure, his last words to James gave us great comfort, because we firmly believed our Father God had received Baba back to his eternal dwelling.
It turns out that my Father in Heaven is my real and perfect father. Only my Abba Father has made me feel true unconditional love and active love, and He is willing to save his lost children, heal our broken hearts, and rebuild broken families.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
My father and my father-in-law took two very different paths in life, but they had one thing in common. Both my earthly fathers trusted in our Lord Jesus before they passed away. Thank the Lord Jesus for His wonderful salvation. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, I also became a mother-in-law and the grandmother of five grandchildren. James and our son are both good husbands and good fathers who live out the love of our Lord Jesus. May all glory, honor, and praises be given to our Father in Heaven.
If you wanted to learn the story of my family of origin, please click HERE to read the article "Remembering Dad and Giving Thanks to Our Father in Heaven".
Happy Father's Day! May God bless you and your family!
Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American born children.