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Mr. Distance

By Michelle Wang
In Hindsight: “This was the way it was and it has made all the difference.”

I’d like to introduce you to a man named Mr. Distance. He is close friends with Mrs. I Miss You as well as distantly related to a boy named Presents From Foreign-Lands. You could say Mr. Distance is my archenemy, and we have been acquainted since I was young. Who, might you ask, introduced this man to me? My father.

My dad is the best dad in the world, because he is my dad. If you ask me what he looks like, I’ll say, around 5 feet 10 inches tall, Asian, wears glasses, and rounding a little around the midsection (to put it nicely). But I probably wouldn’t tell you about the things I guard in my little safe box called Memory. I probably wouldn’t tell you about his hearing problem in his right ear, his annoying tuft of hair that always likes to stay unruly, his nose that looks like his sisters, his smile that is like his dad, his favorite black Brook’s Brother’s polos, his gray suit from Hugo Boss or his transition lenses glasses that make him look kind of like an alien. I probably wouldn’t tell you that, because I guard those with not just a lock and key, but a 100 pound chain wrapped around a huge steel box with a digital handprint scanning entrance password that is encased in the very center of a booby-trapped Egyptian tomb. Who do I guard them from? I guard them from Mr. Distance.

The first memory I remember locking away was an afternoon spent eating charcoal, burnt toast with peanut butter (my dad’s specialty) and making snowmen out of half an inch of snow, bananas, walnuts and peanuts from a planter’s box. Mr. Distance kept me from my daddy for 3 years. For three years, my dad lived in Pittsburgh. He would drive up in his ’92 burgundy Honda Accord on Sunday nights from Cary, North Carolina and drive back or fly back Friday nights. All I had with him were those 2 precious days- Saturday and Sunday. Mr. Distance was so mean. I was only 6 and I missed my daddy. Parent teacher conferences at school usually consisted of the awkward starter questions- “where is your dad?” I didn’t know this, but later my mom told me that she was probably only 100 pounds at the time, due to stress of looking after me on her own, anxiety and lack of sleep. I was so selfish; I never even noticed how much Mr. Distance had been hurting my mom too, and I would hog my dad on those precious weekends- at the park learning how to do the monkeybars or anything really. For three years- from kindergarten to second grade, Mr. Distance kept my daddy away but Weekends brought him home.

A couple years down the road, I remember driving out to Lexington in the Honda Accord with my dad and eating the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life. For four years, my dad worked in Lexington as marketing something or another at the PPG fiberglass plant there. He would leave early in the morning at around 4 o’clock and return late at night around 10 or 11. I was in elementary school, so usually I didn’t wake up early and usually I didn’t stay up very late. I would try my best to keep my eyes open until 10 o’clock, but usually by 9:30, I would be dead asleep. I spent my elementary school years in Chapel Hill, playing tennis, swimming, and biking with my friends. But I didn’t have my dad there to fix my bike when it got a flat tire, though he was there to pick the bike out with me; and I didn’t have my dad there to teach me how to swim freestyle when everyone else was shooting ahead in learning how to swim the butterfly. My mom tried her best, but she herself never learned how to swim, so it was a little difficult.

I kind of neglected Mr. Distance during my 5th- 7th grade years; he didn’t really matter anymore and he didn’t annoy me as much as he used to. But in doing that, I kind of didn’t miss my dad as much. I didn’t know the hard work he had to do, or understand that half our household income was coming from him or that this was actually a sacrifice he was making for our family. To me, he was just a perpetually absent family member that was great to have when he was around, but, guiltily, I must admit, it wasn’t always on my mind, “When does Daddy come home?” like it used to be.

And through the years, Mr. Distance has tried to prevent and steal so many more of my memories; but I’ve learned, and I’m safeguarding those few, precious memories I have. Nowadays, my dad lives in Taiwan. He is the General Manager of a company that needs some help to turn itself around. He is assigned to work there for 3 years and if he is successful at fixing it, he will probably stay in Taiwan for good. How much do I talk to him? Maybe once a week on the phone for about 30 minutes. I spill my entire life to him, updating him on every little thing and he does the same for me. He tells me about the yummy foods he’s eaten and the strange or interesting clients he’s met with. But he never complains. He doesn’t want me to feel bad that he’s alone or that Mr. Distance is keeping him locked away from home.

I’ve become close friends with Presents From Foreign-Lands these past few years my dad has worked in Asia. There is always new Asian dramas (mini-series, soap opera-type things), little trinkets, gifts from my relatives, and lots of yummy food. He sent us mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival (a Chinese celebration) through Fed-Ex. They were gourmet mooncakes from Shanghai and boy were they yummy, but Mr. Distance kept my dad from enjoying them with us as we ate them while watching the beautiful full moon from our porch in North Carolina.

In two years, I’m going to be off to college and Mr. Distance once again, will seem to win. My dad will probably stay in Taiwan and my mom will probably move back with him. He will seem to beat me, in this game of tug of war. But I, frankly am tired of pulling around my dad, I am tired of making him feel the least bit guilty for not being home. I hear the tiredness in his voice when he phones home, the almost dark kind of laughter when he chuckles about not being able to sleep at night and I always hear how much he misses us. So, there, Mr. Distance. I did beat you after all. I win. Mr. Distance may have made a difference in my life, but because my daddy loves me, I win- Dad loves me more than Mr. Distance.