It was Veteran’s Day. I remember because I’d wished I was at school so I wouldn’t have to witness my father as a monster that day.
I always knew he’d had a temper. One time my brother got a bad grade and Dad locked him out of the house. Mom and Dad were angry that he’d wandered off to a friend’s house. I never did anything like that—get bad grades. There was too much shame in showing up unannounced at a friend’s doorstep unannounced.
That November morning, there was tension in the air when I woke up. This was going to be a difficult day. I assumed my parents were fighting about the usual: her gambling and his work addiction (which I later deduced to an addiction to meeting women online). He went to work and she disappeared.
A few hours later, she comes home, screaming unintelligibly into the phone. I hear glass shattering downstairs. When I run down to see what the ruckus was all about, I found glass everywhere and my mother holding another plate to throw.
I don’t remember when he came home. He was much larger than she so when she started hitting him, the punches were futile. His voice boomed throughout the house and I was sure the neighbors were listening. I still hear his authority, his anger, and his frustration. He left the house in a huff, got in his car, and pulled out the driveway.
She ran out in front of his car, taunting him to run her over. I had to pull her inside and comfort her. I was a fourteen-year old, holding my mother and feeling the cuts on her wrists. She tried to slit her wrists again that night. Dad was back home by then and he called 911.
The police came. One spoke to her in Chinese and the other spoke to Dad. They arrested her that night and kept her in the hospital for 3 days. Looking back, I’m not so sure it was a hospital. They may have been trying to protect me.
Dad took me aside once she was taken away. He left me with a few words: “I’m going to divorce her when you leave for college. It will be better then.”
It didn’t get better after college.