growing up, I always looked at my mom as a hero and my dad as a villain. she seemed to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, but in a way she was always saving the family. my dad seemed to cut us down every chance he got. he was distant, cold, and critical. I don’t remember him every being affectionate, telling me I was beautiful or special. I remember being the go-between for my parents as they argued. my mom in the car outside and my dad in the duplex. I remember my mom’s tears and my dad’s yelling, and hugging my younger siblings in our room as my older siblings tried to stop the fighting.
My mom is the 2nd oldest of 13. She was a beauty to behold in her youth, before all the stress of being married to my dad, moving to the US, her fight with breast cancer, and raising 7 kids. My mom had thick, dirty blonde hair, and gentle green eyes. She’s constantly reinventing herself, creating for others, not herself. She learned to knit at a very young age from a book with no pictures and sold her creations at the local market to help financially support her family. She sewed her sister’s wedding dress and my sisters dresses when we lived in Russia. I love seeing photos of my sisters and I in her creations. My mom took every opportunity for us in the US, like when she fought for us to go to the nicer schools in the neighboring areas; she was always our advocate and didn’t let her thick accent stop her from getting what’s best for us. I used to be embarrassed of her in elementary school, she wasn’t like the other mothers; she dressed in long, mismatched skirts, her hair was always in a messy bun, and she looked tired. She was an outsider and foreign, and I’m ashamed I treated her that way. We owe most of our success to her. She pours too much of herself to others, I take after her in that way, but she taught me that I need to teach others how to treat me. She’s taken care of me too many days as an adult as I grew sick and sicker. Amidst adjusting to a new country with 5 growing kids, and 2 more to come, while learning a new language, my mom got her AA degree in Library technology. I remember her taking us to her astronomy class and it sparked my love for the stars. Now she works as a librarian at the very same community college she attended, and she made us all readers. She tries to guide me and prevent me from making the same mistakes she did. She doesn’t always understand me or my choices, but she supports me and prays for me. She is the strongest woman I know. I’m proud to take after her and hope to make her proud.
My dad is a mysterious man, even to me, his own child. He’s the youngest of 2, and his dad abandoned the family when my dad was in his teenage years. My dad is great with toddlers and children, but doesn’t know what to do with teenagers. He’s a man of few words, but many actions. For much of my childhood, I hated and feared him. Now I see that his anger came from a place of stress, missing his home and family in Russia, and not knowing how to properly express his frustrations. I don’t excuse his abuse, but I’ve chosen to forgive him and seen him as a changed man. I never saw my dad any more vulnerable than when he teared up and told us to cherish my mom and each other as my mom was battling cancer. In high school, sometimes he would go running with me around the block. I slowed down for him, but those times were some of the closest father-daughter things we ever did together. My dad has piercing blue-grey eyes, jet black hair, and olive skin, physically I take after him most in the family. It makes me proud to look like him out of everyone, and I hold onto that special bond we have. My dad is hard to understand and he’s critical of our every mistake, and it’s his voice I hear when I make a mistake. My dad was a soldier in the USSR arm and spent time in Eastern Germany, he talks about his time in the military with longing. The military drilled into my dad a love for running, which he passed onto us, and discipline, which I struggle with. My dad is a lonely man, he loves his children, takes care of his many fruit trees, loves the cats my sister and I brought to the house without his knowledge, and he loves me more than I can understand. His best friend is his cousin that lives in Utah, grows weed, and converted to buddhism recently, I love hearing their lively debates and attempts to facetime each other. His sacrifice to my siblings and I was his body, he’s spent the better part of two decades as a night-shift custodian, and he almost never takes a sick day and vacation hours. Because of him, we’ve always had healthcare, a steady income, and my parents are proud home owners. My dad’s sacrifice to his health meant that my siblings and I could pursue college, and all of us have graduated debt-free. My dad is a complicated man, he grew up fatherless and doesn’t see his family in Russia, except for every few years. He failed us in big ways, like making us feel loved and protects, but in other ways he’s shined, he taught us to be diligent and grateful, and how to laugh. My favorite memories of him are the ones of him making us laugh in the kitchen, and him dropping me off at college after a visit home (which meant a four hour drive for him).
My parents have a complicated marriage, but God has redeemed many aspects of it in recent years. They take vacations together to Mexico or Hawaii, somewhere by the ocean, and they enjoy each other’s company without kids. I can see them forming a steady love, and my dad’s softened his demeanor with my mom. I love seeing my dad help my mom in the kitchen, or see them talk about work in the mornings. They are my parents and their dysfunctional relationship has hindered me in many ways, but they’ve also shown me what it’s like to be human, to be broken and also how to look for redemption. They stuck by my side when I had no life left in me, and I’m grateful I’m theirs.