On a spring morning in 1998, Dominic Orr woke up as he did every day, in the dark. While his children slept, he showered, checked his phone and e-mail messages, and drove from his Saratoga, Calif., home to a breakfast meeting nearby. When he emerged an hour or so later, he stopped cold.
In the early-morning light, he saw his dark-green Infiniti J30 covered with deep dents. The taillights were smashed, and the body was riddled with chips and scratches. Orr could hardly believe his eyes. When had this happened? Who could possibly have done it?
While we have talked about the lack of Asian-American CEOs and the glass ceiling, we haven’t discussed the price of “success” for those who have made it to that level. At that time of the above incident, Dominic Orr was the CEO of a hot Internet startup ready to go public. Always intensely driven, he was seeing little of his family. So who attacked his car? His son, in attempt to get some kind of attention. “I tried to destroy something that mattered to him,” said Alvin Orr.
The stereotypical Asian-American father is thought of as strict, distant, work-oriented–not so emotionally involved with their children. In Up, Russell’s father, assuming that he is Asian, is not there for him (nicely pointed out by this commenter on Rice Daddies). My own father spent months at sea when I was a child. I can’t blame him, though, as joining the U.S. Navy was one of few options for coming to the US for Filipinos of his era. Only when I had kids of my own did I discover how much he really liked children and how hard it must have been for him.
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
I always said to myself that I wouldn’t be like those fathers. I haven’t always succeeded, but I’m proud of the fact that I managed to find the time to coach each of my kids in some sport. My career hasn’t reached the heights like Dominic Orr’s, but since it’s been flexible enough for me to spend time with my children, I’d have to call it a success. In the end, Dominic Orr took time off to connect with his son. I see a new breed of highly involved Asian-American fathers – check out Rice Daddies. My father spends time with my kids. Making up for lost time, I suppose.
I’m setting up a get together with my father, my children, my wife’s father and much of our extended family for Father’s Day. I don’t know how many of these Father’s Days that we have left, so unlike the men in Cats in the Cradle, I can find the time.