#28ChineseMemories Day 14: My Dad’s “Right Hand”

My parents at their 40th anniversary celebration in Las Vegas, August 2010.
My parents at their 40th anniversary celebration in Las Vegas, August 2010.

This year on May 5th, my parents will celebrate their 45th anniversary together, and throughout my life I have seen nothing but true, genuine love between my mom and dad.

Like most children, I grew up assuming that my parents loved each other, because that’s how a family is made. But it wasn’t until February of 2002 when I realized how deeply they loved each other.

My dad is a cheerful, easygoing guy with a tough side; more or less a “typical” guy in that sense. I hadn’t ever seen him cry, not even at my grandmother’s funeral, his own mother. I forget what I was doing that February evening, but I was up late and for some reason I went downstairs to the kitchen.

I saw my mother crying softly and my dad turned to me, gasping, “Please, Helene! Give your mother a tissue!” When I went to get the tissue, I also noticed tears in my father’s eyes: he was also crying.

The sad news was that my grandfather, my mom’s dad, only had a short amount of time to live; he was in China. My mother hadn’t seen her father in over 20 years since she emigrated from China to join my father in the U.S. My parents had to make quick arrangements to get my mother back to China to see her dad before he passed away. My oldest sister accompanied our mom, leaving our dad home with me and my younger brother Adam.

Sadly, my mother and sister did not make it to China in time: my grandfather passed away a few hours/a day before they were to arrive. Still, they stayed in China for 2-3 weeks for the funeral arrangements and to spend time with our relatives there. During that time, my dad kept the family restaurant going by himself since Adam and I were still in school.

Our dad walked around like a ghost during that time though; we even attended a few awards show with our dad where he accepted awards from our hometown police department for his service to the community. Even though our dad was happy and appreciative of the awards, he also seemed a bit lost.

It wasn’t until one night at dinner when the three of us were eating and our dad said, “You know, without your mom here, I feel like somebody chopped off my right hand.” That statement made me suddenly realize that really, my parents had not been separated from each other for very much at all: they were separated from each other for several years in the 1970s when my dad came to the U.S. to find a better home for our family, leaving my mother and my two oldest siblings behind in China for the arduous journey abroad. Still, since they were reunited in the late 1970s in Virginia, my parents had been side-by-side with each other 24/7, even working long hours together.

My parents in Maryland last summer.
My parents in Maryland last summer.

That was the moment when I realized how deeply their love ran for each other. Once my mother and sister came back from China, my parents were so happy to be reunited. Since then, my parents have resumed their togetherness through work, travel, and now even into their retirement, playing ping pong at home and walking five miles in the neighborhood when the weather is nice out. I see my parents’ love and I wish to myself everyday that my relationship will emulate them in every way.