By Wayne Chan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Another year in the books. It’s my 21st year of being a parent. Still not sure how good I am at this whole “Dad” thing.
The problem is, I know how I feel about my parents. I miss them every single day. I miss my Dad’s goofy jokes. I miss how my Mom reminds me to wear a jacket when it’s 83 degrees outside. I miss how they make me feel…no matter what was happening in our lives, I always felt safe. My parents were always there. They always kept me safe.
I had, I must admit, an idyllic childhood. I had the same kind of problems any other middle-class teenager would have, which was really peanuts compared to what both my parents endured growing up.
Individually, both Mom and Dad had to escape from China when the Japanese invaded during World War II. As a boy, Dad was a witness to countless tragedies during the war — killings, betrayals, you name it. He endured through it and became a decent and honorable man, and a successful businessman to boot. Same with Mom — she escaped to Taiwan with her family, came to the United States, and ended up managing the library for a major university.
I didn’t really get to hear too many stories of my parents’ struggles — I know my Dad was hesitant to talk about it. And when he did talk about it, he didn’t have to make his memories seem larger than life either. When your story starts out with, “I could see some of the Japanese soldiers carrying bayonets…,” that’s about as much drama as you’ll really need.
Having grown up hearing some of these stories, it taught me the value of perseverance. If my parents could make it through such a chaotic childhood, what excuse do I have? The least I can do is do my best, work hard, and set an example for my kids.
I really think I need to do more than just set an example for my kids. I’d love to share some incredibly traumatic life story with my kids that keeps them on the straight and narrow. And if I don’t have some ready-made story to do that, I’ll just have to overhype some of the problems that I have faced.
Son, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was dark, rainy, and cold. It seemed far more frigid than the 67 degrees shown on the weather app of my iPhone. The thought kept running through my mind — get home, you just need to make it home. I longed for the warmth and security of my wife’s tender embrace. Would I make it home that night? I tried my best to steer clear of any negative thoughts.
The problem was that I had left my keys in the car, and even though I had my phone, I didn’t want to call the Auto Club because I had forgotten to pay my membership dues the week before.
I looked around, frantically, hoping to spot a police officer, anyone who could help.
All I could see were the parking lot attendees, and they were all busy directing cars out of the parkade after the Neil Diamond concert. If I had just left the concert a few minutes early, maybe before Neil finished singing his encore of “Forever in Blue Jeans,” maybe I could have caught someone’s attention to get help. Maybe. Right at that moment — maybe was a lonely word.
What do you mean my story is ridiculous?!? Fine. I have a better story with boatloads of drama. I once spilled a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken as I was handing it over to my Dad.
You may not think that’s very dramatic either, but you don’t know how much my Dad loved KFC.
Wayne can be reached at email@example.com.