In 1978, my Dad boarded a plane, flew across the Pacific and enrolled as a Master’s student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture. A year later, my Mom joined him and in 1981 they had a happy accident — me! A year later, another surprise from heaven arrived (my brother Mike) and my Dad suddenly had his hands full:
I love how stunned he looks in this photo. My Dad is a very loving and devoted parent, qualities I’ll illustrate with a story about our family’s cat, Deedee.
Despite being infamously fat, Deedee is actually a very active feline (his nickname is 洪金寶). He loves wandering around my parents’ yard, stalking birds and rolling around in the grass. When Deedee wants to come back inside, he stands outside the door and meows and meows and meows and meows and meows and meows. This is a good system if he’s in the backyard and my parents can see him through the sliding windows, but Deedee’s little cat cries are harder to hear through the heavy wooden front door.
One day when I was home for vacation, my Dad fretted about Deedee being left outside in the summer heat.
“Why don’t you install a doorbell at cat height for him?” I said.
I was kidding, but my Dad thought it was a brilliant idea. Within 20 minutes, we were at a Home Depot, where my Dad purchased a wireless doorbell set. When we got home, he immediately installed it, carefully positioning the button on the doorstep so Deedee could press it with his paw or push it with his giant wedge-shaped head. Then we picked up Deedee, threw him out of the house, shut the door and ran around the corner into the living room to wait by the window.
Deedee paced back and forth. Then he sat down and started meowing.
“Press the button!” my Dad whispered.
Deedee started licking himself. And then he meowed some more. After watching for a little while, we realized that he was definitely not going to press the button and let him back inside. I know I will sound like a crazy cat person when I say this, but I am convinced Deedee saw that button and refused to push it because he did not want to let the humans win.
I think this anecdote illustrates how much belief my Dad has in Mike and me. He has always been willing to go along with our ideas and schemes, no matter how far-fetched and strange they might have seemed. He believed in us even when we were, like Deedee, surly and stubborn. A couple years ago, I asked my parents why they gave me so much freedom when I was selecting a college and major, especially considering that many of their first-generation Asian American peers were much more demanding about their kid’s field of study.
“We always trusted you to make the best decision for yourself. We know you and your brother had goals and we knew you would work very hard to achieve them,” said my Dad. “Also, we did not have to worry about you because you already worry a lot anyway.”
Awwwwwww, I love that my Dad always believed that my neurosis would one day work in my favor!
This Father’s Day, I’d like to thank my Dad not only for getting on that plane 33 years ago and working so hard to give my family all the opportunities he knew awaited us in the US, but for his constant support, faith and love. My parents and their journey to the States was a big source of inspiration for me when I retraced their tracks and moved to Taipei. Both of you took a huge risk, leaving everything that was dear to you behind to move to a strange, new country. After years of hard work and sacrifice, it paid off. Our family is a source of strength I draw from again and again. When I am sad and unsure of what I am doing, I think of all that I learned from you. I will continue to do so when Ron and I have our own family. Also, thanks for the crazy sense of humor I inherited from you, Dad. It’s been very helpful!