I’m watching an Alcoholics Anonymous commercial on TV, and I’m thinking about how my dad used to have drinking problems when he was in high school—his own father had just died suddenly of a heart attack, and he didn’t have anyone to rely on. His mother was beside herself with grief, and she had to manage two restaurants while raising two sons. It was a difficult time for the family, but eventually good times came. Still, the ordeal and extreme difficulties my dad and his family went through strikes me.
Because both my parents’ families immigrated from Hong Kong, the older family members didn’t have what you’d call a great handle on the English language; when I think about it now, I don’t know if I would’ve been brave enough to make the international jump and leave everything I knew and my culture and language behind. I know they did it for the “chance for a better life,” as is often quoted by inspirational movies and books. But an immigrant’s life is difficult and full of sacrifices, and only recently has the enormity of such a sacrifice really begun to dawn on me. The situation my dad’s family went through would have been hard for anyone to deal with, but everything was exacerbated by both the challenges of being a new immigrant and other issues like rampant racism. I guess I never really understood before because it seemed so far removed from my own life, but the actions of past generations have shaped who I am now. Although it’s a simple truth, and not really anything new to the world, it’s a revelation for me. It blows my mind.