Today would have been your 65th birthday, which you I know you had been looking forward to because it was when you were planning on retiring– or at least thinking about it, anyway. I think if you were here today, I would have called you to wish you a happy birthday and then planned on celebrating you and Bro’s birthdays over the weekend. You would have asked why I’m not married yet and hinted for grandchildren. I would have avoided your line of questioning, gotten annoyed at you for being so nosy about my life, and changed the subject. And then we would have had a large family meal together over the weekend and had one of our wonderfully animated “family debates” about Taiwan, politics, and things going on in the news before having cake and taking pictures. Maybe you would tell us silly jokes and funny stories. Maybe we’d even go into the garage and go through old photo albums while you told us stories about our family history and I would get mad at you for telling me the stories instead of writing them down. I miss you very much and sometimes I dream about you still being with us to do all these things together.
I didn’t always understand this when I was younger, but now that you’ve been gone for almost 4 years, I realize and appreciate that you sacrificed your entire adult life for the well-being of the people you loved. Through your example, we learned how important it was to respect and care for our parents as they got older. You weren’t just the picture of a perfect son to Grandpa & Grandma; you truly embodied the spirit of å (filial piety) in every decision you made.
When I was younger and more arrogant, I thought I knew better than you did — I didn’t always understand your “old-fashioned” and “Taiwanese” points of views. I got angry at some of your decisions. I was stubborn and sometimes disrespectful. But through it all, I felt very much a sense of å toward you and Mom and it only deepened when you left this world. I hope you realize that this was one of your enduring legacies.
No matter what, you always respected my thoughts and opinions, letting me express myself even if we actually disagreed, even if I had been rude, and even if I was arguing with you just to argue. I like to think that I grew out of this ugly stage of my life after I was done being a teenager, but that didn’t really happen until I was done with college. I guess it took a while for me to mellow out, to learn to be more compassionate, and to stop lashing out at you for things you couldn’t control. But I’m glad it did happen in time for us to have several years together where I didn’t constantly feel at odds with you.
I can’t say I regret my behavior because clashing with you made me a stronger person. You were so stubborn in your thoughts that you made me fight to try to even sway you a little bit. You made me realize that even if we disagreed with each other, we could both still stand strong and both be a little right or a little wrong. You rarely raised your voice at me and amazed me with the calmness in which you approached everything. Rarely shaken, it made me angry that when I screamed at you, you’d just look at me sternly and respond to me as if I hadn’t been behaving like a madwoman. I’m glad it didn’t happen that often, but thank you for letting me scream at you, even though it wasn’t very åé † of me.
I’m talking a lot about our disagreements because those are the vivid memories, but really, we didn’t disagree so much as we liked to talk about the world and debate about everything. I know that I became more opinionated because you challenged me to think and analyze things thoroughly. Sometimes I would take a position just to be on the opposite side as you– but I had to learn how to defend it! I couldn’t come to the dinner table and be unaware of the world’s events. I constantly had to enrich myself with books, magazines, newspapers, and later, the Internet so that I could be ready for you. I learned to love learning because of you. I still win at “homework” and research because it wasn’t good enough to know things on a surface level– I had to know things through and through or you’d pick my arguments apart in an instant.
If there is something that I learned from the way we lost you, it is that life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. But the other thing that I learned after you passed away is what a truly honest and respectable man you were in the way you lived your everyday life. In taking over your responsibilities, Bro and I learned how much we took you for granted and how much you did for our futures. You never took any time to enjoy yourself because you gave everything you had to the rest of us– that is why it hurts so much to realize that you never made it to retirement age– the age that you were planning to start “enjoying life more.”
I always thought that Mom was the one who sacrificed herself and her dreams for other people, but I didn’t realize until you were gone that you had done so as well. I wonder how much more you might have achieved if you had stayed in Taiwan instead of coming here and starting up everything from scratch? I cannot imagine picking up my entire life to move to another country and having to learn a new language, new laws, and new culture as you did. I know now that you struggled to raise a family in America so that we could have freedom, democracy, and opportunities you never had. I know that I was always grateful, but it wasn’t until the past 4 years that I began to understand the depths of your sacrifices for us. I probably didn’t say it enough when you were around, but thank you, Daddy.
Today is your birthday, Dad. And I wish you were still here to enjoy your 65th birthday, as you deserved to.
I love you and miss you everyday.
The above photo was taken on April 2, 2006, on my Dad’s 61st birthday.