Five years ago today my father passed away after two years of living with liver cancer. In my early years, I knew him mostly as the one who meted out corporal punishment, usually with a knuckle or two to the head. It was the norm for life in Vietnam back then, maybe even now. As an adult, I got along better with him, but maybe it has to do with the male attitude, I sometimes didn't give him the credits he deserved and thought I could be better than him at certain things. At the age of 39, I realize now that I'm at the same age as my father was when he left Vietnam with us to become boat people in search of a better life. That took lots of courage. Here he was with a family of wife and four children, mostly teenagers and older, with a house and a job, but he just upped and went out into the unknown of the Pacific Ocean. We were the luckier ones who didn't run into Thai pirates and made it to Indonesia eventually. During the months in various refugee camps, Dad labored to get us money for other necessities of life. At one job, he tried out to unload a large bags of rice, but with insufficient food to eat, he couldn't hold on to the bag and it simply fell off his shoulder. At another job, his feet were badly hurt by cement leaking into his boots. In America, he worked at various jobs, as a dishwasher, a busboy, clothes folder, and finally as a taxi driver. He managed to learn some decent English, good enough to earn him some good tips every now and then as a taxi driver.
Dad sure went through much changes. I cannot imagine me doing the same thing - just pack up and re-start life elsewhere. The most change I've done is to change jobs, but even that involves staying in the same field, so it's not that dramatic. I would definitely would not last long if I have to spend ten hours a day in Manhattan traffic five or more days a week - but that's what my Dad did for the many years he was a taxi driver.
I miss you, Dad.