My father and I have an unusual amount of things in common: art, eggs, fiery tempers, oily noses. We laugh uncontrollably at the same things. We like being witness to the beauty of natural landscapes. We feel connected to Hong Kong. We are both suspicious of the same kinds of people, both intensely loyal to a small group of family and friends. Even our politics and religious views overlap to a degree that is surprising for first and second generation immigrants.
Once, during a visit home in the midst of two struggling years in Iowa, I was riding silently in the car with my father. It was the night before my flight back to the Midwest, and as we pulled into the garage, I breathed a long, wavering sigh. My father turned to me and simply said, “I know, I know…”
My father arrived in America in his twenties and spent a day just walking across the city of San Francisco. He earned his way through college, navigated the business world, and gave his children privileged educations and the opportunities to pursue whatever we wanted. He always, always, put his children before everything else.
In our childhood home in Texas, we ate meals at a table that he built. I carried around a small wooden stool he constructed so that I could reach the bathroom sink. Years later, one of the wooden slats would come loose, but it wouldn’t matter; by then I hadn’t needed the stool to reach the sink for a while and was using it as a toy, a companion, an object of comfort.
My father takes care of me in a way no one else can. He makes me safe.
When I was fifteen I spent two months at a summer program on the East Coast. It was my first time away from home, and a couple weeks in, I was so homesick, so lonely in my corner dorm room, spending every night on the phone in tears, that my father flew from Texas to Connecticut and stayed the weekend with me. We ate sandwiches at Au Bon Pain.