Lifecycle

Decided to finish a post I started writing 4 months ago on a plane to Hong Kong and Macau.

cycle (v.) – a repeating series of events or actions

Sitting here on a plane to Hong Kong, I’ve never felt so alone. A full flight, 777-300 jet with adults, children, and babies. Maybe it’s the time of year, holidays, family, loved ones… I too am on my way to see loved ones, but there’s one who I’ll never see again. Grandpa.

I tend not to show much emotion, maybe it was part of my upbringing or culture. Sure, as a kid I was hot tempered, sweated the small stuff and easily annoyed (some may argue I still am now). However, never was I the one to truly embrace my family, to hug those nearest to me, to cry openly or to just be expressive.

I sit here on this plane, full of emotions – anger, fear, sadness, yet hopeful and optimistic. My story, is not unlike other first generation children. Growing up, we rarely, if ever, had to worry about food on the table, a warm bed or what will happen tomorrow. Growing up was relatively straightforward; go to school, do well, find a good job and start a family. In some ways, it’s the same expected cycle as the generations before me and hopefully the generations after me.

What’s different is with the passing of my grandpa, the feeling of a real link to my heritage in Macau and Hong Kong is slowly fading. I’ve been pretty nonchalant about my heritage and even distancing myself from it as I continued to age in the US. I don’t regret much, but I do regret not keeping closer to my grandparents after high school. There are a million cop-out reasons like going to college, having to work, being thousands of miles way, but looking back, it’s not worth it. They (along with my grandparents on my mother’s side) made it possible for my parents to be here, the opportunity to raise us and enable us spread our wings. I don’t think they could have ever imagined the world I live in today and how fortunate I really am.

The American Dream, the land of opportunity, where your dreams can come true and all that… My father’s side of the family found a way to succeed through import and distribution. My grandpa (maternal) set up business here in SF, brought my grandma, my mother and a number of her siblings to an apartment in Chinatown. 40 something years ago, my parents were immigrants, going to school, looking to make a home out of the US. My mother went to Sac State, my father graduates from Berkeley… they settle down and move to the south bay and they have my brother and me.

Fast forward, my dad stays in more of a traditional business, my mother builds a career in tech and as I start my career, I’m in the middle of Silicon Valley riding the next trend after the 2000 bust – digital marketing (specifically Search Engine Marketing). My wife and I own a house, have cars beyond our needs, work well-paying jobs and are generally comfortable. We are also both very thankful to have parents who made life easier for us. She vaguely remembers her grandparents as they had passed away when she was a lot younger. I remember my grandpa on my mom’s side passed when I was too young to really remember him, my grandma on my mom’s side passed when I was in high school and that was rough and now my grandpa has passed just before I turned 33…

That’s when I decided to stop 4 months ago. In retrospect, it makes a ton of sense to close out the post after being through his funeral, connecting deeper with my past and heritage and having time to take it all in. Often times it feels too late to take action, but I’m very glad I traveled last minute to my grandpa’s funeral. So many things rushed back to me. Things like when my grandpa used to jokingly call me “Oolong” (like the tea), but it was because as a kid, I didn’t know how to say “dopey” in Cantonese, which is something they called me a lot. And the word “dopey” in Cantonese is pronounced just like Oolong but with a W in front of it.

While I wrap up this post, I think the most important part of any passing is closure. I’ve come to terms with his passing, relish the times we had together and most importantly will continue to embrace my heritage, my family and all of the greatness I have to live up to that my predecessors brought to this world.

Below are a few photos that encapsulate my visit.

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A more recent wedding photo retake my grandparents have in their bedroom
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A traditional cantonese funeral service
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We lightened up the mood and tried to take a selfie at our traditional day-after funeral meal.
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Finally, a thoughtful little mug that my grandma got me – it says pig, my Chinese Zodiac sign.

One last funny little memory was a few hours before I headed back to the states, my cousin, aunt and uncle decided to play Mahjong with me… then my Grandma comes in few a few rounds and mercilessly beats the crap out of us… Even at 85+, she’s sharp, funny and extremely caring. I’m hoping she can make it over to the states this year to see all the things we’ve accomplished and hopefully she’ll be proud!

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