Last week, long after the moving trucks drove away and we had the laborious task of unpacking our boxes in our new apartment, I came across my father’s memoir.
Several years ago, I bought a tape recorder and I interviewed my dad, recording hours of dialogue about the history of my extended family and how we ended up in Canada. All my life, he had talked about the importance of our family history and where we came from and the hardship that our family endured to stay in Canada. As a teenager, I had tuned it out in favor of listening to MTV music videos and gabbing on the phone with friends. As an adult, and with my father getting older, I became curious about my Chinese heritage, and I needed to capture the family history soon. Otherwise all the memories and stories would fade into the background and our future generation would never know the truth of how my parents left their Taishan villages in China to follow the dream of a better life in Canada. So I recorded the long history of my family background including my mother’s, and then I transcribed them onto paper.
Our interview was one of the most touching things that my father and I ever did together. He not only shared about his own experiences but he even went as far back as 1891 to describe how his forefathers toiled in China and eventually ended up in Vancouver only to face the unfair Head Tax imposed on Chinese immigrants back in the day. I learned a lot too, including how my father suffered seasickness while on a boat from China to Canada, how he was a scared immigrant teenager attending King George high school with barely any English, and how he worked multiple jobs (i.e. taxi driver, milk delivery man, wrestling match ticket seller) over the years to keep the family going.
So when I discovered the memoir again, it brought back memories of his honest storytelling and the urgency to get this bit of history out there for my siblings and our children to read one day. On Father’s Day, I would like to give a shout out to my courageous and generous father who has always put our family first and instilled in us a spirit of bravery and perseverance!