Wednesday, August 13, 2003
People always ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all. And I always give the same answer, I tell them... 'He was my father.' -"Road to Perdition"
Been meaning to write about something.
This past Saturday, before all the busy-ness, I had to drop up the food for the Seniors' dinner at night at my church's kitchen... I had to leave the raw chicken and vegetables in the walk-in fridge and I had to drop off the ice cream into the freezer.
The backdoor was locked, so I walked through the front of the church, through the fellowship hall to get to the kitchen. I had to sneak through the fellowship hall because the Womens' Missionary Society was having one of their biweekly meetings... they meet twice a month, Saturday mornings for brunch. Imagine a collection of about three dozen sweet and elderly Chinese pau-pau (grandmas), most of them, 60+ and 70+ years old - that's the WMS.
Luckily, they were all praying, so I quietly went into the kitchen without them noticing me.. I didn't want to bother them. I dropped off the food and then exited the kitchen back the way I came to find that they had finished praying.
I smiled at all the familar faces and waved as I started walking through the fellowship hall. As I walked through, my nose caught the fragrant smells of freshly cooked Chinese food, already laid out for serving family style.
Those perceptive Chinese grannies most have caught me inhaling the smell as I walked by, because before I knew it, they had ambushed me, thrusting a plate, fork, and napkin in my hand. I tried to politely refuse, being that I was already late to a planning meeting in a different part of the church, but the onslaught had already pushed me to the front of the line. Wrinkled, smiling faces and hands with serving spoons materialized from thin air, heaping food onto my plate... watermelon, grapes, chicken, chow mein, hom bao, and jin doi...
As I stood in line, one of the ladies I didn't recognize asked another who I was and even though my Cantonese sucks, I could barely hear her whisper the words in Chinese...
He's Pastor Chan's son...
It's hard to describe the feeling I had when I heard her say that... a mixture of pride, melancholy, and but most of all... humility. These ladies, many of whom have witnessed almost a century of life at my church, still remember and honor my father even though he's been gone for almost 14 years. I could be the most repulsive, obnoxious kid in the world, and those pau-pau would still be piling mounds of food onto my plate just out of love and obligation to my father. There's something very humbling about being in the presence of that kind of love and affection.
Even in a Westernized environment, I think there's something particular about the (Chinese Christian) culture at my church in that people always have great respect for the past. People at my church have never forgotten my father and sometimes I wonder, if I were to die someday and leave behind children, would it be the same for me?
Could I live a life so worthwhile that even death, others will remember me and care for my own, simply because they bear my name?
It's quite daunting. I don't think I'm up to the task. Not yet.
Speaking of children and parents, The Seattle Times has a story on adoptions of Chinese orphans, post-SARS hysteria. Last year, 5,000 immigration visas were issued for Chinese orphan adoptees. I always wonder what sort of impact all those adoptees will have someday. It's like one gigantic, bizarre cultural experiment. Children of Asian descent being raised in an American culture that marginalizes people of Asian descent, and its tendency to nourish Asian American self-hatred.
Even today, I guess it's still an experiment in progress... there's a ton of Korean and Vietnamese adoptees now of adult age in the US today, thanks partially to two different wars in Asia. Obviously as adults, they'll be exerting a larger influence on America... what kind, it's hard to say.
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