*I know this isn’t exactly Japan or Totsukawa related, but I just really wanted to do a post in honor of my Dad for his 2 year anniversary since his passing*
This day marks exactly 2 years since my Dad passed away. The reason I wanted to do a post in honor of him, specifically on this blog, is because he was my biggest supporter with me moving to and working in Japan. As much as it saddens me to wonder what my life would have been like if he were still here, I continue each day with his presence in my mind, hoping that he is proud of me for how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked to get to where I wanted to be.
What do you get when you take sunglasses, a fishing hat, and a dark Lao man? … My Dad!!!
So a little bit about my Dad… He was the youngest of his family and grew up in Pakse, in a village in Southern Laos. I think his Dad (my Grandpa) passed away either before he was born or when he was very young, but he grew up with his siblings and a mother who he loved very much. After meeting my Mom they had their first child (my older sister) in 1976. I don’t know the exact timeline of everything, but several years later, my family decided to take a big risk and move to America. A lot was sacrificed and a lot was experienced during their venture. They left their village, families, and friends behind. They stayed in refugee camps during the process of getting to America. Along the way, my older brother was born in Thailand in 1980.
Eventually, they finally made it to America. It was a new and unpredictable environment. None of my family knew any English. Like many other immigrant families who first came to America, they started at the bottom with nothing but each other and the Lao community. But they worked hard to provide a home, food, and a new life for them and their children. While my Mom started to work in a hotel to clean, my Dad went to a community college to study machinery. My Mom would later be employed at the Marquette Hotel in downtown Minneapolis and my Dad at various factories and plants. They started out in a small apartment in Minneapolis, and over the years, moved home to home until they finally settled on a blue house in the suburb of Eagan. 12 years after giving birth to my brother, my Mom gave birth to me in 1992.
Growing up, my Dad always encouraged me to do well in school and to have something that I’m passionate about. Given that he always had very strict and stereotypical/traditional Asian methods to my upbringing, I was always grateful that at least he always pushed me to pursue something that would make me happy (despite him secretly wanting me to work for the government…) When I started realize my passion for the Japanese culture and language and yearned to pursue something within that field, I don’t think he could have been happier.
I started taking my first Japanese courses in college, and it always excited my Dad whenever I was working on Japanese homework. Until now, I never thought of it as anything special, but maybe to him, it just made him happy to see me working hard towards something I wanted. When I found out about a 2 week exchange program to Japan through a sister city program, I was really hesitant about asking my parents for help with the expenses. I really wanted to go, but I knew at that time, we were in a financial pickle. I asked my Mom and she told me she would talk about it with my Dad. He definitely showed no hesitation in having me go to Japan, and finances seemed to be the least of his concerns when he told me that it would be great for me to go. Not only did I visit a country I have always wanted to go to since I was little, but I also had some of the best experiences of my life, and I owe it all to my Dad for helping me make that happen. ❤
My Dad and I had an overall very good relationship, but I sometimes used to get angry at him for being unreasonable with some of his methods… but after I lost him, I began to realize that I took his parenting and care for granted. I never realized it, but he and Mom shaped the way I am and allowed me to grow into the person that I am. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my Dad was incredible and always will be. It’s definitely one of those stories you would hear, where someone starts with nothing and eventually achieves something amazing. For my Dad, it was making sure that his family would be better off than they would be in Laos. It was about finding opportunities that would make a difference in his life and his family’s. It was about making sure we had a good life. (And we still do!)
A year ago, I found a fortune that had a quote I deeply connected with. To this day, I keep it in my wallet, in front of a picture of my Mom and Dad. When I feel stressed out or sad in any way, I just look at this and realize to never give up on my dreams or my future. To have the life that I have right now, it’s all thanks to them. To be the kind of person I am, I thank them. And even though it was most likely stressful for them to have gone through the life that they had, I’m sure everyday they thought of something along the lines of the fortune I found:
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.