My grandfather was a forceful man, when he made a decision, that was the end of it. My father’s parents divorced when he was in college. Then my grandfather moved across the country to California and later across the Pacific to Vietnam. His social security check went much further out there. He upstaged his neighbors when he bought a washing machine and dryer. A poor man in Oakland became a rich man in Vietnam. He married a Vietnamese woman with her own grown children, they always smiled in the pictures they sent us. My grandfather was 6 feet 4 inches tall, a veritable giant in Southeast Asia.
He’s dead now, cancer.
We’d talk on the phone once or twice a year. He always asked how I was doing in school and told me to keep studying. Whenever I said “yeah” he immediately corrected me, I quickly learned to say “yes” when I spoke to him. I was the first on my father’s side of the family to earn a Bachelors degree, but my grandfather didn’t live to see me walk across the stage.
There’s so much I don’t know about him. I don’t know what he did for a living, who his parents were, or where they came from. I don’t know how he met my grandmother, what Buffalo – New York was like when he was younger, or what he wanted out of life. I don’t know why he got divorced, why he moved to California, or why he moved to Vietnam.