norman dad in overcoat


By Rev. Norman Fong

June 18, 2018

When I think about my dad, I am so thankful for his sacrifices that he made for the family. He came through Angel Island in 1919 as a teenage boy on a long ocean boat ride that was probably pretty scary and very tough to do back then. It was during the Chinese Exclusion Act too, so the Chinese were not welcome. He was a farm worker, restaurant worker in Chinatown, & worked at a grocery store. He worked so hard that sometimes I didn’t get to see him until late night. By then, he’d go to his room, listen to Chinese opera music… and go to bed.

When my dad passed away, my mom told me that dad felt so bad because he couldn’t make enough money to buy our family a car, a color TV or a home. When she said that - I cried. I felt terrible. I know my dad worked so hard. I know that it was so hard for the Chinese immigrants during those early years in our history. I wish I could have said: “Dad – I am so proud of you for just surviving and caring for us kids & paving the way for our future”.

norman dad in overcoat
Norman's dad

I knew that my dad was proud of me and my sister & brothers for making it through college. Of course, he & mom didn’t have that luxury. I was proud that my dad served in the US Army, although he told me that he was made the cook (but I actually loved his cooking). My dad used to teach me some “Kung Fu” moves and whenever my friends came over – he’d show them a few moves and I always said: “Dad, sit down, you’re not that young any more”.

norman dad in army
Norman's dad in army

norman dad at store
Norman's dad at store

dad mom babies
Dad holding Norman. Mom holding Norma.

There were a couple times that I made dad so happy: #1. When I got married in Hong Kong and #2 When I became a minister. Let me explain #2. When I was a young and wild kid & teenager, both mom & dad were very worried about me. I was very rebellious and got into some trouble at school & after school. I sometimes came home really late hanging out with my friends. My parents always waited for me to get home – even when it was so late. As a teenager, I didn’t like to wash dishes when my parents asked me too. (For a lot of reasons, I was the one who usually had to do it. Anyway, I rebelled and refused to do it as a teenager). So when my dad was asked by many people: “What do you think about your son becoming a minister?” He’d simply respond: “Well all I know is when he decided to become a minister, he started washing all the dishes everyday”. THANKS DAD, for ALL YOU’VE DONE FOR THE FAMILY!

Now I’d like to talk more about being a father. Yes, it takes a lot of work and making time to be there for your baby, toddler, child, teenager & finally an adult. Yes it costs money to send them to school & get a good education. Yes there were a few difficult times when you worry so much about your son or daughter being safe when they are far away or go on trips and they come home late at night (like I did to my parents). Was it worth it? Of course!

norman and son
Norman and son

I still remember telling my son stories almost every night when he was a little boy. I’d make up stories based on the cartoons he liked and he was always the “hero” or the one that was at the center of the story who had to make a decision to do the right thing. I loved those precious times together and also going to the movies or watching a game with my son. I feel so close to him, even today, because we understand each other and have in a way, become the best of friends. I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but I am so thankful for my son too on this “Father’s Day”. (although Mother’s Day has passed already – let me remind everyone – There would be No Father’s Day without MOM!).

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on June 17, 2018

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