The hum of a 2004 model Toyota Tacoma, coupled with the loud ruckus of a garage door opening, forms a symphony that always instills within a joy. It signifies that my father has returned home from work, laboriously all day, in construction. Although he comes home each night with deformed calloused hands, an aching back, and cuts from glassware, he always greets me with an unfaltering warm smile, ensuring me that he is ok.
A life in China
Before my father came to America, he lived in China his entire life. Coming from a line of surgeons, my father found himself planning to pursue a career in radiology. He had his entire life laid out for him, enjoying every second of his certainty. This all changed when he met my mother. They instantly fell in love, marrying a few years after first meeting.
Soon, his aspirations manipulated to accommodate a new type of synergistic dream: America. All around him, friends and media were no longer privy to the utopian foreign nation and the wonders it is told to contain. My father, along with millions of others, were affected by the prospect of such a country. In America, he can start a life where his children will thrive with the best education, upbringing, and opportunities, albeit by doing so, my father would have to leave comfort, his family, and his future in medicine in order to start a new chapter, with me in it. He never weighed the risks completely because there was no question, in his mind, of depriving his children of a promising life.
It was decided.
In 1996, my parents settled in San Gabriel.
A new home: America
Coming to America had it setbacks for my father. He could no longer become a radiologist with the immense language barrier presented. To this day, my father still has not learned English due to how hectic of a move to America is and all that it entailed. Instead, he went into construction, a laborious and tiresome field of work. As a freelance construction worker, there was even more stress about finding job, if there were any. At the time, I never recognized he was in pain because there was sign of it.
When I was in elementary school, I remember seeing my smiling father, everyday, waiting for me, at the front gate, with some type of snack or juice in his blackened hands. Knowing me best, he always ensured it was apple juice, not grape. He would lean down, arms out, ready embrace a stubby 5-year-old, who would trip on her own feet, immediately when the bell rang. My father’s jeans and shirt would always be covered in splattered white paint and debris from his work site.
When we arrived home, my father would always prepare the most delicious traditional Chinese dishes. He used the same recipes my grandfather used. Then, every night we would go to the local park and either play soccer or take a walk around the field. As I reminisce, my father was enduring physical strain, but he never faltered to present himself in that manner; shielding me from his agony.
My life was easy. Yet as a child, I never realized the physical strain, my father put himself through, to achieve that for me. With my mother absent, it was up to my father to balance work and raising a child alone.
Fast forward a couple of years, my father still works in construction. He still puts himself through torment for his American dream: his hopes for me to live a life far better than what is offered in China. I do my best to ease his pain, albeit it becomes difficult as new medical complications arise; aftershocks of a decade in labor.I am far beyond grateful for my father: his relentless positivity, encouragement, and kindness even when he is enduring personal tribulations. He has instilled within me the importance of following my passions.
Is the American dream dead?
The fact that anyone can allow their prejudices lead to immense intolerance is unfathomable. Too often, entities forget that America’s lineage, developments, and principles originate from immigration. It becomes easy to dehumanize immigrants when the media oppresses them and portrays them as detrimental to the nation.
Bridging the divide takes place when these stories are advocated. These are the stories that remind us why we should proud as American– how a nation was born by the prospect of a better life and everyone, from different regions of the world, building this dream to become tangible.
My father still has faith in the American dream. He says that no one can deprive someone from experiencing the unalienable rights America is founded on: “生命，自由，追求幸福.” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.