I remember walking through stores with my grandpa, hand in hand. I grew up with him raising me, from when I was a newborn until I was seven. No matter what the weather was, he would take me out to different places so I wouldn’t bother my uncle and cousins when they were studying or sleeping. It didn’t matter if it was rain, or snow, hot or cold, we would go to places…like Kings Bakery. The bakery held the aroma of fresh baked pastries. You could see the bakers making the bread in the back. It was always busy and filled with people that he knew.Everyone in the Chinese community that lived in Portland knew my grandpa. I sometimes wonder what he did to be so popular with everyone. Stories are told to me by people who once knew him. He believed I had an ability to make a big impact. He helped shape me, to help anyone I could. Grandpa once said to my parents, “Watch her, she will go far like no one in our family has.” He said, “There’s a spark in her.”
We used to go explore different parts of Portland, from the local grocery store to places all the way in downtown Portland. When we went to Chinatown, it was hectic but peaceful. Everywhere you looked people were shopping, eating or touring around and taking pictures. It was filled with excitement. For him, spending time with me was his happiness and it made him feel young. Whenever we walked by and saw a homeless person holding up a sign on the sidewalks hoping to get some money, he would give them some food or some money he had with him. Grandpa told me to always have a heart on the smallest things. “One small thing can make a big impact.” He’d say. He believed in this with all his heart, especially from his past and the experiences he had faced.
My family came from poverty, hunger and starvation. They came to America in hopes for a better life, so the next generation wouldn’t have to experience the things they had.
It was a tough life in China, each day the children would cook rice for the family once they got back from the hard day’s work. It was hard to get enough food to eat, usually vegetables with no meat because meat cost a lot and they had no money for it. The only time they ate beef was when the cow was old enough and about to die. Sometimes there would be days without food, or there wouldn’t be enough for everyone to share. All the kids had to walk to school, no matter how far it was, my mom had to walk at least five miles from her home to school every day. It was the only way to get an education; otherwise you never went to school. Education wasn’t really important to people there, not as important as survival. Having my parents, and the generations before me who faced all of this, grandpa hoped I would never have to experience this myself.
Growing up, I never expected my grandpa to have any serious health issues. As the years passed my grandpa’s legs started to become weak and he couldn’t stand or walk. He would go to the hospital for treatment at least three times a week. He wouldn’t allow me to know what was happening so I wouldn’t feel distress or sadness. I found out a couple months later that he was facing kidney failure. The medications the doctors had him on didn’t work. His treatments made him weaker, but he kept fighting until he couldn’t fight anymore.
Every time I visited him, I could see the tears in his eyes, and how he was trying to hold them back. Grandpa would never tell me that something was wrong; he would just tell me everything was okay and I shouldn’t worry. At one point, he lost all the memories of me, and couldn’t tell who I was. Before he completely forgot, he still reminded me to keep pushing and to keep studying so I can become what I want to be. Growing up, he promised me that he would be there to see me graduate high school, but before he could, he passed away in the spring of 2008. He told me to keep going forward no matter what came in my way. I can never forget these words. Grandpa influenced me to strive for the top, to fight for what I want and to not give up and I am who I am today because of him.
Sometimes I wonder what he would think of me if he was still alive. I keep trying my hardest for his wish to become my reality. The past couple years since he has been gone, I have pushed myself to go farther, and to get ahead. I never let a moment go by, since we never know when it’s the end. He taught me so many lessons while I was growing up, but one I can never forget is to remember each and every moment that happens, good or bad, and that one small thing can make a big impact. Every memory I have of him will never be forgotten. He will always be in my heart.
Writing and Images by Amanda Mar