All of us share certain hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, and fellow Americans. This statement is the heart of the ideal as the United States being a “melting pot” of people and cultures from around the World. While we work to find common ground, we also celebrate our various ancestral roots and diversity.
I wish I’d known, years earlier, that there is a month set aside for the celebration of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Then, I would have had an extra reason to honor friends and family who hail from those parts of the Earth. I know fellow school alumni of Pacific Island ancestry whose families settled in the US generations ago and I have familial ties to Southeast Asia.
One Thai family, who settled in Oregon and Louisiana, was destined to become part of my life. One member of that family found her way first to Omaha, then to Wayne, Nebraska in the 1980s. Tippy was eager to make a productive living for her son and herself.
Tippy was born in the “Golden Triangle” region of Thailand in the late 1940s. Even though she toiled in her family’s rice paddies, Tippy excelled in school. She remained focused on her dream of leaving the harsh, rural farmland of her birth and making a living in Bangkok. After awhile, Tippy expanded her dream and decided to immigrate to the United States. She worked hard in the city and set aside her earnings so she could comfortably and safely make her move.
While in Bangkok, Tippy met the American man who was to become her first husband. The couple moved to the US and had a son. Years later, the couple divorced and went their separate ways. This is when Tippy found her way to Nebraska.
After my biological mother passed away in 1989, dad found himself single and on his own again. Whenever he tired of his own cooking, he took his meals at restaurants. It was at the Pizza Hut where he met the manager of the restaurant, Tippy. Soon, the two began dating and she was introduced to the family. Tippy and I became instant friends.
I remember Tippy struggling to constantly improve her English-speaking skills. At the same time, she diligently studied her citizenship lessons so she could become a fully naturalized citizen. I still remember the day when she announced that her course work was complete and she was eligible for citizenship. Dad and I accompanied Tippy to Omaha and witnessed the naturalization ceremony. It was a special day when she retired her “green card” and framed her naturalization document to hang on the wall.
Tippy and dad soon “tied the knot” and our family was changed forever. It was amazing to see the shift in dad’s attitudes and his eagerness to explore Tippy’s Thai background. He even tried to learn how to speak and read the Thai language, but never was able to pull it off. Throughout the years, Tippy and dad flew to Thailand for family visits. The extended vacations brought out a part of dad’s personality I’d never witnessed before.
Most of the time, Tippy worked at a small, local factory, because she insisted upon a certain level of independence. She once told me that she didn’t want to be thought of as some sort of “gold-digger”. Tippy didn’t really need reassurance because she had won our hearts by her love and devotion to the entire blended family.
Several years ago, Tippy suffered a massive stroke and became nearly totally disabled. She spent her last few years fully dependent upon the skills of medical workers at a nursing home. Dad continued to visit her each day until Tippy’s death.
So, yes, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month holds special significance for me. I’m thankful to have become related to Tippy and her extended family.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes all Americans will take time to learn more about Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, and Native Hawaiians along with their roles in the history and culture of the USA.