79: In Gratitude

79: In Gratitude

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

In Gratitude

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

~Cynthia Ozick

Dear Mom,

I’ve blamed you for many things throughout my life. I blamed you for leaving my father when I was five. I blamed you for taking me away from Hong Kong, the city where I was born. I blamed you for marrying my stepfather, a man who could never accept me. And I blamed you for being more devoted to your work than to being my mother.

I’ve hurt you, Mom, just as you’ve hurt me. You see me as stubborn, resentful, and vindictive. I have to have my way, and anything you do for me isn’t good enough. Your gifts are never what I need. The food you bring is not what I want. Even the money you send at Christmas isn’t right because it can never take the place of the love I didn’t feel in your home. I’ve resented you because it’s easier than accepting responsibility for my own life, even at the age of fifty-one.

I’ve blamed you, Mom, for what’s wrong in my life, but I haven’t given you credit for what’s right. Despite my protests, you took me back to Hong Kong to see my father when I was thirty-three. If you had not insisted, I never would have realized how much it meant to him to have a son, even one he couldn’t talk to because we spoke different languages.

I connected with my father, my family, and my past on that trip. I learned about him and about you—the pain you endured as a twelve-year-old when you lost your parents to Communist soldiers in China and the naked desperation of a child who was forced to flee in order to survive. How you met my father in Mainland China and again in Hong Kong when you could no longer bear to stay in the country that took your parents away. I never would have known my father or his family if you hadn’t pushed me to go back to Hong Kong in 1996, and I might never have appreciated the courage it took for you to leave everything you knew to come to America.

When you brought me to the U.S., you gave me the opportunity for an education, the chance to help people by becoming a counselor. If I had remained in Hong Kong, I would not have met my wife, Quyen, and I would never have known the joy of being a father to our children, Kevin and Kristie. In America, I have found a passion for writing stories, a vehicle of self-discovery, and a path to make a difference with words.

You married my stepfather, Roger, and though he and I have never been close, he took care of me when I was a child. He provided a home and made sure I had enough to eat. There are many children in the world who have neither. Roger taught me how to ride my first bike when I was eight. He ran behind me on Cisco Street in China Lake, California and he steadied me on that green, Huffy Sting-Ray until I could stay up on my own.

You have supported our family by waiting tables, providing childcare to neighborhood kids, refinishing old furniture, opening a restaurant, and scrimping and saving to buy a house. You have shown that it is possible for a woman with a grade-school education to enter a country in which she could barely speak the language and fashion a life for her family through hard work and determination. When I think of how much you’ve lost, how much you’ve sacrificed, and how much you’ve achieved, all I can say is thank you, Mom.

~Raymond M. Wong

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