Grandpa’s American Dream

My very first memory of my grandpa is that he stepped awkwardly in the hall of my preschool. He picked me up everyday. I lived with my grandparents before going to college.

I am the favorite grandchild of my grandpa, although I am not the firstborn grandson. I am the second one. The firstborn son is considered the most important son in the family in Asian culture. However, I am the only one grandson who can fluently speak Taiwanese, which is my grandpa’s native language and also mine. Speaking Taiwanese in public was illegal in Taiwan many years ago due to complex political issues. I guess that’s why many Taiwanese young people barely speak Taiwanese nowadays.

My grandpa always wants me to get a Phd degree in the U.S. because that is his American dream. His highest level of education achieved is elementary school. If you only graduated from an elementary school, the life would not be easy. Having a Phd degree in the United States means having a good life in a free world for him. (However, it was not an affordable option for me. I was busy making money to pay bills.)

About one year ago, somehow I got a job offer to work in the the United States. I took that chance and moved here to start a new life. My grandpa was so happy about that. He thought I might be able to achieve his American dream.

Three months later after moving here, in middle October, I got a phone call from my mom. She said: “There are some signs showing your grandpa’s death is near. He cannot remember things. He is lying in bed all day and most of the time he is in sleep. We don’t know how long this will last. He is too old.”

After hanging up the phone, I started searching the flight ticket back to Taiwan. It’s bloody expensive and I don’t have many time-offs. I was not sure if I should go back to Taiwan immediately. I just started my new job in another country and I was assigned to a challenging project. I don’t want to mess it up. It’s my first project of my first job in the United States. So I booked the ticket in Thanksgiving days.

I called home every week to check my grandpa. However, there was only one time he was awake. I had a video chat with him. During our chat, he looked the camera, and said: “The girl next to you is pretty. You should marry her.”. I said “She is already your granddaughter-in-law”. Then he laughed and said he couldn’t remember things these days. Then he said he was tired, so we ended our chat. A few minutes later, my mom called me again and said: “Your grandpa asks me to push you for a PhD”, and I just laughed (my parent never push me for a PhD themselves. They are pretty happy about my master degree since they don’t even have chances to go college).

Two weeks later, my grandpa passed away. I really regretted I was not being there with him. I rearranged an earlier ticket back to Taiwan once I got the message.

After funeral, I told to my mom that I was truly sorry I was not being there with him. But my mom said: “That’s fine. You are not the firstborn son. It’s ok.”. Her response really surprised me. I really don’t know what it means actually. However, it makes me think: “Did my grandpa care about that? What does my grandpa care?”. I don’t know. I still don’t have an answer today. But one thing for sure is that I will have a better life than his.