34913_434100327717_4953800_nYUN HONG, MY FATHER, GREW UP IN OCCUPIED CHINA AND EMIGRATED TO THE UNITED STATES ALONE AT THE AGE OF THIRTEEN IN 1949. IN ORDER TO DO SO HE BECAME A “PAPER SON,” ADOPTED BY HIS MATERNAL UNCLE AND DROPPING HIS ORIGINAL NAME, LO SHIH FEY. AS THE ELDEST SON OF NINE CHILDREN, AND ACADEMICALLY GIFTED, HE WAS TO ATTEND SCHOOL IN THE STATES. LESS THAN A YEAR AFTER HIS ARRIVAL, HOWEVER, THE NEW COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT IN CHINA DEMANDED THAT HIS FAMILY PAY BACK ALL RENTS THEY HAD RECEIVED FOR LAND THEY ONCE OWNED OR FACE PRISON. MY FATHER LEFT HIS SUMMER JOB AS A MIGRANT WORKER IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO GO TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BORROW THE MONEY TO RANSOM HIS FAMILY. HE SENT THE MONEY HOME AND DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL TO WORK FULL TIME TO PAY BACK THE LOAN. HE NEVER RETURNED TO SCHOOL. HE WAS IN HIS LATE TWENTIES BY THE TIME THE LOAN WAS FULLY REPAID.

AT THE TIME THERE WERE TWO TYPES OF PLACES THAT WOULD HIRE A CHINESE MAN WITH LITTLE EDUCATION– RESTAURANTS AND LAUNDRIES. MY FATHER CHOSE RESTAURANTS. HE TURNED OUT TO HAVE BOTH A FLAIR FOR COOKING AND A TALENT FOR BUSINESS AND EVENTUALLY BECAME THE CO-OWNER OF A SUCCESSFUL CANTONESE / POLYNESIAN RESTAURANT CALLED THE ALOHA, IN THE CORAL GABLES NEIGHBORHOOD OF MIAMI.

HE SOLD THE ALOHA IN THE MID 60’S. IN 1966 HE MARRIED MY MOTHER, AN IMMIGRANT FROM SCOTLAND. (MISCEGENATION LAWS IN THE SOUTH DID NOT INCLUDE ASIANS, THOUGH THOSE IN WEST COAST STATES STILL DID.) HE ALSO OPENED A NEW RESTAURANT, THE CHINA MAID, ALSO IN MIAMI, WHICH WAS EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL. THROUGHOUT MY CHILDHOOD HE WORKED NON-STOP, LONG HOURS AND FEW DAYS OFF, BUT HE MADE A COMFORTABLE LIFE FOR HIS FAMILY AND SENT BOTH MYSELF AND MY SISTER TO COLLEGE WITHOUT INCURRING ANY DEBT. TODAY HE IS RETIRED AND LIVING IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA WITH HIS SECOND WIFE, SLOWLY LEARNING HOW TO RELAX AND TAKE IT EASY.

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