Looking After Our Asian Parents When the Rest of the World Won’t
I grew up surrounded by the smell of donuts and coffee. My parents are Asian immigrants who have owned a donut shop for over 20 years, and it was the center of my childhood. My sister and I would sit around at the donut shop and do our homework. Years later as an adult, I’m still there often helping out or eating dinner with them.
My parents work late nights — sometimes returning home in the early hours of the morning. They’re busy working the register, hand-cutting dough, and using heavy machinery to fry the donuts.
When the news about the shootings in Atlanta broke, I kept refreshing the “Find My Friends” app to check their location. I was relieved when I heard the front door open.
The next day, I tagged along with my mom while she ran some errands. She could tell I was worried. After a long walk, she threw her arm around me asking, “What do you want to eat? I’ll get you whatever you want so you can feel better.” I smiled and told her I was okay. But she knew. The next day, I found a basket of strawberries in the fridge, my favorite fruit.
As a family, we don’t talk much about the recent acts of anti-Asian violence — probably because we don’t want to live in fear, although my parents have started closing their shop earlier.
There’s no doubt that these incidents have brought a lot of emotions, but they are also bringing us closer. My parents are sharing more stories about their childhood in Vietnam and Cambodia. How my great grandmother would wake my mom up at 5 a.m. to do chores — just when the air was finally cool enough for her to fall asleep. Or how there’s this fruit they’ve never found here, but grew on many trees back home.
There are a lot of kids like me, who grew up playing at our parents’ nail salons, restaurants, laundromats and stores. Along with those childhood memories, we also carry the worry for our parents. Those feelings never really go away, especially right now.