Today is Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, so it seems like the right day to be grateful for my ancestors.
I was blessed to get to know my grandparents and even one great grandparent growing up. To hear even a little about their varied lives has gifted me with a sense of history and progress as I’ve set and achieved goals for my own life.
I was far from the only student of color who learned the whitewashed version of World War 2 in high school; but thanks to my grandmother’s efforts throughout my childhood to secure the veterans benefits that had been promised to her father and the other Filipinos who joined the US Military in that conflict, I also learned about systemic racism and one way that it played out for a generation of Asian and Pacific Islanders.
Great grandfather wasn’t the only one who had fled his birthplace to begin a new life. His daughter — my maternal grandmother — married a military man and eventually resettled in a new state, hundreds of miles from her family of origin.
My other grandmother had stories of waiting tables before she became a civil servant. She taught me to love cats and that you could survive trauma with grace.
The grandfathers are a colorful bunch. One became a hobby photographer, and I have many old photos as well as his name as a legacy. When, as a very old man, he developed Alzheimer’s, it was very healing to me to witness the way he managed to make peace with his adult children.
Another is a charming gent who dotes on his biological daughter with calls and letters. To me, his most precious gift was to relinquish his young wife to a romantic rival without a fuss, making room for my Papa to raise my mom and her siblings.
Papa was the best. He spoke better Spanish than any other white dude I’ve met. He took me to my toddler dance classes and later to all-ages concerts. He fed me my first donut and gave me my first driving lessons. He used to somehow not get wet when it was raining (he told me he ran between the raindrops! How?!) and of course, if anybody needed a Santa, Papa was always the guy.
I’m so grateful that I stand the shoulders of these and other courageous, resilient ancestors.