My dad was a typical Chinese father – hard-working, quiet, and stoic. He never said “I love you” and rarely gave us a hug or a kiss.
My siblings and I grew up witnessing how hard dad worked. Despite his emotionless exterior, we knew he loved his wife and children with all of his heart.
Whenever we had a whole fish or a whole chicken for dinner, which was often, dad would meticulously remove the bones and skins and put the meat on all our plates before he started eating.
He would get up early to wait in line at the most well-known herbal shop in Chinatown to get the best herbs and ginseng to boost our health.
He would stay up late after long hours of work to iron our uniforms for the next school day. My mom would tell him the uniforms had already been pressed, but he would still do it with a smile on his face.
My dad passed away almost 3 years ago. My young daughter has some memory of him. One day at dinner, she remarked that she did not recall Ah Gong (grandpa) ever saying much.
“It’s true,” I told her, “he didn’t have much use for words.”
She squinted a little and asked, “how did he say I love you?”
I handpicked the bones off the rotisserie chicken and put a beautiful piece of breast meat on her plate. I looked at my daughter and smiled.
And she knew.