If you were still alive
At 104 years old today,
If you would have been proud of me,
If you would have liked what you saw.
You knew me as the toddler
Who insistently took your hand
Before crossing the busy Chinatown street,
But not as the awkward teenager,
Anger simmering beneath his acne-riddled face,
Eager to prove his growth,
Trying too hard with his vitriolic rants,
Neither as the young man
Floundering about in his twenties,
Dissipated on intoxicants,
Groping about for direction,
Pining for a woman's companionship,
Nor as the married man
Who had attained independence,
Having found a way in life,
But now longing to regress to boyhood,
Sublimating his regrets in bad poetry
Scribbled between issuing memos and contracts.
Just what did you see in that toddler's future
As he waddled across the bumpy cement streets
Dappled with horse manure spilled from kalesas?
Did you see a man with broad shoulders,
Employing hundreds and feeding their families,
Making a tidy profit week after week?
Or perhaps an academician,
Erudite and eloquent, a debate juggernaut,
A far cry from his forefathers' humble beginnings
In some fishing village from Bumfuck, Nowhere, China?
Or did you just hope
For your grandson to retain his heart
The same one that prompted him
To take your hand as you crossed the street?
I still think of you at times
And wonder how things would have been
Had you been around,
If you would have bore our valley days
With your trademark stoicism,
Anchored father with your presence,
And have finally reined in
Grandmother's bladed tongue,
If we would have eventually shared
Your daily quart of brandy
After weathering with ascetic patience
The sound and fury of idiots.
How you would have seen
With your own eyes
The clan flourish and increase
In members, clout, and material wealth,
How you would have sat
Stone-faced but proud
As I took my steps to patriarchy
And started my own tribe,
Albeit with someone outside our race -
Worse yet, a descendant
Of our colonizers from the war.
(I wonder how much convincing
How much yelling from father
It would have taken
For you to relent)
I know I look back too much.
I guess there are too many unexplored paths,
Too many phantoms who remained acquaintances.
Or maybe I'm just like father,
Habitually framing the present
With the context of the past,
Always romanticizing the bygone
With the wine of sentiment,
Though reality would have been harder, drier,
And we needed the magic of romance
To make reminiscence palatable.
Thirty years have decayed my memory of you
To but a reconstructed charcoal sketch
But it does not make me miss you any less.
May 20, 1916 - February 10, 1989
Happy birth anniversary.