He loved to gamble at the Bay Meadows race track in Belmont and at Val's, an
Italian restaurant in Alviso which had an illegal card club upstairs.
He attracted women, white ones, when it was a cultural racial taboo with his
looks and charm. Some were so bold they phoned the house asking for him. Once a
girl at school confronted me saying my father was a womanizer. I walked away
humiliated while she and another laughed. I seethed over this insult and the
next day walked up to her and slapped her face.
It was the only time I was disciplined in school. I never told the principal
why but then learned her parents were divorcing and my father was a suspect.
While Dad womanized and failed to provide, he always returned home and we
remained a family.
He drove Buicks, each about ten years old when purchased, then sold after a
couple years for another. Once we had a convertible. Putting the top down on a
sunny day we drove around as if rich Californians, if a bit out of date. I
remember the first one with power windows which we kids moved up and down in
amazement. I think it was a 1953. He parked his car in our single car garage,
took it to a car wash on Fridays and bought gas by ordering five gallons, not
by dollar amount, which in those days was still under $2.00.
Most Friday evenings he backed out of the driveway without a word and
returned either Sunday night or Monday morning. We kids pretended nothing was
happening but Mom often cried silently before the kitchen window watching him
Dad's happy go lucky personality gave him many friends but only good time
ones. He never disciplined us or helped around the house except for cooking,
leaving the operation of the household to Mom and me when older. He was a good
cook, worked occasionally as a chef and made not only Chinese but American and
ethnic dishes. I learned cooking from him, the only times we were close.
He never talked about his past. We knew nothing of his parents, immigration
status or how he came to marry my mother or if they in fact were legally
married. We did know he was born in northern China’s Shandong province, was not Cantonese like
most Chinese in the area, could speak Mandarin and could read and write Chinese
all of which he was proud of.
We knew when Chinese New Year's came. He announced what animal the year was,
what it meant and then disappeared for three days or more when it arrived. We
kids got our, tao hongbao, our little red lucky money envelope after
wishing him good luck with a "Kung Hei Fat Choi!" greeting.