Dad’s Extended Visit

Dad’s Extended Visit

Dad’s been visiting from Taiwan for about a month now, and we’ve got another month to go. I know, you’re thinking Cue the thunder! Cue the lightning! But in fact, we’re having a good time–Dad may be the best roommate I’ve ever had. In any case, it’s been good to reconnect with family. I’m observing how he does things, trying to guess which habits are Taiwanese, Japanese, or good ole’ American.

Dad’s been teaching me a lot just by example. I’m receptive to his advice after many years of, you know, not really paying attention.

  • As I watched him prepare dinner, he told me to cut things small and evenly, so everything cooks fast and consistently. I knew this in theory from Iron Chef, but actually watching him do it and tasting the results spoke volumes more. Take the time to do it right! Cultural Influence? Asian.
  • If you clean up after yourself constantly, you will have a clean house! When he walks around the house, he automatically sees things that need to be arranged better or cleaned. I tend to be lost in thought, thinking about work. Within a matter of days, the house was pristine. Most impressively, this happened without a lot of drama. I must admit I am still not sure quite how this works, not being too picky about the way stuff piles up most of the time, but a clean house is nice. Cultural Influence? Probably just his upbringing. He says his Mom was very generous with “the spanking stick” until he told her that she didn’t have to do it anymore (he was 12 I believe).

Dad in 1964He’s been telling me a lot of stories: about his experiences coming to the United States in the late 50s, being ordained as a minister, and then serving in all-white communities. This was rather unusual at the time; he didn’t want to just be comfortable preaching in a Chinese/Taiwanese community. Not that there was a huge one anyway: immigration of Chinese was illegal from 1892 to 1943, when it was “opened” to 105 a year because pre-Communist China was one of the Allies in WWII. Dad arrived in 1957–the cap was raised in 1968.

  • He says that a young Connie Chung, then with a newspaper in Brighton, NY, interviewed him when he was installed in the church there as an assistant pastor. It would be cool to find that original article in the newspaper archives. He got in trouble back in Taiwan for saying certain things in that interview about liberty and freedom. Cultural Affinity? America! Yeah!

  • He talked about growing up in pre-WWII Taiwan, how they raised white ducks that would sometimes escape into local ponds and rivers. Since they were the only family with white ducks, people could recognize them and they’d tell Dad, and he would have to run and collect them. Cultural Influence certainly was a mix of Taiwanese rural life and maybe some Japanese; Taiwan was a colony of Japan for 50 years, having been part of the spoils of the Sino-Japanese War. It was “liberated” (perhaps more accurately described as “re-invaded”) at the end of WWII by the Nationalist Chinese, who later were pushed right out of China by the Communists to Taiwan. The whole Taiwan-China relationship is pretty complicated, made more intricate for Dad because the official culture until he was 16 was Japanese. He speaks fluently, and visits Japan every once in a while to visit friends and relatives. His Japanese is so good that the natives think he’s from there…they just can’t quite place which part of the country he’s from. :-)

  • Dad on poultry: “Duck meat…too oily for me.” This was a surprise to me, since both my sis and I love duck. Dad continues, “In Taiwan, the most expensive part of the chicken is the dark meat, like drumsticks and thighs. They import a lof of them from the U.S. Chicken breast is the cheapest part, no one likes it because they don’t know how to cook it.” Cultural Influence? America! And common sense…if it tastes good when you cook it, no sense in not eating it.

  • Dad is generous with his wisdom regarding which foods are best for “moving the bowels”. In the past I might have not have paid quite as much attention to this, but I’m hoping I have Dad’s genes for graceful aging. He looks 50 years old, his hair is thin but still black (just a touch of gray at the temple). He’s actually 74. He does 60 pushups before he goes to sleep and is on the Atkins maintenance diet. He looks so good, he gets carded back in Taiwan–for the senior citizens discounts, that is. So if plums, bananas, apples and yogurt are part of his regimen, I’m all for it. Cultural Influence? Probably more Asian here…he used to read a lot of Japanese diet and health books until I turned him on to Atkins. To my great surprise, he followed it and lost like 30 pounds, and didn’t have to take a lot of medicine after that. But Dad just does stuff like that. So maybe he should get an America! point here too.

  • It’s fascinating to hear about his executive experience reviving a seminary from total bankruptcy into self-sustaining operational soundness. I never really could ask him the right kinds of questions in years past, since I was kind of green with respect to management and leadership. Now that I’m thinking about those things more, suddenly I’m able to really appreciate the kind of man that Dad is. Cultural Influence? America! He brought back the ideals of leadership by example, speaking your mind, and open bookkeeping. Rock!

We haven’t done much activity-wise…I’ve been busy, Dad doesn’t really like eating out or socializing. We are planning on going antiquing. He enjoys looking at old things, and is trying to find a nice oil lamp that “isn’t made in China”. He buys either American or Taiwanese whenever he can. We also have been shopping for various life-improving gadgets for his apartment back in Taichung:

  • His foster son A-bun had seen an “amazing onion chopper” on TV back in Taiwan, and asked for one. America, in his mind, is the source of all gadgetry like this. We found a nice one by Oxo that should do the trick, along with some other nifty gadgets like a Mango De-pitter. Dad says that they have a lot of mangoes in Taiwan, so it would be a very useful gadget. Cultural Influence? Taiwanese and Americans share a love for gadgets. The difference is that kind of advertising they do over there would get you thrown in jail here in the States…incredible claims made that are outright fraudulent, from what I could tell on the TV (though admittedly my grasp of Mandarin or Taiwanese is very poor).

  • Dad was in the market for a new FAX machine, since he dislikes his current one. He’s been waiting for a good deal on the All-In-One Fax/Print/Scan/Copy machines. We were in Staples and were looking over the Brother All-In-Ones because they were so small. I had never thought of Brother as a brand I’d consider, but as we looked it over it seemed adequate enough. They were selling the Brother 420CN for $129, and the reviews on the net indicated that it was a feature-packed, well-designed (if not that rugged) light office machine. Dad mentally calculated that it was about 50% of what he’d pay in Taiwan, so we got it. So far, I have been very impressed by its design and functionality. Brother has been making office electronics for much longer than Epson or HP, and it shows in the details. The LCD menu system is remarkably straightforward. The little details, such as routing the USB cable out the back in a little trough, is a touch of functional elegance. That this $129 printer already is network ready out of the box is fantastic. It also has a digital photo card reader for all the major formats and (apparently) rock-solid Mac OS X support. On the down side, it’s a very light-use machine: the plastics are very thin, and the paper tray is only 100 sheets. But for the size and features–it also has a sheet feeder –it’s a great little machine. How long it lasts is anyone’s guess though. My Epson 900 is looking kind of long in the tooth now…I’m thinking of getting a Canon PIXMA iP5200R to replace it, but these multi-function devices are intriguing. At $129, it almost doesn’t make sense not to get one to have networked printing AND scanning from every computer in the house.


p>Dad and Mom in 1967, before kids!He told me some stories about Mom that I hadn’t heard before. One that stuck in my mind was this: After a long day’s work battling the administrative demons, Dad would get back home and the only time he really would have to talk to Mom would be when they were going to sleep. He reflected on how they loved to talk, and sometimes they would be lying awake giggling about something funny that had happened that day. I remember hearing that mysterious giggling, but never really thought about what they might be talking about. It reminded me of Mom and how much I miss her. Dad and I were silent for several minutes, sipping our tea and remembering.


  1. Beth 18 years ago

    Avoid Staples like the plague!  I just had the worst experience trying to buy a printer from first Best Buy, and then Staples.  If you know what printer you want, buy it online if you can!

  2. Dave 18 years ago

    Wow, what happened? I usually have a pretty good experience at Staples, and their return policy is to my liking. Occassionally they have some good deals on electronics (their so-called “special buys”).

    I’ll probably have to buy the canon pixma ip5200R online, since none of the retail stores are carrying it. I like buying bigger fragile items in person so I can bring ‘em back if they’re messed up.

  3. Dustin 18 years ago

    We have 2 Brother 420CN printer/Fax/Scanner/Copy machines and they work great!Very, very happy with the Networking capability. Previously, I had an HP printer which worked fine but the printer ink is very expensive. Your father will be able to buy the printer ink for the Brother for about $3 per color as opposed to HP’s 2cartridges for about $45.

  4. Hello 18 years ago

    Hey, very neat stories.  Very well told.  Lots of good description.  Great to read about the picking up around the house and the giggling of course and the business side of Japanese speaking and opening new businesses.

  5. Beth 18 years ago

    Well to sum things up, a Lexmark rep at Best Buy tried to shove some contraption down my throat that was none of the things I needed, and an HP rep at Staples couldn’t even give me (correct) product info about the HP printers. 

    I blogged about the nightmare if you want the drawn out version.  I actually was looking for a Canon PIXMA myself, but ended up with an HP in frustration.  The Brother is a solid, reliable machine if you go that route; we’ve always had them at my work.

  6. Emily 18 years ago

    I really like that last photo of Dad and Mom (though I don’t know about those glasses on Mom, heh heh). Dad looks more handsome than anyone really should for a man chewing on a big old corn cob. ;)

    I seldom have the patience for proper food prep myself…I don’t know how he chops things so evenly!

  7. Gedeon 18 years ago

    Great to read about you and your father Dave. Glad to hear you are getting to spend some quality time together. It goes faster than you think. Enjoy!

  8. Bridget 18 years ago

    I’ve grown up with lots of respect for Connie Chung – it is an amazing ‘small world’ moment to learn that she had interviewed your Dad in the past!

    I’ve often mentioned to Barry the theory that if you leave each room one item cleaner than when you came in, it’s easier to keep the house clean. That breaks down, however, when you get lazy, busy, or when you don’t follow the other rule: when you scope how big a task is to decide if you have time to take it on, don’t forget to figure in the cleanup time.

    We have found out the hard way that if you don’t figure (and enforce) the cleanup time for the tasks, you end up with tools and painting supplies in every room of the house. And you’ll never find all the parts of the electric screwdriver/drill to reunite them when you next need it – or the vaccum cleaner attachements. Growl.

  9. Nollind Whachell 18 years ago

    Hehe, love the cooking and cleaning tips because my wife and I use them ourselves. I always ensure everything is prepped (i.e. veggies all chopped, etc) and ready to go before I start cooking otherwise something screws up and I end up cooking the food too long (and thus losing a lot of the flavor of it).

    As for cleaning, that’s simple actually. The trick is just to clean as you go. For example, instead of making a big mess in the kitchen, then eating dinner, and then looking back in the kitchen afterwards with a sigh at the mess to clean up, just clean when you have a moment while cooking or even after everything is ready (just take a few minutes to clean up most of the mess before you sit down to eat). When cleaning the rest of the house, again clean after you use something (i.e. a quick wipe here and there). It called the David Weinberger cleaning method or “Small Pieces Loosely Joined”. Do the small pieces of cleaning daily but in small pieces so that when you add it all up, everything looks clean. :)

  10. Leng 18 years ago

    Hey, for a second there, I thought it was a picture of your dad with my mom! They have the same smile. But the cheeks are definitely your mom’s.

    …And they all must have gone to the same optometrist, cuz I SWEAR my mom had the same glasses.

    Nice entry, Dave. I totally relate.