Life Lessons from a Hmong Grandfather to His Granddaughter

The following is a guest post from SEARAC’s Bao Lor.

grandpa and the kids

“Wake up, kids! It’s 6:30!” my grandpa said as he pulled off the blanket that covered my head. I moved around, pretending to stretch and then curling back into a ball. Through my squinted eyes, I could see that my siblings were still lying next to me. I popped my head up and looked at the alarm clock across the room. It read: 6:10. This was my daily routine growing up. I grew up with my grandparents taking care of me and my siblings since my parents were always so busy working. For as long as I can remember, my grandpa was always the one taking me and my siblings to school every morning, and picking us up every afternoon once school got out. We numbered a total of eight kids at the time who were all attending elementary, middle, and high school. My grandpa always said that once he dropped us all off at school, within an hour or so, he would have to start picking us up again. This was true given the fact that we were in almost every grade level.

I never knew if my grandpa ever grew tired of doing the same thing every day because he never complained about us. Instead, he always dropped us off 30 minutes before the school bell rang and would always be waiting at the same spot to pick us up before school got out. He was never late and always made sure he got all the kids back home safe and sound. He even made sure that we took care of each other once we were at school. “Don’t mess around, and make sure you big kids watch out for the little kids,” he would say every morning when he dropped us off at school.

Because I spent my whole childhood with my grandpa, I got to know and love him very much. I admired the fact that he never gave up on himself. As a refugee from Laos who arrived in the U.S. in 1990, he did his best to quickly adjust to America. He managed to teach himself how to drive, which gave him a whole lot of freedom. And even though he only knew two English words: “yes” and “no,” he managed to find junk yards where he could buy metals and other materials to make his own tools and furniture, putting the blacksmith skills he had brought with him from Laos to good use.

I am thankful that my grandpa taught me to love because he raised all twelve of his grandchildren out of pure love: taking us to school every morning, picking us up from school every afternoon, and making sure that we were safe and sound. He also taught me courage because even though he did not speak any English, he managed to be independent in his own way in America. Growing up, I learned so much from this man and I wished that I could have had more time with him. Now, he is at rest and may his soul be at peace. Mus zoo, kuv yawg. I will always remember all the great memories we shared together. Thank you for everything.

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. I wrote this post to honor an elder and the AAPI hero in my life. Read more stories about grandparent wisdom (and submit your own!) at www.searac.tumblr.com.