Tough Grandma in a Black and White World

My grandma is the shit. I can honestly say I view my grandma as being one of the toughest people I know, which is way different from what most people can say about their grandmother. Being a teen mother who was neither black nor white, my grandma had more issues to deal with than the average person. It wasn’t only the discrimination of having a child at a young age that makes it hard for a young mother to make it in the world. All the labels society created did not have a place for Chinese or Hawaiians back then.

Despite the struggles she faced later in life, my grandma had a pretty simple, pleasant childhood. Growing up in Hawai’i, it was all about Summers. Working diligently on her aunty’s farm in Nanakuli, anxious for the reward; swimming at the beach. When there are 12 foot waves sometimes the reward isn’t worth it. I can’t imagine what went through my grandma’s head as the waves carried her further and further out to sea. The panic of seeing yourself drift backwards into the never ending ocean. Your view of people on the beach shrinking. The anxiety as you think of every possible result. And then finally, a cousin’s strong arms wrap around your feeble body and effortlessly swimming you back to shore.

At 16, grandma’s life changed forever. Ignorance led her to be happy about having a son. Most people think it is the end of the world when they discover they’re pregnant. Their social life goes out the window. Luckily, she didn’t have a social life outside of a relationship with her baby’s dad. Like most other young parents, they both wanted to get married. It was traumatic when her parents wouldn’t allow it. Grandma was only 16 and pregnant and they didn’t give a damn that her boyfriend enlisted in the Army to take care of them. It didn’t matter that it was the Vietnam War. The first love is always the worst.

On October 6, 1967, she gave birth to the cause of our recent hell; my “dad” Christopher. Born with a lot of allergies and very atrocious asthma, the doctor said that the weather in Hawai’i was not good for his health. They both relocated to Long Island, New York. First thing grandma did was find a job. There was no way in hell she was going to be homeless or on welfare. She ironically landed a job as a hula dancer in a Chinese restaurant with a Hawaiian flare. Unfortunately, her husband wasn’t a fan of dancing for money, regardless of the fact it paid good money for 4 hours of not working. The start of living in New York wasn’t going all that well.

The next job was at a laundry dry cleaning place. It just so happened that in the back, there was a bunch of baby frogs. My dad used to go and play with the frogs, sometimes bringing them all the way back home. Grandma doesn’t really like creatures so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how that went. He’d even throw rocks through the car windows at the auto body shop next door. Luckily, the owner was a nice guy and probably understood how hard it is to raise a rascal pain in the ass kid. Sometimes I can’t believe my grandma had the patience to take care of 8 units of rascal pain in the ass kids in a nut house.

Even working in the mall there was issues she had to deal with. As if there weren’t already enough problems everywhere else. Of course people all assumed her husband was her limo driver. As if there was something wrong with a handsome black man picking up a non-black woman at night. In general, she was considered white even with her brown skin. However, white people did not think of her as equal with brown skin. The blacks, who also had brown skin, didn’t really accept her either. There was no place for an Asian Hawaiian in a place so set in its wats of black and white. Unless they were being offered a job as a change girl at a Sahara hotel in Las Vegas. That seemed to be the only time that being a certain race or color didn’t matter. Even when she was going to attend mandatory marriage classes for the military to marry the father of her child, they kicked her out for being brown. She could never be Asian because some people wanted her to be white. Some people wanted her to be colored.

My grandma never gave up and never bent down to kiss anyone’s ass either. It was all about rolling with the punches. That’s what makes her tough. She didn’t dodge the punches, and didn’t pretend they never happened. She rolled with them. I give props to any woman who struggles but keeps going. Especially with all the men who think the reason their gender has been more in power is because they’re better. It may be easy to give up, but who would ever want to be a loser? Who would want to prove to someone else they’re weak?

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  1. “That’s what makes her tough. She didn’t dodge the punches, and didn’t pretend they never happened. She rolled with them”

    You made your grandma come alive. It reads like indeed she was a very strong and courageous woman. I think you might have gotten a few things from grandma 🙂

    • :O Thanks. Also, it’s surprising someone read this ESSAY. Essays are normally automatically ignored because they’re associated with boringness.

    • CINDY ASHLEY MILLER
    • October 4th, 2010

    Not boring @ all…Very well written. 😉

    • WWWOOOOOooooooooo! I didn’t bore another person with an essay lol. Merci!

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