Yep, I ordered one of those DNA tests. Like any warm-blooded human being, I’m as curious as the next person what I’m “made of.” If I had a dog, you bet your pants that I’d have my pet’s pedigree tested – just for fun. Based on the vast area he conquered, Genghis Khan also had his first pick of women with every village he pillaged. So, I totally would not be surprised if my DNA test showed Mongol lineage.
I saw a special on myheritage.com, so I jumped on it and ordered a kit. There’s so much unknown about my family’s history as things weren’t documented very well. My mom’s side of the family – both grandparents were of Chinese descent. My maternal grandfather was straight up from China, and the man could eat with chopsticks unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. My maternal grandmother from what I know, her parents were Chinese immigrants that settled in Thailand. My dad’s side, not really sure. I think both parents were straight up Thai, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Chinese ancestry mixed in there.
I remember in elementary school we had a project of drawing our family tree. Compared to my classmates, mine was pretty spotty once we got past my grandparents. Friends of mine could trace back to when their families immigrated to America. My family – didn’t have to go back too far. Here’s their story…
He came from an extremely poor upbringing. His father had multiple wives (common at that time). I think my grandma was one of four wives…and they all lived in separate households. All the children knew of each other and most of them are still in touch to this day. My dad would tell me all sorts of stories. They only had enough food for him to eat one meal a day. Clothes for school, only two sets. The one he was wearing and the other for the next day. As soon as he was done wearing one, he had to hand wash them so they were ready to be worn again. There was no running water. Taking a shower meant using a bowl to scoop water out of an urn that collected rain water.
As a young adult, he worked as a taxi and bus driver, did his mandatory service with the Royal Thai Army. He wanted a better life, and going to America was his dream. He borrowed money from one of his half-sister’s for a plane ticket and arrived in New York City with a student visa and $300 in his pocket. He enrolled for classes at a community college and washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant making $3.00/hour to make ends meet. Rumor is he shared a 1 bedroom apartment with 10 other Thai guys…all making their American dreams happen.
After tons of odd jobs getting paid cash under the table, eventually was able to get his green card. He worked as a taxi driver and eventually an auto mechanic. A few years later he asked this petite lil lady to dance with him at a wedding, flew to Thailand to ask her mother for permission, and married her later that year. After having two children, he went back to school and eventually got his Associates Degree, and graduated the same year I did the same from high school. Every month he would send money back to Thailand to help his mom and other family members. He even went so far as to buy a small home in Thailand for one of his stepmom’s so she would have a place to live.
He worked hard his entire life. I can remember him working overtime whenever it was offered. He even started up a side business selling and installing satellite dishes that picked up free channels from Thailand. When he finally decided to retire, he didn’t stop there. He continued to volunteer his time and energy at the Thai Buddhist temple in Wichita, the one he helped start and build from its beginning in 1994. He and my mom would road trip around the country to visit other Buddhist temples, and in between play many rounds of golf. Lots of it.
In 2013 we all went back to Thailand for my cousin’s wedding. We sat outside at a restaurant located along the river. Our table was full with delicious food. More than we could eat. I looked over at my dad and asked him, did he ever think as a kid he’d be sitting here, with all the experiences and abundance in his life that he has now. He said he did the best he could, thankful to those who helped him along the way, and glad he was able to repay them and give back to others.
Almost two years ago, my parents came out to cheer me on at a race in Lawrence, KS. A few days later on June 16, 2015 my dad had a stroke. Initially it did not impair his fine or major motor functions. Just his eyesight. By the end of the week, we were about ready to take him home when he became unresponsive. Swelling in his brain developed, and because of that his condition worsened. Although he is able to walk, he cannot do it unsupervised. He still requires help with all the activities of daily living. Others may look from the outside and see how sad his situation is, but given where he’s been no one can dispute that his life is full of abundance in so many ways.
Like my dad, she didn’t come from much. She was one of six children – four brothers and a sister. What little I know is that her grandparents did well in China, until the communist regime took over and forced them to “share” their home with others in the village. My guess is that’s why they picked up and moved to Thailand.
As a child, my mom worked tirelessly helping my grandma with preparing food that she sold at the market. All this in between going to school and studying. When she reached the equivalent of 6th grade, my grandpa wanted her to stop going to school. He said that her place was in the house to help out with chores and taking care of her brothers. My grandma managed to convince him to let her stay and continue her studies, telling him she could do both.
After high school she was accepted into nursing school in another city. She worked while going to school and would send what money she could back to my grandma to help out with expenses. When she finished, she set her sights on moving to America. I asked her what drove her to move and the response I got was “I wanted something different.”
My grandma gave her blessing and let her go, on the condition her roommates (former nursing school friends) would look after her. She came to this country speaking hardly any English, worked as a nursing assistant, and eventually took her nursing boards to practice as a RN.
In 1976, she met a charming and dapper looking man at a friend’s wedding. He asked her to dance. From her accounts, she only danced with him because she thought he was a friend of the bride and groom. I don’t think he knew either one of them…and the rest is history.
All that hard work paid off for them. My mom was able to retire in her early 60s and my dad shortly after. Now they are living out the rest of their years in Thailand where life is very different than when they were growing up. Not sure what the future will hold for the rest of the family tree, if it’ll grow or not beyond my brother and I…but I would like to think it is very important (and fun) to know where you’ve come from. So, here are the results of my DNA test:
Drumroll…I am 100% Chinese!! Whaaaaa???
…and just when I thought maybe their testing parameters were narrow, here are the different “kinds” of Asians they test for:
So I guess this solves the mystery of where my dad’s side of the family is originally from. Can’t say I’ve ever been told I look Chinese…and even straight up Thai people (in Thailand) say I look like a foreigner. I wonder if this is what purgatory feels like. Caught in between the middle of everything. Regardless of DNA tests, I consider myself 100% born and raised American mixed in with a bit of siracha to spice things up!