Wednesday, July 11, 2012


For my interview I decided to interview my father so that I could get the most information possible.  I know that I would have been able to get more interesting stories had I interviewed his mother but that there are people that she won't talk about that my dad could tell me.  I was hoping that he would know why contact was cut or why those people were not included in his life, but unfortunately he didn't know much.  My father is turning 51 in just about a week.  He has one older sister.  His parents adopted him shortly after his birth and he knows nothing about his birth parents or ethnic background.  He grew up in the San Fernando Valley and moved to Lancaster, Ca in 1989 to start a family and open up an auto repair shop.

When asking my dad questions I wanted to dig a little deeper than what he was willing to offer.  He is a very closed off man and his family has a lot of secrets.  He doesn't even know much of his family history so even if I had pried there still wouldn't be much to learn, though this would not have changed had I talked to a different family member.  I tried to ask questions in a way that he didn't feel as if I was intruding but would still let him answer to an extent that would allow me to do this assignment.  There was some awkwardness when I asked questions that he either didn't know the answer to or wasn't comfortable talking about, especially if I knew that he has never talked about it before.  This would have definitely been easier if it was someone that I didn't know because I would have no way of knowing whether or not that specific topic or family member could or could not be talked about.

There is a difference in my dad's family between maternal family and paternal family.  I know that this is because no one talks about his dad's family, though I still haven't learned why no one talks about them.  His mom has always been very sentimental about her mother and her time in Indonesia so there are more ties to her side of the family, especially since her brother showed back up.  There aren't so much different attitudes towards young and old in the family but rather different attitudes towards individuals.  For example, my dad talks about his parents and his mother with great respect, while he talks about his nephew and his mother's step-father with contempt.  There is a huge tendency towards smaller families on both sides of my family.  With my dad, he has a single sibling, and a single aunt and uncle.  His dad is an only child, his mom has a half sibling, and all of his mom's parents were only children, and I am an only child.  Essentially, our family stays as small as it can while still continuing on.
There are huge social impacts on my family based on where they are from.  These mainly come from my grandmother since she is the one who actually grew up in a different country.  Growing up in Indonesia she has a strong Hindu faith, and a love for and understanding of nature.  Being from an extremely wealthy Dutch family she also has manners and etiquette that would make a debutante look savage and those manners have been passed down (though also watered down) through my family.  There is also the history of the war, with my grandfather fighting in it and my grandmother being a victim of it, that affects how my family has learned to view the world.

My Perspective
I have a very small and very closed off family.  It is easy to start grudges, and very hard to start talking to each other again.  Because of this the family that I do know well is extremely limited.  I know my grandparents, and I know my aunt on my dad's side very well.  I don't know my cousin very well because I don't agree with his lifestyle or want him to be a part of my life.  On my mom's side there was recently a coming together with her brother and his wife so I am beginning to know them well.  I don't know any of my parents aunts or uncles with the exception of Rob, and I never met their grandparents.  
I definitely socialize more with my mom's side of the family because growing up when my parents were working I stayed with her parents rather than with my dad's family.  I also socialize with them more recently because we have finally started talking again and we have a lot of time to catch up on.
The person with the most influence in my family is definitely my mother, and I suppose by extension my father.  This is because my grandparents are all at a stage where they won't be with us much longer unfortunately, so my parents are starting to make the decisions for them.  My mom is also the most stubborn person in the family and once she has made up her mind there is no changing it.  She even has the most influence on my dad's side of the family, which shows you that everyone in our family has been treated equally regardless of whether they are a part of the family due to blood or marriage.
Gender plays a role in my family in the sense that the women are not to be messed with.  While the men may be the ones who bring home the money, that is all they do.  The women make the decisions, they are the real heads of the households, and they are the ones that control our lives.  At the same time though it is also expected that since the men are out earning the money the women will not only take care of the family issues but they'll play the traditional house wife role.
This exercise has helped me to realize that my family has very strong opinions, and that those opinions are not easily changed.  I knew that my grandfather's parents were never talked about but I never realized how far back it went or that it was to the extent that my father doesn't even know their names.  I also learned some more about my dad's uncle and how happy of an occasion it was when he was reunited with our part of the family.
Overall I wish that my family was more open.  All of the stories that I have heard have been so interesting that I want to know more about more people.  I feel like a kid who has had a taste of candy and whose parents aren't letting them have the whole piece.  Hopefully one day I'll know more. 


  1. You have a very interesting family, in part because of the mystery surrounding them. Sometimes, family members get used to not talking about things, walls go up, and it is just easier to leave things that way. You have to break down the walls to get things going again and that is difficult. I think you may have chipped away at the wall a bit with this interview. If this is something you think would be positive for you and your family, I recommend that you keep chipping away. :-)

    Your mother's background sounds fascinating. Is she part Indonesian or did she just grow up there?

    I know that these types of assignments can sometimes be uncomfortable for students. In a way, that is partly the point so you can see what it is like to engage in the process. All the same, I appreciate the time you took on this project and the post.

  2. Wow, your family sounds really interesting and yet slightly similar to mine in that feuds do happen. I liked how you described that the women in the house are the "boss". I hope that you do get the opportunity to learn more and more about your family even after this experiment. I think this experiment is to help us all get to know our own family lines a little bit better.

  3. I think it's too bad that your father doesn't know much about his own ethnic background. I have a similar situation on my mother's side. It raises a lot of unanswerable questions when one half of the (blood) family tree is missing. Your post was very interesting. I hope you can someday learn more about your family.