80 reasons YOU inspire me, Grandpa.

Suu Nguyen, “Grandpa” | Born October 26, 1937

Today is my beloved grandpa’s birthday. Since I don’t live near my grandpa and balance two full time jobs- I’m dependent on my cell phone and the internet to show my love and send him best wishes. He is now 80 years old, and I wanted to do something out of routine, something more special to memorialize the special person he truly is.

Traditionally on this special day, I do a few routine things to ensure my grandpa knows he is loved, admired and respected.

  • I give grandpa a call in the morning. Wish him a happy birthday and ask about what his plans are for the day.
  • Next, I spend a few minutes scouring Facebook for photos of him and I from the past year. After I select the photo, I use it to accompany my lengthy Facebook post in which I pay tribute to how amazing, wonderful and iconic of a human being he is and the role he’s played in my life. Grandma is always on Facebook and she shows Grandpa everything on Facebook so this is my second way to tell him I love him.
  • Lastly, My family get’s together sometime within 3–5 days, usually on the weekend, to go out for the typical Cá Nướng, Bò 7 món or some form of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. We give gifts, take pictures and enjoy time with each other.

However like I stated earlier,

I wanted to do something out of routine, something more special to memorialize the special person he truly is.

So in light of my grandpa turning 80 years old today, here are …

80 reasons you inspire me, Grandpa.

  1. You are a Vietnam War Veteran and defended your country, Vietnam, against the Vietnamese communist.
  2. When the war was lost, with your connections in the military, you were able to escape communist Vietnam territory and safely guide Grandma, my mother and uncle here to the United States to find a safe place to start your lives.
  3. You were raised in a very traditional Vietnamese household with 9 brothers and sisters, and hardly enough money to get by … but you managed to teach yourself how to speak, read and write english. This proved to be PIVOTAL as our family began life here in the U.S.
  4. Because of your english proficiency, you found a career almost immediately here in the U.S. as a social service worker.
  5. You’re love and care for people is limitless. Your 40+ year career in social services proves it. Everyday you came home so happy that you were able to provide front line support and social assistance for individuals, families, and communities in need.
  6. Your single income allowed for your family lives to prosper. Food was on the table. Everyone was properly clothed. My mom and uncle had time to attend public education rather than needing to find jobs, and grandma found her career in entrepreneurship.
  7. You married the perfect wife. Grandma is one of the most important people in my life and I love your relationship with her. My favorite moment between you two as of recently was when you received your new hearing aids. Grandma turns to you and says:
    _
    Grandma: “Can you hear me?”
    -
    Grandpa: “Yes!”
    -
    Grandma: “Do you still love me?”
    -
    Grandpa: “Of course.”
    _
  8. You’ve inspired me to never settle in finding a significant other. You and grandma’s 60+ year loving, light-hearted relationship is something I also aspire to have.
  9. Because of you and grandma, I have been able to retain my Vietnamese language and speak confidently amongst family and friends.
  10. You’re a homeowner to a beautiful house you’ve built and nurtured for over 30 years.
  11. You’ve taught me that, little things make a big difference. For example, “Food is to not be wasted. If there is food remaining on the table we must finish it.” OR “Visit family as often as possible while you still can. If you can’t visit, then call.”
  12. You’ve empowered my brother and I to pursue ANYTHING we are passionate it. You drove us to Kungfu practice every Wednesday and Saturday for 6 years straight. You spent hundreds of dollars on black electric tape for the times we needed to put a new stripe on our kungfu belts and all the other times my brother and I would misplace the new black electric tape.
  13. You are the true definition of “selfless” and “supportive”. You would drive my brother and I 45-minutes to SC Village so my brother and I could go paint-balling. While we played you’d wait another 2–3 hours in the non air conditioned portable rooms until Billy and I were done. You’d drive us to any movie we wanted to see and you’d watch it with us or just drop us off so we can be with friends. Looking back, I was spoiled. Now, it’s your turn.
  14. You love your children and grandchildren. It’s undeniable.
  15. Your children and grandchildren love you. It’s undeniable.
  16. For you, family always comes first. You take any chance you can to face-time, Facebook chat or call your brothers in Vietnam or Germany. Check in on them, and catch them up on your life.
  17. You love music. I’m 100% sure that YOU are the reason I also have a passion for music. Every time we would drive in the car with grandpa, he’d have the radio on. 99.1, or 102.7 fm radio would be on full blast … and grandpa had this head nod that would match exactly to the beat. Then his hands, usually placed at “11 and 4” on the steering wheel, would begin to progress from a light tap to the beat to almost a full on drum solo.
  18. You are a natural athlete, and soccer was your game! When I was a kid, you would challenge me to try and steal the soccer ball from your feet. I could never do it. Fast forward to 2016, we played that game again at the Ventura beach house… and to no surprise I STILL had a hard time stealing that ball away from you.
  19. You are a natural story teller. I don’t know if my career in marketing has any correlation to the stories you use to tell us as children, but you are so good at telling stories. Your stories were always meaningful and impactful. Except for the story about the kid who ran through the forest and slowly but surely all of his limbs would fall off …I didn’t quite get that one. Even though you were trying to scare us, it was very funny.
  20. You have amazing attention to detail. Organization, folder filing, and labeling documents is your specialty. But your ability to remember all of your children's and grandchildren’s birthdays, attending all of our graduation ceremonies or mom’s company holiday parties… that is why we love you so much.
  21. Grandpa, you have NEVER missed any of my special milestones in life. My promotions to middle school, all of my award ceremonies through middle school, Kungfu competitions, high school graduation, college graduation. You have ALWAYS been there!
  22. Buffalo, buffalo, buffalo! (Inside joke)
  23. Your humor is contagious. Your smile makes everyone around you happy. And I wish I could bottle your laugh into mason jar so I can selfishly listen to it whenever I wanted to. (This last sentence was probably hard for you to understand, what I mean is: I like hearing your laugh).
  24. You are the most grounded person I’ve ever met. You believe in yourself and every decision you make. You are confident in your work. You are confident in your family. And you bring confidence to all those around you.
  25. If I could name three traits that you embody, it would be: Respect, Leadership, and Intelligent.
  26. Respect -everything you do, is for a purpose. And every purpose you have is thoughtful, intelligent, and deliberate.
  27. You are a leader. My favorite recent memory of your leadership was at Cậu (Uncle) Phung’s funeral. When Mợ Van ( Uncle’s wife) was emotionally unable to speak on behalf of the family, you stood up and spoke to everyone who attended the event. You shared special words on behalf of Mợ Van and thanked everyone for attending the service. I was amazed by your leadership in such a difficult time. I was amazed by your instinct to stand and speak. You are amazing.
  28. Intelligent — you are so smart. You always read the newspaper to stay informed about our Nations society and the rest of the world. You read every word of any document you have ever signed. You are bi-lingual in Vietnamese and English. And anything you don’t understand, you take time to educate yourself.
  29. You have taught me how to be disciplined (definition: the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior). Treat family with respect. Never judge strangers. And work hard.
  30. You love our environment — Trees, grass, flowers, soil … you love it all. I loved going to Home Depot with you and watch you pick you soil and seeds to grow your garden. I love spending hours with you in your garden and watching you plant new Rose flowers. Watching you plant seeds that all grew into flavorful and tall guava, apple, and lemon trees. Watching you carefully water the grass and seeing you at peace when doing so.
  31. You are my greatest teacher. You’ve taught me how to take cut limbs off of trees so that the branches can grow faster and stronger. You’ve taught me how to work hard in life and earn what I deserve. You’ve taught me how to love and care for my family. You’ve taught me everything I know. Thank you.
  32. You can turn an ordinary day, into pure joy and fun. I remember between the age of 7–11, it would be a hot summer day and we’d be sitting inside your home with no plans to do anything. You would get up, pull out 40 yards of “Blue General” tarp and lay it over your large lawn in front of your house. You would go grab all the portable water sprinklers you had and turn the water pressure as high as it would go. You made a water slide for us in 10-minutes and we would spend hours going up and down that water slide.
  33. You were ALWAYS up for a new adventure. Around the age of 70, Billy and I convinced you to drive with us to Malibu, CA. so we can go on a “light” hike. This hike ended up being a 10-mile hike, upstream through a river requiring us to walk through water and climb up big rock boulders. You did it flawlessly and with a smile on your face. And when we reached the top you yelled, “WE DID IT! THARANNG THARANNG!” (“Tharanng tharanng” is an onomatopoeia Grandpa would use to express success!) That day is one of my favorite memories with you and my brother.
  34. You encourage me to explore my Vietnamese culture. I am a second generation born and raised in the U.S. It can be extremely easy to forget about your culture and your roots. Grandpa, you made sure I never forgot about my culture. Aside from teaching me the Vietnamese language, and always eating grandma’s delicious Vietnamese food, you constantly brought me to Vietnamese events that exposed me to our traditions. Because of my grandpa, my brother and I partake in a deep rooted Vietnamese tradition of Lion Dancing (Mua Lan) every Lunar New Year. Grandpa bought us our first Lion head, drum and percussion set, dressed us in Lion costume and brought us to temples that allowed us to perform. Through that journey, we performed at some major events like grand openings for restaurants and establishments all over Westminster Ca. and even at Universal Studios City Walk. We’ve taught groups of young adults to be Lion Dance performers at a Temple in Redlands, CA. and so much more.
  35. You encourage me to become a better person, every single day.
  36. Your work ethic is unmatched. My Grandpa retired from his social service work in his late 60's. However, he has not stopped working. He continues to drive 3-days a week to work for my mother and help with her paperwork organization in order for her to streamline her operations. Her salons are in Temecula, CA. and Riverside, CA. but the drive doesn’t deter Grandpa at all. He also helps fulfill her supply order by making weekly Costco runs to ensure the salons have toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning equipment and light bulbs. My mom never asked my Grandpa to do any of this, but he insisted it needed to be done. And of course, he starts his job every day by watering ALL the plants in each salon. This man is consistent.
  37. Grandpa, you are consistent in everything that you do. Every time you know we are coming home to visit, you always have your garage door open and you are waiting to greet us as we arrive. Grandma always ensures that there is food and water when we arrive. You typically share (1) beer with Billy and I no matter what time of the day it is. And upon departure, you always have toilet paper and paper towels ready for us to take home so we can make sure our house is always stocked up.
  38. You are a simple man. You never liked to be celebrated. You don’t need us to take you out for dinner or lunch. You don’t like when we give you presents. All you ask of your children and grandchildren is quality time. Sit at home with you, talk with you, eat with you and make memories with you. I love that.
  39. You love your dogs. You’ve owned (3) dogs: Lucky (“big dog”), Tiny and Toby. You’ve loved and continue to love Toby so much. Sometimes, I think you love your dogs more than you love me (Haha, I am joking).
  40. Aside from the dogs you’ve owned, I’ve seen you love all animals. When we are at the Ventura beach house you spent 15-minutes watching and talking to the seagulls (birds). You nurtured an injured bird you found in your backyard. You made sure that injured bird had food every day, and that the nest of the bird was always in good shape. That bird eventually became healthy again and per your words, “The bird still comes and visits the house”, still to this day.
  41. You are patient. When things are out of your control, you do your best to not let it bother you. You find solutions. You move forward.
  42. You welcome everyone into your home. Through the past 50 years, so many of our family members from Vietnam were able to live in America and start their life because you and Grandma opened up your home to them. You cook for them and provide shelter. You give people a sense of safety and leisure.
  43. You love helping other people. You’ve taught almost every person in our family how to drive a car and earn their license. You’ve helped me get a perfect score, 100% on my drivers license test! When we are at Costco, you always let people in a rush cut in front of us so they can be on their way. You hold open doors for strangers. You always offer a helping hand.
  44. When you were a child, you always took care of your brothers and sisters. Your pride in your family still holds strong today.
  45. Grandma tells me the reason she “liked” you when she first met you was because you were smart and had a kind heart. That also still holds true today.
  46. You’re an amazing husband. You always take care of Grandma. You help her out of the car, you hold her hand when you walk, you share meals with her, you help set up the dining table before we eat and you help her clean the dining table when we are done eating. When we were at the Orange County Swap Meet Festival, I remember Grandma was sitting down and taking a rest. We continued to walk around the festival. On our way back, you stopped by the concession stand to buy her a soda because you knew she’d be thirsty. You are such a gentleman.
  47. You and Grandma are amazing parents. When my mom wanted to start her business, she needed some money. With the little money you had, you refinanced your house and took that money to give to my mom. You knew she would be successful one day. You were right.
  48. All of my friends that have met you, love you. They always ask me, “How is Grandpa Suu?”, “Grandpa Suu is so cool!”, “I wish your Grandpa was my Grandpa!”. Thank you for always welcoming my friends with open arms and a big smile. They really do love you.
  49. Typically, you are a man with few words. However, your actions make up for it. You lead by example and never ask for anything in return.
  50. You always try to be fair. You listen to what everyone has to say, and you give advice based on the experience you have. You always advised me to learn from your experience and apply that to my life.
  51. You were a HIGH ROLLER! Grandpa, I remember going to Las Vegas with you and Grandma almost every weekend when I was a child! You were a Diamond Club Member and you loved taking us to Las Vegas and you always showed us an amazing time! We never had to pay for anything because you had so many Diamond points on your card. Free buffets, free rooms and free shows and you gave us money to go play in the arcades. As long as your grandchildren were awake, you would spend time with us. My favorite memories were you taking us to all of the hotel pools. We would spend hours swimming, playing “Marco-Polo”, and going down water slides. You taught me how to swim.
  52. You helped me develop my love for creativity through the art of magic. I remember on our Vegas trips, you’d take us to the Houdini Magic Store and let us watch the employees perform the same magic tricks over and over for hours. Whichever magic trick we liked the most, you’d buy that trick for us. You’d let us perform that magic trick over and over until we got really good at it. Then you’d encourage us to perform that magic trick to our entire family. Through magic, I learned the power of creativity and crowd performance. I apply my creativity and presenting skills every day at work. Thank you for helping me discover that piece of myself.
  53. You perform acts of kindness without asking for anything in return.
  54. You LOVE to eat. Especially buffets. Your favorite food to eat at buffet is prime rib (cooked medium), lobster, crab legs and for dessert you love Banana Foster with Vanilla Ice Cream. Guess what? Now when I’m at a buffet that is all I eat, too!
  55. You encouraged me to always study hard in school and get good grades. And you always knew how to praise and recognize me and my brother’s accomplishments when we did good. For every “A” we received in middle school and high school, you would give us $5. If we did really good in school, you’d treat us to a steak dinner at Sizzler. Coincidentally, now that I work in Marketing for Sizzler, I always try to take you to have steak dinners any chance I get when I am in town. You and Grandma love it. Every time we go to Sizzler, I hardly eat my food. I just like watching you enjoy your meal and I think about the nostalgia and how things have come full circle.
  56. You are so humble. Just recently, my brother and I took you to get new hearing aids at Costco. When it came time for the bill, you insisted on helping us pay for the new hearing aids. You refused to let us pay on our own. When we did not tell you the price of the hearing aids, you became very upset with us. You insisted on giving us money, and you did. You told us “I appreciate you two for wanting to pay, but if you really want me to be happy, you need to let me help you pay for these new hearing aids.” Your happiness is the only thing we care about. So we took the money you provided and you were very happy after that.
  57. You live your life very efficiently. I remember when you worked at the Orange County offices for Social Services, you’d take the Metrolink train every single day for work. You told us it was cheaper and the train saved you time by avoiding the freeway traffic. You continued to take the train throughout your entire career and you told us that you would make a lot of friends on the train.
  58. You can build anything from scratch. You would use wooden sticks and nail them together to hold up your big trees in the backyard so that they would grow tall and strong. You installed a white picket fence in your backyard to make your garden more beautiful. You built your own shrine in your home so that we can continue to honor and give blessings to your parents and grandma’s parents after they’ve passed away. You helped my brother and I with cutting baseboards and installing new wood floors in our home in Costa Mesa. You encourage us to try and make things first, before going to buy it.
  59. You’re so playful with children. During Thanksgiving, Christmas or any big event where the family gathers together, we can always find you playing with toys with the children. You make them laugh. You watch movies with them. Children love you and you bring happiness and joy to their lives.
  60. You never spend money on materialistic things. When Grandpa finds an outfit he likes, he never stops wearing it. When he finds a watch he likes, he wears it until the straps break. Then he goes and finds a $5 strap and replaces it. For example, there is a photo taken in 1997 we have with Grandpa wearing a floral blue short sleeve button up, with khaki shorts and a gold watch. We took the same photo, in the same location, posing the same way in 2015 and Grandpa was wearing the same exact outfit. Not because we told him to, but because it was still his favorite outfit.
  61. You’ve taught me to prove myself not through words, but through actions.
  62. For #61, you never taught me that lesson through your words. I learned that by watching you.
  63. You are a man of your word. You always keep your promises.
  64. You take care of your health. Every time we eat, you make sure the food doesn’t have too much cholesterol, or as Grandpa pronounces it “ Ko-lek-co-LOL.” You take weekly walks around the block to keep your legs strong. On any family trips, you always prefer walking to our destination that driving. The only reason you prefer to drive, is to help Grandma.
  65. You are the best co-pilot when you sit in the passenger seat of my car. You always look back when I put the car in reverse. You always double check my side mirrors before I change lanes. You tell me when it is safe to change lanes. You remind me to “Go” on green lights. You remind me to “Stop” at stop signs. You constantly remind me to drive slow. I feel like I’m driving with an instructor sometimes. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  66. I consider you my Father and my Grandpa. You were always there for me. And I know you will always be there for me.
  67. You cook the best Lạp xưởn and Trứng Chiên in the WORLD! Yes, even better than Grandma. (Love you Grandma!)
  68. I remember the first time I disrespected you. I talked back to you and I was wrong to do so. You never yelled at me. You never hit me. You walked away calm and let me think about what I did wrong. I learned that there are better ways to allow people to learn from their mistakes.
  69. You are a man that cherishes memories. You love to keep records of everything special that happens in your life. In your kitchen, you have the first Lottery ticket I’ve ever bought you pinned to the wall. You have the first check I gave to you pinned to the wall. You have the sailor hat I bought for you on your Birthday when we rented the boat on the work table. You printed an article Billy featured you and Grandma in and pinned that to the wall.
  70. Your brothers and sister love you very much. When I visited Vietnam in 2013 and this year in 2017, Ong 7, Ong 6 and Ba 10 all told me amazing stories about you. They told me how smart you are. How good you were at socccer. How much you care about your family. They all miss you so much. They want you to visit them while you still can. When I saw you and Ong 8 sitting down having dinner together in Germany, it brought warmth to my heart. For the first time I saw you interact with your older brother. It is one of my favorite memories I have.
  71. I know you love exploring new places. I saw how happy you were with Grandma and our family while we traveled in Germany and in Hawaii. I encourage you and Grandma to do that as much as you can now that you are both retired. You need to go see everything this world has to offer. More importantly, the world needs to meet my Grandpa and Grandma.
  72. Grandpa, you were always my guardian. You always protected me. I remember specifically an event when we did a vacation in Maui, Hawaii. We booked a sunrise tour. We had to wake up at 4am and get in a bus that drove us up a very winding road to the top of a mountain. I was about 8 years old. The road was so winding that I got car sick. You knew I was not feeling well. Right before I threw up (bị mửa) you took off your hat and let me vomit in your hat. You did it so fast no one noticed that I actually threw up in the van. You quietly tucked the hat away on the side of the seat and acted as if nothing happened. You saved me from an embarrassing moment that probably would have ruined the tour for me.
  73. You saved my family from a toxic person in our life when I was a child. Thank you.
  74. You were the BEST Babysitter. You and Grandma allowed my mother to work late nights so that she could provide for my brother and I. After you would get home from your social services job, my mom would drop us off at your home. You and Grandma would feed us, and let us sleep at your house until mom was done with work. You would pick us up from school when you had the day off and take us to go get Dairy Queen Ice Cream or Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. You raised us in your house when we were children. I can never thank you enough for that.
  75. You always make sure that I am happy. Now that I am working two jobs, you tell me, “Don’t work too much. Money is not more important than your happiness”. I appreciate how much you care about me.
  76. I am the happiest when I know that you and Grandma are happy. I will try my best to make sure that you two are ALWAYS happy.
  77. In the last few years, you’ve taken the time to tell me more advice. The most recent advise you gave me really inspired me to become a better person. The advice you gave me was in Vietnamese, so here is how I interpreted it in English. “Not every situation is perfect. A lot of the times things are beyond your control. Don’t let problems that don’t relate to you bother you. Continue to live your life. Don’t stress about it.”
  78. You are always so thankful for what you have. Nothing more, nothing less.
  79. You are an inspiration to me, Billy, Shayla, Sabrina, my mom andUncle Sang.
  80. You are the best Grandpa in the world.

I could write a million more things of how you have inspired me throughout my life.

Instead, every year for your birthday, I will add 1 more memory to this list so that you know how much you mean to me.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I love you.

Your Grandson,
Justin