Teresa Yang and Zena Zendejas

Recorded August 30, 2020 Archived August 30, 2020 39:21 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020009


Teresa Yang (40) talks with new friend and StoryCorps Facilitator Zena Zendejas (31) about growing up in China, memories of her mother who was a strong influence on her, and leaves life lessons passed down from her mother to her, for her 4-year old daughter.

Subject Log / Time Code

TY shares some favorite memories of growing up with “unconventional” Chinese parents in China. TY then describes how her parents were unconventional.
TY describes her grandparents before her being doctors and losing her grandmother to cancer and knowing she wanted to help people too so she became a physical therapist.
TY describes how she thinks her mother would deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and what her perspective about life and death was.
TY talks about her mother’s various skills and perseverance and lessons she instilled in TY.
TY talks about what she thinks her mother would have taught TYs daughter.
TY talks about what she thinks she learned from her mother’s practice of always keeping promises.
TY speculates what lessons her daughter might learn from her fathers side of the family in India.


  • Teresa Yang
  • Zena Zendejas


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00:00 All right.

00:04 My name is Dennis Invictus. I am 31 years old. Today is Sunday, August 30th. 2020. I am in Bushwick Brooklyn New York, then even my conversation partner is status and she is my friend.

00:20 My name is Teresa Yang. I'm 40 years old. Today's it Sunday, August 30th 2020. I'm in San Francisco, California and I'm having a conversation with her and she's my friend.

00:35 So that I said, thank you so much for doing this for wanting to talk about your mom before we before we get there, you know. I know you mentioned that you were born in China and you came when you were 17 before we get into the immigration and migration. I was wondering if you can tell me about some of your favorite memory of growing up.

01:01 Growing up. I think my favorite memory would be just be with my parents and being with unconventional Chinese parents. What do you mean by that? You know, usually I want to hear from Asian parents by okay, why you got to go to school? You got to go get good grades and you have to go to the best university and I just remember my mom always said to me it's like okay. You just have to try hard. Give it your best. That's all you have to do and

01:36 Ever since I was 12, and I'm going to start looking at a big girl. Now you control your life and you just go ahead and do whatever, you know, that's what's best for you and ever since you stuck to her word, and she never really look at my great then. You know, how would just come home and say hey Mom I got I remember coming home Monday at my gun to Berkeley and I got accepted by UC Berkeley and then they'll keep great. But well ask your uncle If he if he wants you to go and

02:12 Play things like that. And also I remember you do a dinner table and my dad would always say that you know doesn't matter what you do as long as you know, go chase your dreams and do whatever you want to do that for your dreams that that's what we want you to get them to be and who you are and and those other things that just really stuck in my head and I always wanted to do what I wanted to do and I just went ahead and Chase my dreams and never really

02:46 You really thought about getting good grades and then we thought about what where when I didn't want to come because why I got friends and you know, like I was already 17 why you no go to an estranged start all over again by my mother's I won't if you go, you know, you will get a passport in you you get to travel all over the world and I remember always, you know, I enjoy traveling with my parents and that's okay fine. You know, I give a shot is how she convinced me to come.

03:32 But why I knew my mother wanted me to you no have a better experience in college and education.

03:42 And obviously you don't like other immigrant parents and she wanted me to have a better life. And so I feel like sometimes talking to my other Asian friends and you know Chinese friends in particular and I just never really felt that pressure. So I always told him that I'm sorry. I just don't think that you know, like my parents really fit in that box and then. Category so if you know being a very typical Asian, you know, yeah, how do you think that impacted like your career the way that you thought about your dreams to have that kind of Liberty to to do not be restricted by grades?

04:32 I should say I always had a passion and being a medical professional I grew up in a family about my grandfather was in OBGYN medical school in China my pediatrician and also lost her to cancer and my uncle in San Francisco. He was a doctor in Hong Kong. So I always kind of like grew up with all these people in my life. And I knew that I always wanted to help people and and since my parents never really said, okay. Well you have to become like a doctor you have to become a lawyer or none of that and I just that well, you know, I wanted to help people so I chose Physical Therapy, you know people experience and I always wanted.

05:29 Personal Touch and I I really wanted to see how my skill sets in my knowledge can impact a person's life and then help them get back on their feet you you mentioned touch right now, right? So your physical therapist how has this? You know Global Health crisis is covid-19 for endemic impacted your work, you know, not just

05:59 Person, yeah, well professionally obviously

06:08 We were in a. Panic, you know constantly is the other colleagues or my classmates back in school. I mean some of them were in the Epic Center hours and they were helping covet patience and you know have all the shield mask. I never thought that we would that important to really get in there and help people just get well, you know get better and get back on their feet and get stronger and go home and that's what I tell my patients every day. Like we got to get you go home. That's why I'm here and personally,

07:01 I

07:03 Also Panic cuz I didn't know what to do. I have a little one obviously and I don't know I just don't know if I want one day I come home and say hey honey. I'm positive. You know, I got to stay away from you. So but I think as we learn more about the pandemic learn more about covet and actually it gave me a sense of comfort that you know, I do have little control over the situation. I can protect myself I can help educate others, and I also I'm proud that my daughter can

07:55 It's kind of funny in a way. But yeah now she's an expert.

08:03 I've not sure. How do you how do you think your mom would have handled this pandemic?

08:14 I think she always had a very positive attitude. She always tells me like everything is in God's hands and you know, you can't do anything about it then and that was how she done with life how she thought was her disease process and you've been dealt with def.

08:37 Scary how you handle it like how you look at life. If you think that you're going to die and you just want to be in bed all day long. Very sad and and she didn't want that. And so I think right now she will probably just so, you know go out there and you know do what you can and protect yourself and you know, that's all you can do and just leave the rest to God and

09:08 Is USA around us?

09:16 Happened after her prognosis

09:23 I wasn't I wasn't sure that she had like a palm reading a long time ago. He was in bed. And I think that really changed her perspective about life and death and ever since you said she told me like I don't want any tubes. I don't want any resuscitation. You just have to let me go and she's at while if a song as I live my life. I have no regrets. You know, I'm not afraid to die. And so she had it long before she was diagnosed and it again stuck in my head and I just remember the day that she was in bed when she was ready to go and I actually Hannah can I call 911?

10:16 And the EMT personality all the sun is Highway stop it. You know, she's on hospice and do you really want us to crack your ribs? And then put all these tubes in her? Is that what she wants you and I sat know my mother ate that hated. So I said no, I would respect her wishes and she appointed me as a power attorney and she trusted me to stick with my promise and I promised her I would never ever let her suffer, you know, so she always had a very positive, you know, I was a point-of-use about test was interesting, but she she always put a positive spin on everything. So it seemed like she was a person of his you know that she trusted God and Creator to really take care of situations that were just completely outside of control. Just you feel like she held on to her face.

11:16 I think so. She really never said anything really bad about you know, she always told me that God's in control, you know, she has never said anything.

11:32 I would say opposite of hat.

11:35 She always stay positive and never cry about paying never cry about anything. She just

11:46 I don't know what like she was just always positive.

11:51 And that me and I wish I could learn that from her.

11:57 I'm so negative. Oh my God. I wish I could get that balance. Yeah, I don't know where she's at strength, I wish I could depend on her now, but I just realized I'm the only child so I have to really just type it out on a to do the second to do the recording.

12:39 I remember.

12:42 When I was a little girl, my mother told me that she wished she could have held on to her mother's picture that smother my grandmother was the ballroom dance Queen. She was always dress up really nicely put on her floor make up she would go to the bottom and dance all night until the Japanese invaded China and that make her stop and she remember her mother dress up really nicely and took a picture long time ago.

13:18 She remember that vividly and she was describing what what her mother look like in that picture and I remember that memory and help. My mother was telling me in a picture of my mother when she was like 20, she when she was 20 and she looks so pretty in that picture with long braids and she looks so young and beautiful and and I couldn't find it looks like it's the same thing that my mother couldn't find that picture of her mother and I and I just wish that I have something.

13:56 More than a picture for my daughter to remember me by and that's why I wanted to do this recording you want your daughter to have a piece of her grandmother? Yes, and yeah, cuz I don't know maybe one day I'll get dementia.

14:19 I don't know, you know, so maybe I would say hey honey gold go to the library Congress and pick it up my mother, you know, she was only had a year-and-a-half my when my mother passed away, so I wanted her to have something to remember by and hopefully something about me. When was your what was your mother's name?

14:51 Chinese name it's called King. And her last name is you why you actually was right by her parents names are.

15:07 After the country, you know basically means

15:12 Ability seems like she was a very stable person, but she always kind of hated that name. I guess. Probably for the same kind of patriotism were some of her strengths that you know, you saw

15:41 You saw on her?

15:44 Well, my mother was a very resilient and she was also a learner that I think I got that from her. She was always learning and she learned.

15:56 Well, I should go back a little bit dad because of the Communist party that took away her opportunity to go on to go to college so she barely graduated high school, but you learned how to sew how the net like she was just very talented and she make all my clothes when I was little

16:24 She learns how to do tai chi out of you. She was always in sports, you know, always wanted to stay healthy. So she'll learn how to do all this healthy eating habits, and she just constantly every day. She would like RI Paws and she will learn it and I remember when I was young

16:51 Yeah, when I was like in my teens and she would tell me to read some books from other countries, not just Chinese literature. And I know you told me like to read some French novels American and remember she gave me Gone With the Wind was really little open-minded. Do ya cultures and other cultures? I remember Coming to America and she said well, we got it, you know.

17:40 Every year we got to go travel to a different country and got to try different foods every month. I remember taking her to like a Korean restaurant Japanese restaurant Indian restaurant, you know different times and she always loved it even single DeMayo. I remember taking her Tanaka's debit. No showing her, you know, what they do in Mexico or South America really scare all the skeletons and all and she was very fascinated by the Arts and

18:24 You know the drawings and just the the vibrant culture when you camp. Yes, my parents and I yes was it for you to go to school or yes, we're not supposed to go to the middle of nowhere in Montana. I'm sorry my at that time in Montana what my parents wanted me to stay with my other uncle in San Francisco and they were just to help out my uncle.

19:11 And it didn't work out. So we ended up staying in San Francisco and that all worked out, you know, if the rest is history, obviously, California.

19:27 You know, I don't know if this this would be difficult to speak about. You know, I think you mentioned earlier that your mother was kind of like

19:39 You talking about like needing to continue to do things like not not wanting to just be laying in bed knowing that she was sick, right? And so I'm just wondering like this. She did she keep up with these physical activity that she had cultivated over the years until the end. Do you think that kept her going?

20:01 Yeah, well, I got to say I want me I've treated thousands of patients. I will say she was my best patient patient because I would tell all these doctors on my on my physical therapist. Is that okay? Good keep her going. I just remember. Yeah. She she never wanted to lay in bed after you know you ran into surgeries. She would hop right out of bed. And now I remember all these nurses calling me and say why don't your mom to walk around. Is that okay? I said sure why not, you know, let her go and

20:44 Energizer Bunny she never really stopped. I think her spirit never going her energy really kept her going and she never believed in.

20:58 At rest and she yeah, she was my best station ever cried pain never took a pain pill never ever. I'm like, I don't know if yes, she never cried.

21:15 For a second. I honestly don't know how she how she got through her pains and you know, she had chemo and surgeries have a lot of antibiotics nausea vomiting never cried and I remember taking her to the doctors office visits and then all these nurses and doctors were always amazed by her strength, and I honestly

21:55 I do, you know really copy that I don't think so. You know, I'm a crybaby.

22:02 That's why I sometimes I wish I could have some of her strength.

22:11 That's what that's what I want my daughter to really learn and

22:17 Not exactly just follow but just at least learned part of it at least the spirit of that strengthen.

22:25 And now to be better than me.

22:29 What is what is something you think your mother would have thought your daughter?

22:35 Definitely too and my mother always thought that my daughter was so smart, you know.

22:45 And she would like her to read and that's what I been doing with my daughter every day. I however complicated that book is in that I just always I always treat my daughter like an adult People level in so I will you no reason with her I would read to her and I think that's what my mother would want, you know her for her to explore for her tomorrow, but I was a little girl.

23:37 Yeah, do you have any questions?

23:43 My question is I don't know how many.

23:50 So far you talk to you about how covid-19 I mean, of course every day. I listen to the news and how people struggle.

24:08 I would like to know if there's any

24:13 Marketing Scott you've learned some more.

24:21 How well if you have talked to anybody had parents that were you know, sick or infected by covet and how they were how they were handling the situation to that's something I would like to know.

24:37 I have had participants who have spoken about.

24:49 Having your conversation from opposite sides of a window because they couldn't be together, you know, and I think I think it's especially hard for for families.

25:03 In the case of the participants were speaking from other sides of the window.

25:11 One of them was like moving and so they weren't really going to have a chance to see each other before that happened. I had a participant who who lost, you know, her mother and wasn't able to visit her wasn't able to be with her during her final days. And even at the funeral weren't, you know, they celebrate in a really in a really big way and they weren't able to have that same kind of celebration of life for her mother. And so I think there's very real impacts in in in my psyche of like how you're able to celebrate someone's life with them during their final days that I could just imagine this so painful to not be able to be there.

25:59 Yeah, I always wondered about it and cuz a lot of people try to come for me and say at least you know, you were there for your mother, you know, and as a healthcare for cross provider, I see that everyday and I see people having, silly, station through Windows Doors.

26:21 And in my head and I kept thinking while I I don't know. How would I handle it with my own parents in especially my mother she was my you know, my best friend and I can't imagine not being able to be there, you know, hold her hand and kiss her, you know on her final days. I think I will kill me honestly say, yeah, but I'm so glad she had you you know, and then you got sick and be her caregiver.

26:53 My mother was my grandmother's caregiver for like 2 years or two and a half years, and I just know how hard it is after you've done so much for them after spending all day with them. It's incredibly challenging to Toulouse that same person you were caring for.

27:14 So I can just imagine you know, and I really commend you for keeping your mother's promise to her and not resuscitate in her and you know giving her that respect of life for her choice was

27:29 I think that shows Incredible strength from you.

27:33 That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. So I could really relate to people these days that you know, really letting go and not being able to be there for the loved ones and some for their loved ones and

27:48 I think

27:50 It will be a very difficult kind of choice to make for anybody there like go or hold on.

27:59 In and personally experiencing that it was not fun, but I promised my mother taught me. You know, I promised is always a promise. I promise if you promise somebody what do you think you learn from that something that you didn't know before that you feel you feel like you walked away with

28:27 I think

28:28 Where can I learn. I always have to be honest with my own feelings and I always have to also learn how to respect.

28:42 Other people's choices

28:47 I mean, we're all different colors cultures whatnots. And

28:56 We just want everyone's different. You don't like my husband always say different folks in Different Strokes. Just have to remember.

29:06 Regardless what the situation is in you just have to remember.

29:12 Remember that and that's what I was trying to teach my daughter these days to I thought it was a promise is always going to be if you promise somebody.

29:34 You have to do it. You have to respect that. You have to be honest. I know sometimes it's at the old be a struggle with your own feelings. You've got a phone, but you just have to

29:49 To be honest with yourself and then honest with the person that you make a promise to.

29:59 Things like honesty is something your daughter's going to grow up with nine pretty clear. I think I guess one years old and he always taught me how to be honest, you know, what yourself with others and be respectful regardless of who that person is, you know, that's what I want my daughter to learn and

30:39 And and to be honest with herself of how do I elaborate that now, so I mentioned to me that I want her to meet Senator Harris my daughter obviously, he's half Indian half Chinese and I never could have imagined my whole life that I will ask my daughter. Do you want to become a president or America, you know, do you want to become the president one day and we were at the tennis court in looking at people playing tennis and I and she's an old mother you become Serena Williams.

31:32 I just thought I would have never imagined, you know, little girls like her could grow up with someone like a role model, you know like Harris that like Senator Harris and then I just thought that you know, that would be pretty cool to show them to me and one day hopefully when she gets older she would have to have a conversation with her and I remember how

32:04 Senator Harris to share her experience about her mother and she also lost her mother to cancer in and just a lot of things that resonates with me and my daughter.

32:20 So I remember that conversation. I remember my Donald's with my daughter was brutally honest with me and says she doesn't want to become the president. She wants to be friends.

32:34 She said that she wasn't trying to please me and you know things only I wanted to hear what you say what you want to do. Yes. I try everyday.

33:05 Super hard on her and I want her to have the same values, you know, try hard give you a best be honest and have no regrets and chase your dreams.

33:20 Another beautiful lessons

33:23 It sounds like all of this and like having that strong connection to ancestors is really important to you and I'm curious like what I don't know if your husband still has parents around but I'm curious what what lesson do you think your daughter will be learning from his side of the family that you may want to have on the record?

33:48 That's a good question. I think my husband will definitely want my daughter to be a good cook especially cooking Indian food. Well by our plan is to have her visit her grandparents in India once is pandemic is over and that's our goal for now to I mean, I would like love her to have that expands to go on her way grandparents and learn something from my mother-in-law and my father-in-law and my husband actually was home school by her dad. Bye. Bye. See sad, I'm sorry if I buy my husband's dad and and I I I will like my daughter to learn some of that like how to be homeschooled, you know.

34:41 I don't know what my father-in-law Todd my husband but

34:49 But I mean, my husband is a very honest man and I we share the same. I could tell that our parents also share the same values. So I would I would imagine that my daughter would probably learn the same lessons same values from her grandparents from India.

35:11 Yeah, she's going to grow strong regardless how to become a CIA.

35:35 No, I'm just kidding. Well, you know, I just want her to be whoever she wants to be us what my mother would like for her to you know, who's go after whatever she wants to she wants to do and be herself.

35:59 Be a good learner and read a lot knowledge is power and I think that's what my mother would agree to.

36:12 Thank you so much for sending these minutes. Is there anything you feel like you want to add to the record?

36:21 Before I wrap up today.

36:25 Well, I hope my daughter would one day really go to the library Congress goes to the library at Knotts and I would just

36:43 Like my daughter has something, you know to remember me by, you know to remember my mother and you know, what a strong woman she was and what I'm trying to learn every day also from that guy from from my mother and then hopefully one day she will learn from me and then have addition and Zena you maybe one day she will speak to both of you as well have a conversation with me.

37:17 And asking about her grandmother.

37:22 The one passed away or the one in India. Wish I could learn more about my mother-in-law and then teachers together.

37:35 Definitely. I'm I'm still learning everyday. That's right, but I always do you know? Yeah, she was she was my best friend, and she

37:56 Was everything absolutely whoever amishi was whoever I wanted to become.

38:03 Thank you so much.

38:07 Thank you Teresa. Thank you Donna. And thank you Mia and for giving me this opportunity. I really I was telling my husband just like 5 minutes before this conversation. I was I okay while if I don't show up. It's okay. I almost almost picked I yai. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. But and also would like I said, you know, I got really emotional yesterday.

38:46 Learning another great person that have passed away and numb and it's just constantly goes in my mind and I always ask. So why why does why does this happen to good people and

39:04 Yeah. Alright. Well we're going to end up here. But thank you so much.

39:12 Thank you both of you for giving me this opportunity again.

39:18 Yeah.