To some, it may seem Yau King Eng failed at the American Dream.
Eng’s restaurant, China Jade in Newport, N.H., foundered in 2001. His wife was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia a year later. And the couple, who live in a subsidized apartment in Harbor Point, have struggled to make ends meet.
None of that matters to Eng’s two sons, who say they’re thankful for their father’s sacrifice.
“He may think he failed at the American Dream, but his biggest accomplishments are his two sons,” Norman Eng, 36, said.
Yau King Eng, 77, defected from China in 1966 at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. People were starving. Eng was one of thousands who walked seven days and then swam four hours to Macau. Many perished.
He arrived in Boston with big hopes.
Ken Eng, 39, who won a $50,000 Guggenheim Fellowship grant in 2007, used the money to tell his father’s story in a documentary that, eight years later, is being featured at film festivals.
“As I got older, I started thinking, ‘How did I get this opportunity?’ All signs pointed to my father,” Ken Eng said. “I’m thankful to make a film before my dad passed away to let him know I understand his sacrifice.”
On Thursday, the family gathered at Norman Eng’s home in Milton with his wife and two children. Ken Eng traveled from Los Angeles to spend the holiday with family. Their father and mother, Yuan Lin Eng, 65, joined them to feast on turkey, mashed potatoes, and almond-sprinkled string beans. More than anything, they soaked in each other’s company.
“This year, I’m especially proud of my brother and the work he put into raising awareness about the immigrant struggle,” Norman Eng said. “This Thanksgiving, I appreciate all that we have because of my father’s sacrifice.”