A Familiar Image
#1
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Ever since as a kid, I always seem to have this intimate desire wanting to tell stories, and it must be something coming from the bottom of my heart.  The only problem then, and even up to this point in life, is still the self-consciousness about my language fluency to write out the stories, which has always been my weakness.  Nonetheless, the personal emotion is still there, and I still want to tell my stories, and I am still determined to do so eventually along with my photos if I will live enough for that moment.[url=https://ibb.co/rZXPHpS][/url]
 
During the years growing up in Vietnam while attending a local Chinese school, I was not at all fluent enough in either language to do anything, not in Chinese or Vietnamese.  After all, I didn’t even finish seventh grade at the Chinese school before I left Vietnam.  One day during my fifth grade when the class was assigned to write a short essay in class, it was my first time attempting to write something from the bottom of my heart.  It was the type of assignment that was never given in class before, but the whole class was informed a few days in advance.  As a fifth-grader studying Chinese, while living in Vietnam, my limited vocabulary has always battled me with barely passing grades throughout my elementary school.  My worry and nervousness then came from the anxious anticipation of failing another test again, and that emotion was overwhelmingly consuming me during those last few days.  I simply had enough embarrassment and self-pitiful feeling from failing a test.  
 
Soon enough, the day came, and the subject for the essay when the teacher finally announced was this; “What do you want to be when you grew up?”  I was somewhat feeling happy immediately right after hearing the title of the essay.  It felt like the kind of subject that I should have known quite well, as I had always been aware of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Yes, even as a 5th grader, I already knew what I wanted for my life then, just the matter of writing the words out from the thought in my mind was very difficult, especially in Chinese, which back then was the only language I had learned from school up that point, but I hardly ever needed to use it outside of school.  On the date when the essay was assigned, while all the students were starting to write their essays immediately after the title was given, I was struggling to process my thought, and took seemingly forever to complete the first sentence.  I was simply lost in my thoughts and aimlessly searching for words that could make sense.  Sweating and nervous, with the chilling sensation running through my whole body as I occasionally looked up at the hanging clock above the chart board, the time was gradually ticking away quicker than I could muster the words onto the largely still blank paper.  In the end, with roughly fifteen minutes left before the bell rings to end the class, I had no choice but to write down what I had in mind, with whatever words I could think of to complete the sentences.  After the bell finally rang, I was the only one left in the class and still rushing to finish up the last sentence.  Finally done, and then as quickly I ran up to the teacher to turn in my paper, she gave me a long stare as she extended her arm to take my paper in slow motion.  My name was never on her list of likable students, to begin with, so I already got used to such a look from her.
 
After a few days passed, the essay was finally graded.  It was time for the class to receive it back.  The teacher called out each student to come up to the front and stood next to her desk for her feedback and critics.  Some came back to their seats with smiles and a sense of relief on their faces, while others seemed to have tears sparkling in their eyes.  But before completely calling up every student, she suddenly announced that she wanted to intentionally hold back a few papers from the few students until after the class, or three students to be exact.  I was one of those three students.  I knew then that I was in trouble again, but how big the trouble is something I had to wait for later to find out.  I didn’t dare to look at her face when I was called up to her desk.  She gave me my essay back with a huge red “O” on the upper left corner, just right above my name on the paper, and then, once again, she gave a long stare in silence and then asked, “Did you copy the essay from somewhere?  Don’t lie!”  I said, “No…!”  I meant to say that I didn't lie, but that didn’t matter anyway because I still got that huge “O” in red, in addition to two painful spankings on my behind with her bamboo stick.  Yes, my old school back then had the unofficial rules of disciplinary action for failing students.
 
For whatever reason, it is still unknown to me even to this day, but I believed what she dislike was my thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Probably because it seemed rather unrealistic, or perhaps even abnormal.  But what I wrote was truly from the bottom of my heart.  I wanted to be a farmer, and it has always been my dream to become a farmer, even to this day.  I have always been in love with the green fields and the lively sounds of the livestock on a farm, even though I fully understand that one must own farmland to become a farmer.  Unfortunately, my family had always been the city dwellers, the type that permanently lives in small rental housing, and we moved so many times and often according to the towns where my father had worked.  Perhaps if I would have said that I wanted to become a businessman or an accountant would be much easier to understand, but that would be completely unforeseeable for me then.  However, as a second child growing up in a big family at the age of thirteen going on eighteen, I was a boy who was down to earth and liked nature, liked to grow things and raise animals, and it reflected in my very short essay as I wrote:
 
“My dream is to live in a small farmhouse nearby the foot of a mountain with a view of an open landscape in front and back.  My home would be surrounded by green fields, and a small creek is winding through the landscape.  I will be working on the farm and raising livestock.  This is what I wanted to be when I grew up; to be a farmer.” Perhaps I could have said that I wanted a living space and a world of my own as much as to become a farmer, which I believe the influential factor for such desire came from the years growing up in a small living space throughout my entire childhood.  Even so, I knew then that I wasn’t wrong to dream of becoming a farmer.  It was and still is the truth from bottom of my heart.
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#2

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No one in the right mind would dare to say that life is perfect, or it will be, and that is just the reality.  The reality of life is about making do with whatever we could manage and dealing with however life will bring us from one stage to the next.  We all must have had enjoyed happiness at times, but also experiencing sadness, dramatic emotional moments, and unforgettable memories of a past.  Ironically, the harder time we ever experienced in life is usually the more memorable moments that just couldn’t fade away easily, regardless of the passage of time.  For the people in my generation who had once experienced the daily life with devastation of the Vietnam war and then years of the starvation era, I believe we tend to remember the hardship and value the sentimental side of everything in life a little more.
 
These days I still hold a career with a part-time job as a professional accountant specializing in nonprofit operation.  It’s a freelancing job that I had planned and developed for myself so that I could travel whenever I wish.  While some of my colleagues feel envy for such an opportunity to be able to work remotely from outside the country, others even consider it a great job to grow with, and it has lasted more than thirty years for me so far.  Unfortunately, my heart wasn’t there for such a career, and my mind was never fully occupied with the job I don’t intend to maintain forever.  Even though it has helped me to make a decent living for the last thirty-something years, but, deep down inside, I was still carrying on the dream of the young man who would love to be a farmer and still hoping that one day fulfilling his beloved storytelling desire.
 
Needless to say, going from being a kid who dropped out of school before finishing the seventh grade to eventually becoming a professional accountant was not easy, but that wasn’t the hardest part of a long journey for me to get there.  The harder part was to figure out what is it that I could turn myself into if not to be a farmer, or not to follow my heartfelt desire for a different path of life while temporarily focusing on becoming an accountant for the sole purpose of earning a living, which eventually ended up being a career that I must live with for decades without knowing a way out of it.  All of that was for a sense of accomplishment in a modern society where a reliable career is the essential part of life, and then for the dependency of the paychecks to support the luxurious demands that only grow bigger.  For the longest time, that was then the successful outcome that I could think of, and spending nearly a whole life in exchange for it.  Of course, one should appreciate the opportunity to do better, and I do greatly appreciate it.  But such a sense of fulfillment that takes a lifetime in exchange shouldn’t be just a career and the monetary value.
 
For the sake of my soul and for what I am truly proud of myself, I always remember what I used to be and where I came from.  I still remember those years when I must endure a life similar to these young men in this photo:

https://deweyknowss.smugmug.com/Impressi...-D2r3zBq/A
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#3
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We arrived at this small oceanside town when the bus stopped for the passengers to get out for a break.  It was a trip for me to go home after spending a whole week wandering on foot to see Hue, the ancient city of Vietnam.  But then at the moment when I saw this view, I decided to stay back when the bus rolled off again.  A home should be a place where we would go after a long day at work or come back to it after a trip gone somewhere, but I don’t exactly have a home nowadays.  Like how people would say, home is a place where we find the comfort and cozy feeling to back to, a place where our heart belongs as they say, and it usually is a place where we love to be.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had such a feeling for too long now.
 
Back in the States, after my divorce finalized roughly twenty years ago, the meaning of a home to me afterward was more or less just a place to sleep at night, and I had purposely stayed at the same place for twelve years so that my girls could feel more like home when they came over on the weekends, with home-cook meals in the familiar surroundings.  Even when sometimes I had wished that I could go somewhere else to start a new life all over again, I stayed in Chicago as long as I could to fulfill the responsibilities as a son and a father.  The home was that all it meant for me then, the responsibility.  Years later when both of my parents passed away, the girls suddenly became young ladies with a life of their own.  From that point, I am completely lost touch with the meaning of home altogether.  Home for me these days is a place where I have temporarily stayed in or been on the move for the last ten years.
 
Looking at the view with the sun gradually setting in front of me, reminded me of a time when such a place used to feel like at home.  I lingered and indulged in this astonishing beautiful view in slow motion as the sun slowly set above the glistering water and then gradually hidden behind the silhouettes of those distant mountains.  I was deeply touched by such a familiar view, and my thought immediately rushed back to all of the memories from those years when I used to sit in front of a similar view as such after a long day of laboring work.  Maybe it was this same location when I used to work and live nearby, but I couldn’t tell for sure because the surroundings had already changed so much, except for the silhouettes of those mountains and the sunset on the glittering water.  It was a home away from home for me so long ago, and it was once again as I relive it for that one evening.


A view of from my temporarily home:  https://deweyknowss.smugmug.com/Impressi...-mthZ7S4/A
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#4
(2022-03-26, 10:17 AM)DuyVIII Wrote:
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... a life similar to these young men in this photo:

https://deweyknowss.smugmug.com/Impressi...-D2r3zBq/A

.. what they're doing ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... nah ... i don't like the idea "being a farmer back in Vietnam nowadays"  ...!!!... my Pa hometown has thatched houses at the foot of mountain and surrounding by the sea ... some of his brother were farmers and some others were fish men ... only him and his youngest brother earned their living by their education ... my Pa so struggled to bring his relatives to town and then to America ...  ... luckily no one want to come back ... here just being workers they're still can support their old hometown .... why don't you wanna be a farmer here ... you have family support, off course, and the government support too ...
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#5
(2022-03-26, 08:11 PM)DuyVIII Wrote: [Image: IMG-5875-XL.jpg]

...
A view of from my temporarily home:  https://deweyknowss.smugmug.com/Impressi...-mthZ7S4/A

... the view maybe still there, but the people might not ... Huế now is just a place for my uncles rushing there to restore family mausoleum that people from the North often chisel to ask for money ... just my grandma side mausoleum now become cultural relic because the communist government want somewhere for tourists wandering ... did you live in Huế sometime ...
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#6
Confused-shrug-smiley-emoticon
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#7
(2022-03-28, 12:19 AM)schi Wrote: .. what they're doing ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... nah ... i don't like the idea "being a farmer back in Vietnam nowadays"  ...!!!... my Pa hometown has thatched houses at the foot of mountain and surrounding by the sea ... some of his brother were farmers and some others were fish men ... only him and his youngest brother earned their living by their education ... my Pa so struggled to bring his relatives to town and then to America ...  ... luckily no one want to come back ... here just being workers they're still can support their old hometown .... why don't you wanna be a farmer here ... you have family support, off course, and the government support too ...

Hi Schi,

I had already long passed the age to be a farmer...hehe.., so no...  Anyhow, I was just reminiscing about my old dream and not exactly wanting to become one anymore at this point.  Does your family still have that thatched house(s) nearby the mountain and surrounded by water?  I would imagine that it must be a very nice place for a home at such a location... 



"... the view maybe still there, but the people might not ... Huế now is just a place for my uncles rushing there to restore family mausoleum that people from the North often chisel to ask for money ... just my grandma side mausoleum now become cultural relic because the communist government wants somewhere for tourists wandering ... did you live in Huế sometime ..."



Yes, you are correct that the place and the views are still there, but the people are no longer there!  I went back to see Hue again and to look for a few old friends from my childhood there, but they were nowhere to be found.  I don't speak with Hue accent, but I mostly grew up in Hue and DaNang for the 18 years when I was in Vietnam.  Where were you from in Vietnam?
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#8
(2022-03-29, 11:34 AM)DuyVIII Wrote: ... still have that thatched house(s) ... 

Where were you from in Vietnam?

... nah ... everything was destroyed by the war and an ancestral house is replaced instead ... my Grandpa father side used to go to Hội An to worship his paternal line ancestors every year but never told his children until he passed away! ... After some years to be refuges somewhere, my Pa HA relatives came back to my Pa village to search for Grandpa family but saw no one! ... When my Pa went to restore his ancestral house he heard from some neighbors then he searched on the net and cached the genealogical book! .... Where was me in Vietnam? ... no where sir ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... Nguyễn is the only one last name of Vietnamese people ... do you know the last name that only the Chinese people have ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... you might be my cousin ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ...
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#9
(2022-03-29, 02:07 PM)schi Wrote: ... nah ... everything was destroyed by the war and an ancestral house is replaced instead ... my Grandpa father side used to go to Hội An to worship his paternal line ancestors every year but never told his children until he passed away! ... After some years to be refuges somewhere, my Pa HA relatives came back to my Pa village to search for Grandpa family but saw no one! ... When my Pa went to restore his ancestral house he heard from some neighbors then he searched on the net and cached the genealogical book! .... Where was me in Vietnam? ... no where sir ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... Nguyễn is the only one last name of Vietnamese people ... do you know the last name that only the Chinese people have ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ... you might be my cousin ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4 ...

I am very certain that we are related one way or another because we were more likely to originate from the same Homosapien species, to begin with.  Hmm..  I could think of a few last names that must be from the Chinese people only, such as Lão - , Hoá - , Hoa - 花, or Lại - 賴 etc...  This last name Lại - 賴 in Chinese is directly translated into English as "Blame", like blaming someone.  It is also my ex-wife's last name, so, naturally, I was the blame for the divorce, and that seemed to make perfect sense.
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#10
(2022-03-29, 07:57 PM)DuyVIII Wrote: ... Lão - , Hoá - , Hoa - 花, or Lại - 賴 etc... 

... none of these is the only one ... think more if you want to ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4  ... off course you're the blame for your broken marriage ... your girls are not suddenly became young ladies but your wife effort ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4  ...
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#11
(2022-03-30, 02:01 AM)schi Wrote: ... none of these is the only one ... think more if you want to ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4  ... off course you're the blame for your broken marriage ... your girls are not suddenly became young ladies but your wife effort ... Grinning-face-with-smiling-eyes4  ...

Yes, indeed, I had my fair share of responsibility for whatever went wrong in the broken marriage.  One thing I must admit though; she has always been a great mother to the girls, which is the part I had learned from her to be a good parent.

Well, instead of creating another music video that you seem to enjoy, how about I will find the time to type up another story of mine instead?  Do you sometimes enjoy reading ordinary personal stories?
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#12

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I came to America right after I reached my 19th birthday.  I was all on my own and completely unprepared for the modern lifestyle and Western society in real-time.  The truth is that I didn't plan to be in America, and no one could have thought that one day I will be, not even my parents would have thought of such an outcome as possible.  It just happened as the result, which was nothing short of long-stringed miracles from multiple incidences.  After all the fortunate twists and turns from one event after another that must happen and in the exact order as they happened roughly during the three-week time, only then it would be possible for me to end up in North Dakota in February 1979.
 
For the longest time after I arrived in the States, there were talks about how fortunate that for some people who were able to escape the torment of war, and then survived the once-in-a-lifetime journey across the ocean to a new world where freedom is granted, and a chance to start a new life that presented with wealth and abandoned materials.  One of the best examples of those people would be someone like me.  My arrival to America would fit the definition of a free ride given to me by a classmate, and I will always remember it to the date I die.  Ever since the date when the illegal iron fishing ship that I was on slowly strolling through the water canal leading to Hong Kong’s harbor, I realized that I must go on to make the best of life worth something and truly live for it as how it was meant to be.  As the ship was strolling in slow motion, I looked up to the blue sunny sky above, and within the view were tall buildings towering over both sides of the canal.  Needless to say, it was the very first time a country boy like me ever saw a modern city fully unfolding in real life, with countless automobiles and people rushing in all different directions and mountains of skyscrapers were piling up from one layer to the next.  I was completely dumbstruck and speechless the whole time.  What a view!  I knew then from that very moment that my life had already changed, and I must have owed it to someone.  The time was August 1978.
 
From the first year after I moved back to Vietnam in an attempt to try out a new life there, one of the wishful thinking I had in mind was hoping that I might come across a chance to help improve someone’s life positively, perhaps even significantly if possible.  The truth was that I did have a few chances to fulfill such a personal goal, and succeeded as well; I believed.  Unfortunately, I am not at all by any means a rich man, especially when I only hold a part-time job.  So my generosity in terms of monetary support is always limited, the good news is that it doesn’t take that much money to help a few people in Vietnam, even for someone with a part-time job that pays in American dollars.  Even though I soon realized that I still have too many relatives who were barely surviving within the borderline of poverty.  So other than helping my relatives, occasionally I went to a certain extent trying to help some strangers financially, despite my limitation.
 
One of those strangers was a young man who works as a tour guide in Sapa, Khai.  He came from a Black Hmong family living high up on a mountain and just freshly out of college.  While making a living with his low waged job, he seemed like a young man who has full of ambitious spirit and was very independent.  His dream was ultimately to run a tourist operation of his own in the future, and it was his ultimate goal to support his family and possibly provide jobs for his immediate relatives who all live nearby his family home.  Such a young man reminded me of myself when I was his age.  The first we met was on my first visit to Sapa when he was the tour guide for a small group of people, and I was one of those people.  For the few days when I went out on the tours with Khai, we had mutually exchanged a little bit of personal background in a few conversations.  I like Khai, a young who is the oldest child of three in the family, and assertively takes on the family responsibility on his small shoulders.  From one stranger to another, I could tell from his sincere personality, strong determination, and his devotion to the job that he will make his dream a reality.  All he needed was a helping hand to kick off a good start.
 
Before saying goodbye to Khai on that trip, I promised him that I will be back and will help him to focus on how to set up a private tourist operation and media outreach to publicize his services, and it was a promise I kept in mind the whole time until we met again the second, third, and fourth times in the following years.  But on my second trip back to Sapa in Spring 2017, I quickly realized that he would need to have a startup fund to purchase a laptop and connect to the internet for management and marketing purposes.  In my best voluntary effort to help the young man, I was biting my lips to give him $800.00 out of only $1,020.00 from my bank account balance for his startup fund.  The good news was that I still have a job and realized that another pay date was coming around soon enough.  Ultimately, I intended to pay forward such a life-changing opportunity for someone else, just like the way I received my free-ride ticket to America from a friend more than forty years ago.  It was a personal promise to pay forward that I intended to fulfill from the very moment when that iron fishing ship slowly strolled me through the water canal in Hong Kong.



Khai's Trekking Service Website:  https://www.sapakhaihmongtreks.com/

A View behind his family home up on the mountain:  https://deweyknowss.smugmug.com/Impressi...-XKz3mXB/A
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#13
... the way you gave out almost all of your pocket is just the way my Ma used to do ... she was raised by her grandparents with her cousins and whenever anyone in trouble while starting their own families, the rest had to contribute ... this way help them to appreciate the help and willing to help others later in life ... i'm glad to know that Khai has college degree, so will his children ... i've read somewhere on the net that the Black Hmong people hesitate to let their children go to school because they're afraid the young generation will lose their heritage when they learn a new language to be able global communicate ...
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#14

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For someone who enjoys telling stories, there are some stories I always feel uneasy mentioning about it.  One of which is about my relationship with my father.  The relationship as a father and son that we had shared was hardly ever a very pleasant one, nor was it very memorable for me to experience being his unfavorable son.  Sometimes I felt regret and even resentful for how badly and awkwardly the relationship we shared until the day he died.  Worst of all, I was the one to make the final decision on the passive euthanasia treatment for him.  I made that decision on his behalf without his consent because he was unconscious the whole time.
 
Even though my father had already passed away more than a decade now, I still thought of him sometimes.  Occasionally, I still reflect upon the period from which we lived together for the last eight years of his life, during which he was nearly completely deaf and blind for the very last two years.  My thought of him sometimes took me back to the past times, remembering how he used to be very angry and unhappy because he had to live with me.  Sometimes he would scream, curse, or keep pounding very loud on the kitchen table where he usually sat all night long, and he usually did that because he was angry about something, or at me.  Most of those times when he acted like that, the tenants from the apartment below us also pounded their ceiling to signal to us that they can’t sleep.  On one occasion when I was trying to feed him, by now he had become blind, deaf, and couldn’t feed himself without making a huge mess, he suddenly reached out to hold my hands and told me that I was his good son for taking care of him.  It was the rarest incident for me and a short-lived moment when I was deeply touched and quietly tearing up without his notice, but he soon forgot all about what he said because he was also very forgetful as he already reached his early nineties then.  Sometimes my father would say things like this; “If your wife didn’t want to live with you, what makes you think that I want to?”  Yes, by then I was already divorced and free to consider that I was the most suitable child to be there for him, but he couldn’t see or believe that.
 
Deep down inside, I believe I already figured out the reasons and understand why my father didn’t like me ever since the day I was born.  After he and my mother already have two sons who are my older brothers, my father by now was fully in favor of having a daughter next, but his prayer didn’t answer, which probably had crushed him completely with total disappointment.  Not only that, but I was also a colic baby, cranky, and crying all the time, and that must have had a lot to do with his negative reaction to my arrival in the family.  My father would show his obvious favoritism toward my older brothers, but his favorite kid should be a girl.  My older brothers to him were more of the Chinese cultural tradition, in which a man should have a proud son to carry on a family’s name and heritage, but the most expected child, a daughter, finally arrived as he wished.  She was the first girl, and then a younger one also came, but my father’s full attention had already been spent on the older one.  We also have one younger brother who came into the family, just in perfect timing to be the youngest and got to be a spoiled brat.
 
According to my father’s definition, a good son is one who makes his family proud.  This definition must include studious ambition and a will of hardworking.  A good son would be the one who is filial to his parents and will take on the family tradition and responsibilities to worship ancestors’ altars, and then pass it on to his son.  Oftentimes I had heard my father resenting the fact that none of his children is a doctor or financially successful, nothing like other kids from other people’s families.  Well, if this is so-called wishful thinking, I didn’t have any desire to be a doctor, and I can’t ever be studious because that was never my ambition.  I was the complete opposite of my oldest brother who always seem to have a clean-cut look, studious and done well in school, very good in Mandarin and excellent in Math, and is the oldest son of the family.  He was the son of whom my father was very proud, and I was on the opposite end of that stick.
 
I was growing up with the thinking that I must be on my own as soon as possible.  If anyone who ever grew up as a middle child in a family with at least four or five siblings, one would know that getting parental attention and priority is usually not much, or not at all.  Perhaps this is the reason why middle children are usually known to be more independent and well-trained at very early ages.  I was like that growing up.  For many years, I was assigned the type of chores like cooking or cleaning, or any type of chores that my older brother wouldn't have the time to do in addition to his study, and the younger sisters were too young to be responsible, like fetching water by hand for the family every other day.  My father sometimes would take me to work with him in the kitchen where he worked as a Chinese cuisine chef, which I believe we should have gotten extra paid for my labor.  On other occasions when my father was unemployed and had to depend on a noodle stand to feed the whole family, I was the one to help every day.  As his unfordable boy, being with my father for long hours wasn’t comfortable and not the type of days I would look forward.  But working for him was the hardest part of all, going from one miserable day to another being yelled at or listening to long lectures, especially when business was not going well while the next door’s business was booming.  I simply had no way out but to live as it was. 
 
All the turmoil of my life being a middle child finally changed, which came a year after the Vietnam war ended.  I was sixteen.  It was not necessarily for the better but for a different life.  The end of the Vietnam war was a historical political event for the country.  Even though Vietnam is my birthplace, I have hardly seen enough of it and didn't learn much about it in school.  The main reason was that we had always lived in isolated Chinese communities for all my years in Vietnam.  While death and separation of families were physically and emotionally devastating for many of those who survived the war, the end of it also brought sorrow, resentment, and hate to the people’s lives.  I, on the other hand, have seen a different path in life and moved on to be on my own away from home.  I am very thankful that the war had ended.  Being a kid going to school to learn Chinese while living in Vietnam didn’t end well for me, and I already knew then that I needed a different life, for better or worse.  In 1976, a year after the war had ended, I enrolled in the government railroad workforce and earned a living through hard labor at sixteen.  I even had to lie about my age to get it.  I wanted to see more of Vietnam, and the job provided me with that opportunity and the food as compensation to depend upon.  Most importantly, an opportunity to be on my own.
 
For a long period of two half years when I worked somewhere in the Central Region of Vietnam, our work unit was constantly on the move, and I was not permitted to go home, except for Tet and occasionally for a few days off to come home for replenishing my dried food supplies.  Even when I was home briefly, my father and I hardly ever had a good quality time or a conversation about anything.  But then on the night before I board the first wooden fishing boat that I was involved in escaping from Vietnam the next day, my father finally came and wanted to talk about what I will need to do when I got to America.  Somehow it seemed to him that I will get to America for sure.  The only left to say then was to remind me that I still have a family struggling to survive at home. 
(to be continued)




ps: can you tell the awkwardness of my father's reaction when I tried to shoulder with him for a photo?
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#15

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My father had also experienced his own life and death risky long journey escaping on a ship from Southern China to Hai Phong, Vietnam, in 1952.  With his own experience, he had no doubts that I will make it, or eventually anyway.  After that night and a brief conversation when he did most talking, we didn’t see each other again until the whole family came to Chicago in 1987 with my sponsorship.  Life in America has been very good for everyone in the family, even though we all had to be adapted to a completely strange culture and modern surroundings.  Even when my father was in his late 70s, he was still very capable of going on buses to the local Asian Town nearly every day, without knowing even a word of English.  His favorite thing about his new life in America was the monthly automatic SSI income.  As little amount as it was, it surely came every month, and it was more than enough for him to spend at coffee shops, a place he frequented and chitchatting with his old pals, and even enough for small bets on the routine game of Mahjong with his pals.
 
During the second year after we moved in to live together, one day I suddenly realized how old my father had become when I was curious as to why he didn’t like to go out anymore.  So my casual question in Cantonese was asking him, “how come you don’t play Mahjong with your pals anymore?”  It must have been one of the few conversations we ever exchanged in a long time.  His answer was short and it came with an indifferent straight face looking at me; “all my Mahjong pals are dead already.”  I was shocked to hear that.  I couldn’t help but wonder why he never mentioned anything about that before.  I also felt guilty and wondered how on earth why I didn’t notice his irregular routine as late.  This part said a lot about the two people living under the same roof but hardly sharing anything with each other.  He had his room and I had mine.  Even though I have always been working from home, other than some scheduled fieldwork and attending meetings, both of us were mostly staying home, but we didn't interact with each other much.  Most of the time it was my feeling that I should avoid getting on his nerve.  He would be sitting at the kitchen table, drinking his tea or coffee and playing the 13-cards Asian poker all by himself.  Occasionally I could hear him mumbling about how bad or excellent the dealt hand he holding was.  In the living room where I set up my workstation, I had multiple contracts to manage and was always busy with deadlines.
 
One thing about my father is that he used to be a locally well-known Chinese cuisine chef, so he didn’t like the homemade cooking that other people normally prepared at home, or any type of cooking coming from me, only his own.  Unfortunately, all that eventually had to change when he became blind.  One could imagine how insanely angry it must be when a professional chef like him no longer can cook for himself, but I had to firmly prohibited him to cook with his blind eyes.  He hated me for that even more.  The same thing is to say about my preference for not setting up altars in the apartment.  He hated that and we had heated arguments for months over that, but couldn’t do anything about it because it was my place, and I paid rent.  Perhaps he eventually accepted my explanation that I just didn’t like to worship the religion, any religions at all, and for the religious formality that a believer must follow, especially when reality always shows that commonly religious conflicts are created by the people from different religions.  Well, not like my father would care much about my explanation.  He had always believed that his residency at my apartment was only meant to be temporary until he moves to another sibling’s home, but that lasted eight years before he passed away at the hospital.  My father’s wish for his afterlife was for my older and younger brothers to have his altar set up in their homes where his favorable paternal grandsons live.  Both of my brothers were his real reliance to inhere in worshipping his afterlife spirit and his ancestors, in which he had openly expressed his wishes, even for the burial that his body must be laid and rested horizontally, not standing up vertically.
 
During the very last few years of his life, oftentimes my father got mad for no good reasons at all.  He became unhappier and acted out more frequently because he finally realized that he stuck with me for good.  Sometimes I couldn’t take anymore and left him with my brothers for days, but I still had to come home, sooner or later.  On certain nights when my father couldn’t sleep as he usually sleeps a lot during the day, he would talk all night long all by himself, mostly whining about how unhappy life was for him when he can’t see anything, and how badly his wife, my mother, and the children had treated him as nothing, especially me.  No one came over to visit him anymore, as he whined, but then had often forgotten who had already come to see him just the past weekend. Regardless of day or night, it makes no difference to someone who no longer can see, and he couldn’t care less if his whining loudly at night disturbs someone’s sleeping.  These were the times when I had to wake up in the middle of the night to beg him for quieting down.  The people from downstairs had numerous times told me how they felt about it as well.  They even strongly suggested that I should consider putting my father in a nursing home, but I knew better that such a move would be nothing less than trying to kill him sooner.  (to be continued)
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