My father finally made it to the US in the late 80s. I was junior in high school, and too self-absorbed and teenage bitchy to appreciate that he too had his many struggles and challenges having been separated from us kids for over a decade. .
This is a picture of him disembarking his plane in the Lincoln, Nebraska airport. Man does he look happy. Those many failed escapes from Vietnam, years of extreme poverty and no opportunity, all those months languishing in prison, re-education and refugee camps... all washed away in that beautiful, “wow I’m here” smile. Our family grins and bears it with great ease learned over years of self- loathing (what Americans call self-deprecating humor), living amongst a village of survivors because no one else understands. .
In my early 20s I finally got woke and started the repair work. Damn that was hard.
And because karma is often the best teacher, the ghost of my experience I was trying to shred, had my dad diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. When the doctor asked me to translate and ask him how long he had been smoking, my dad’s response was “when did I not smoke?” and the three of us laughed. The doctor gave him 6 months, he lived 9, long enough to see me get hooded for my PhD (on Father’s Day no less). Dad was hip to what a college education meant to people like us - immigrants- even if he didn’t understand why I took a post-doctoral fellow with little pay. Dad passed away 3 months later, and 3 months after that I was plotting what to do with my life if being an academic researcher was not all that. .
Well dad you’d be proud of me. I’ve failed many times but over the years have made a sport of jumping quickly back up; and yes because humiliation is a strong motivator. I’m also a much kinder person and forgive with a lot more grace. .
The worst is you didn’t get to meet your granddaughter. She’s a spitfire too, but with more talent and smarts. If you had the chance to watch me parent, you’d probably say “payback is a bitch yeah?” and we would laugh big together.
RIP Dad & #happyfathersday ❤️