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  • I want to write this post, just to tell you more about a man in my life that I rarely go into details about. The man that I have had the longest relationship with, the very first man I ever learned to love. My father.

    Growing up you tend to think of your parents as invincible super heroes. In the matter of fact they seem so untouchable and super human that you forget the are regular people too. You forget that they were young once, they were once unsure of their futures, they fell in love and could of very possibly gotten hurt before, they have their own relationships with their parents, they once thought of the possibility of having kids, they once wondered if they would make a good father, a good mother, a good son, a good daughter. They have fears, dreams, aspirations, doubts and everything else in between just like you and me.

    My father grew up as the oldest of 4 children. He grew up during a time of uncertainty, war, rebellion and poverty. My father himself lost his own father at the age of 16 to war, and quickly learned to be the man of the house at an age where you should be living young wild and freely. My father had big dreams as a kid, he wanted to learn, he wanted to succeed and climb the ladder of opportunities that education could provide for him, but as the eldest son of a new widowed mother during a time of war, he unfortunately never was able to go to college, he sacrificed his dreams to work to help his mother and to take care of his siblings. My father once told me during that time he would save a portion of money for himself, he would visit a bookstore searching for new books to read to educate himself, he came back to that bookstore so many times that the owner ended up lending books to him one at a time, and that was how he educated himself while caring for his siblings and helping his mother. The government at the time suppressed any opportunities that came my father's way, providing no venues for him to attempt as a brighter future. By the age of 29 my father had already attempted twice to escape from Viet Nam to the US by boat and was caught both times and thrown in jail along with his 2 brothers who were with him at the time. In jail my dad survived working hard labor 10 hours a day, and portioning his food only eating 1/3, leaving 2/3s of his daily portions for his younger siblings. The times when I sit and complain about the petty first world problems, my dad often times refer to this time in his life and tell me a simple statement that could drown me of pure guilt.

    "You will never appreciate what you have on your plate until you know the true feeling of what it means be hungry."

    After the 2 unsuccessful attempts of fleeing the country my father had lost hope and decided to marry his girlfriend of 6 years at the time, my dear mother. Shortly after their marriage my mother was pregnant with her firstborn, and that would be me. My father told me after he heard the news he came to sudden realization and panic that if his kids had big dreams to achieve, Viet Nam was not the nest for his kids to do that, he knew that he must leave Viet Nam. He knew there was no future for his kids there, a Viet Nam that have changed so drastically, one that he is no longer familiar with. That was when my father decided to take the biggest risk of his life, to attempt to flee the country as boat people for the 3rd time, not as a single young man but as a married man with his 5 month pregnant wife with everything and more to loose.

    I asked my dad not too long ago. "Dad, how did you find the strength to hop on a tiny boat with 30 other people to flee into the darkness across a vast ocean, just hoping for a small chance that someone will save you?" I know that if it was me in that situation, for sure, I would not be able to show such bravery. It purely blows my mind how my parents had such bravery leave all that they ever knew behind to attempt just a small opportunity at a new land that they know not of the language or culture. My dad replied to me in Vietnamese.

    "At the time I knew I had to risk our lives for freedom, for opportunity, a life is not a life if my children are unable to pursue their dreams. Me and your mom were floating lives on a vast large ocean, praying that God would look down on us and give us just once chance."

    Growing up my father was not around often. My father was always working, always providing. I remember during a dark phase in my life where my relationship with my father was at one of its lowest points I told my father in the heat of the moment one of the most spiteful things I ever uttered from my mouth, "You have succeeded as a provider to me, but you have not been a father to me." Every time now I think of that ridiculous, insensitive and ungrateful comment I cringe. I never realized how much my father really loved me and my brother, I expected my father's love to mirror the love of those "American" fathers on TV. The ones who takes their daughters to buy their prom dresses, the ones that hug and kiss their daughters when they come home from work, the ones that attended parent meetings, the ones that ate dinner with them everyday. I was incredibly wrong. My father have always been the one with the oldest version of a cell phone, the one that drove the oldest car, used the oldest laptops, the last one to pick up his chopsticks to pick up food from the table, my father have always lived for everyone else but himself. I know now that my father's love is not a standard, buts its one that is irreplaceable, and impossible to reproduce.

    Now a days I am no longer living at home, but I make time to come home as much as I can. Even if I'm not home, my father calls me everyday exactly at 7:30pm during his break at work. We talk about the same things everyday, what did I ate that evening, what did I do that day, and the highlights of my day. Some days the conversations seem like de ja vu and repetitive. It seems like we have already talked about it, but I can tell in my father's voice that in between the fatigue there is an unseen smile.

    When I was little my dad used to drive me to San Francisco, prop me against the backdrop of the golden gate bridge and take pictures of me, and drive our family to the beach every year. My father have not been able to do that for a while. I realize now that gradually my father is relying on me more to drive him places, to take him places, to set up opportunities for him to do and see new things. My dad, the man who works his whole life for his kids, never left the house on weekends, have been more proactive about going to places more recently. He encourages me to come home more, and asks me to take him to more places, to more restaurants and to see more things. I asked him last weekend out of curiosity. "Dad how come you have been wanting to go out more often?" He just replied, "I realize that I can work more, but you can keep working and keep making more money, but it will never be enough, you just have to stop working and live a little."

    It was quite heart wrenching when I realized that my dad came to realization now that he spent his entire life working to provide for his kids, now in his late 50's I can see it in his eyes that he knows that he does not have much more time to do all that he wants to do, see all that he wants to see. I see that my dad is in a rush to live more, and to make more use of all the time he has on this world. Now that I'm finally a young working professional, he finally has an opportunity to do that. I'm always telling me dad not to worry too much and think too far ahead but he always answered with "You shouldn't assume that, time pass very fast, faster than you are ready for, remember the day I drove you up to college for your freshmen orientation, look where you are now."

    My dad's enthusiasm to go out to do more things has definitely increased, but sadly I see his strength decreasing. I would take my dad places, show him new things, but he's tired, jaded, and has to go home earlier than planned. He is happy nonetheless but every time I recognize this super human of my childhood memories not being able to keep up to me and my brother when we go out, it breaks my heart. I currently have not yet achieved what I want in my career path, and have a 3-4 year plan to get there. I have this heavy feeling in my heart as time passes and my dad grows older, that I won't be able to achieve it fast enough to conserve all the umph my dad has left.

    I wonder if that day comes, when I have the success to do and live how I want. The freedom to take my dad where he wants to go, for him to do the living he dreams to do, that my dad would still have the strength and energy to do so. I can only hope that once I reach my glory days, my dad would still have the energy he once had as that brave man that risk his life for the future of his kids, to spend it with me, and to truly live the rest of his life for no one other than himself.

    Dear Dad, I don't know why I'm talking to you through a blog I know you will never read but there is just a couple things I must get off my chest. I apologize for all the hateful things I said to you as an ungrateful, fearless adolescent. I don't think anyone in this world will ever understand how much I love you. And although you don't kiss or hold me when you come home from work, or buy me that beautiful prom dress I wanted, I understand that your love is indescribable and more extensive than I could ever imagine, even if the words "I love you" have never been exchanged between me and you my whole life. I cannot imagine a day without you in my life, or a life without your support. I hope you are able to read in between the lines everyday when I talk to you every day at 7:30, that I am trying really hard, and that I hope you to stay healthy and strong. So that within a couple years, I can take you to all the places you ever wanted to go in your life. So that never once again you have to worry about the amount of money you have in your bank, and whether or not it covers for our household expenses. I know that you have sacrificed so much in your life for ours. I just hope that one day I am able to repay a minuscule portion of your sacrifices. I just hope you know just because your children now have their own lives does not mean that they have forgotten about you. I want to remind you of all the future beautiful moments you still have to live and experience. Such as when I finally achieve my dreams using the opportunity you have given me when you risk your life to come here, or when you finally walk me down my aisle during my wedding, or the first time you will be able to hold your first grandchild and to be there for all your grandchildren, as the most hardworking, caring, and amazing grandfather in the world.

    I love you Ba. The loudest 4 unspoken words that have ever been left unsaid.
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