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  • My paternal grandparents had an arranged marriage back in Vietnam; I'm not sure in what year, maybe 1930s. At the time, my grandfather was 16 years old, and my grandmother was 12. The idea was that he would go off to France to study, and when he returned four years later, they would consummate the marriage. And that is what happened.

    My earliest memory of them is my grandfather being very angular and intellectual, while my grandmother was rounded and had betel juice stained teeth. I thought she had such bad teeth that they had turned black, only learning the truth very close to her death. He used to wear a fedora and a suit and ride an old bicycle around town, and I thought he looked so dashing. They had six children — five boys with the second child the only girl. My father was the youngest.

    They passed away over 10 years ago, he first and then a year later she, after a life of over 70 years together. Even though they had been arranged, they were bound so much by what they had been through together: two wars, six children, three continents, and eighteen grandchildren.

    They had lost nearly everything in the Vietnam War when they fled the country, but we found out after they died that my grandmother had managed to sneak one photo album with her in the escape. It may not be a love I fully understand, but that it existed was clear.
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