Khloe, 10th - Oakland, CA
My father takes on multiple roles: a loving husband, dad, son, uncle, and a dedicated city worker putting in significant effort no matter the task. Deciphering him? It's a fine task. Born and raised in Vietnam, he made the decision to move here with his family, parents, and eight siblings, likely to escape the war. In my earlier years, I lacked insight into our roots and his personal history. Our narrative consisted only of us, devoid of stories about dogs, chilly nights, damp soil, or covert maneuvers in the bushes. I never heard about the beams from flashlights or the swift journey to the boat. He never shared that he left it all behind, including his favorite coat.
"Gong do di Jungman, I don’t want you to lose it.” That's his motto. Speaking from a wealth of experience, akin to when he lost his command over Vietnamese. He endeavors to instill in me the importance of speaking Cantonese, urging me to embrace my mother tongue. I grasped it during my youth—listening and understanding. But now? It’s like conversing in code—challenging to articulate, comprehend, respond to, or even think clearly. Everything I once excelled at vanished. I'm attempting to relearn, to regain that fluency. All I wish for is to absorb it once more.
His recurring, signature, go-to line. His mantra. “I told you so.” Anticipating events is his forte. He'd always anticipate the worst; expect even. But, more often than not, it played out. "I told you so," he'd say. Over time, it may seem like a nag, but fundamentally, it has always served as a warning. He's known me for all my life. He knows the mistakes I’ll make. He senses an impending storm, though it's not just some parental cliche. I know it’s just him worrying and looking out for me. Though sometimes I wish he’d just let me be free.
"There's no point in buying it when we can make it at home." or "I can make it better." He's always worried about money. Times were tough when he was younger. New to the country, but most importantly, there wasn’t much money. Even though we’re financially stable now, the echoes of tougher times persist.
When I was younger, I always thought it was unfair that my dad was stricter than all the others. He’d unleash these long outbursts and never-ending lectures that always seemed to repeat themselves. Though these lectures were always meant as a lesson, I never knew his constant nagging and demand for my attention was always to teach me something. As I grew, I caught on. In his previous directions, he never meant them as a suggestion. Be more thankful. Ask, listen, cooperate. To look at the roof over my head and feel full as I’m being fed. Realizing that my father traded his youth for my future, even when faced with adversity - an unwavering pillar supporting my journey.
Students 6th-12th Grades