If a quiet library with its towering walls of books, silent patrons and my own leather armchair is my vision of eternal bliss, then this refrigerator is a purgatory, if not hell, with its tiled floors and bright corridors, bland food under plastic covers, the bustle of helpless patients, nurses, therapists, visitors, the hum of the television.
i have never met anyone
reading a book
Most of the staff, dressed in nursing suits or polo shirts and chinos, are Filipino. U.S. colonial rule in the Philippines created this pathway for nurses to come to the United States, while also depleting the country’s own medical professionals and depriving left-behind children of their mothers, who were exported to care for others around the world.
Where are the TV comedies about this?
female? Call it “Filipino”. Or “feel”.all those
actors and dancers who worked in the philippines
“Miss Saigon” is waiting.
When I look at patients numbly, they are lying numbly on their beds or sitting numbly in their wheelchairs in the hallway. Old and sick, or old and dying. From time to time someone screamed. I don’t want to end here.
My mother would be here for days, weeks or months. I do not remember.
What I remember is that this time was different from other times.
As I drove my brother and father to visit my mother, I realized that her condition was not going to get better. As they discussed Ma’s condition, I learned that, except for occasional brief visits, Ma never descended from her surreal state into our reality. I was ambushed by myself, and the cries and tears broke down the walls that separate you and me, me and myself. Fourteen years have passed since I first found myself trapped in an Asia Pacific psych ward.
Neither my father nor my brother spoke as I held the steering wheel and tried to squeeze out tears.
I recovered. I control myself. I put you back where you belong.
My father and brother continued their conversation.I
We never talk about this moment.
After Má was released from the nursing facility, Ba took her body home. But it wasn’t her idea. Not fully. Her mind spends most of its time traveling through a different parallel universe. Still, she occasionally returns to our reality, enough to note that from the age of seventy-two, when he should be flying around the world on a Boeing plane, he’s still stuck on Earth. Go home. He spent the next ten years taking care of Mom without complaint, ignoring my brother’s and my pleas to hire help he could easily afford.
As a kid, I watched my dad cook, buy groceries, and vacuum the house. The typical Vietnamese man is allergic to these chores. Later I understood that this ordinary behavior is love.
In 2012, Austrian film producer Michael Haneke,
I admire his work and made “Amour,” about a
A loving couple in their eighties.
My wife suffered a stroke and became disabled, so I left her
Helpless, under the care of her husband.outside of
Deeply in love, he suffocates her, he is
And then alone, maybe even dead,
in their Paris apartment.
Haneke. Always a crowd pleaser.
Not a suitable director
A movie about Bama.
Their love is about endurance. Both knew how to suffer and sacrifice, with no reward recognized by anyone but their son, no drama of murder-suicide or crucifixion.
Many medications for horses come in a modified cookie jar that prevents this drama from happening. Medication calmed her down. Reduce the chance of self-harm. Preventing her from completely escaping our reality. She was tethered so tightly to the track that Ma was very quiet, moved slowly, and barely did anything. But she recognized Ellison and me, my son, and her other grandchildren, though the glow of recognition quickly faded.
Unlike Haneke’s two-hour-seven-minute film,
This quiet game is slow and puzzling
“Happy Days” by Samuel Beckett
It lasted ten years.
Beckett also wrote in “The Unknown”:
You have to continue, I can’t continue, I will continue.
How appropriate is it for refugees, which
Beckett is one of them. As for Bama,
they just keep going
Horses were not counted as one of the casualties of the war, but what do you call someone who lost her country, most of her wealth, her family, her parents, her (adopted) daughter and her peace of mind because of the war? Woolen cloth?
The casualties of the war have never been counted. Never commemorated, never named on a wall, never mentioned in novels and plays, never shown in a movie. Refugees, suicides, disabled people, homeless people, traumatized people, those who have left this reality behind. Those who never knew.
People of Vietnam, how do you separate what is unique about you from the trauma of war, colonization, the division and reunification of the country?
Avoid becoming a refugee or stay?
No longer a refugee, a soldier, a child of a survivor?
To be the children of those who didn’t survive?
How do you separate yourself and your memories from history?
How do you differentiate your presence from so many absences?
Question I can only
Ask and never answer.
In 2015, after ten years of caring for my mother alone, my then 82-year-old father surrendered. Dad moved Mom to one of those compassionate nursing homes you see in movies or soap operas, which was quiet and carpeted and had a piano in the common room that Dad played for Mom when he visited. He taught himself to play piano as an adult and mandolin in his later years.
Sometimes I wonder what he would have been like if he had
My son’s education was with a private piano teacher.
But then he would no longer be his father, and
I wouldn’t be who I am now.
My mother lived in the memory care unit of a nursing home where the staff was almost entirely Filipino and the residents ate together in a sunny dining room with silverware, plates, table service and bland food with very little salt. She was as still as water in a clogged sink. Her medicine didn’t always work. One day I learned that she jumped out of bed, then fell out of bed and broke her arm, or so the staff said. A doctor I had never met before was adjusting her medications. Her arms were permanently damaged and either curled up against her body or floated uselessly around her.
I can’t remember now if that was her left arm or her right arm.
In 2018, Ma’s condition worsened. She needed X-rays, MRIs. The memory care center can no longer care for her. She returns to the sanitarium, the setting for a horror movie scarier than Hollywood could have imagined. A Hollywood drama can be completed in just a few hours, but killing a person can take much longer. In Ma’s case, thirteen years of slow erosion, cell after cell death, took its toll on her body and mind.
Ba calls for a priest. Soon, a middle-aged man with gray hair arrived, wearing a black white-collar uniform. He stood at his mother’s bedside and performed the last rites in Vietnamese. I don’t understand these words. Mom didn’t open her eyes.
The ceremony is completed in seconds and the priest is present for several minutes. I expected the seriousness of the Vietnamese saint, a pat on the shoulder, but he showed no concern or even pretended to share my father’s sorrow. All the emotion the priest showed while making the sign of the cross was probably washing the dishes.
Father. son. Holy Spirit.
bar. I. and this-
Memory, history, commemoration——
I’m already thinking about this ghostly thing
Má As I die, my art is the closest thing I have to
Spirit. Or a ghoul. Then I looked at Má,
As I’ve thought many times before:
How would I write this?
I expected more from this Vietnamese priest. But I said nothing. Tomoe was grateful, held the priest’s hand, and bowed slightly. If my father was grateful, what could I, an ungrateful man, say. Maybe when I’m old, shaky, and fragile like Tomoe, I’ll be grateful too.
We took Mom back to her house in the suburbs. The vast green lawn was now a patch of dirt, and Tomoe was too tired and distracted to maintain it. I slept in a bedroom upstairs, the same bedroom I slept in my last two years of high school. It’s December. The house is cool, especially the downstairs bedroom where mom sleeps. We rolled her rented hospital bed into the family room, where the TV had been barely watched since Mom got sick, and the sound system had never been listened to even while Mom was recovering. Background music is not part of family life. The house is usually as quiet as an empty church. There was no soundtrack as I moved from December 22 to December 23, when Má took her last breath, 13 years after her final collapse. The only witnesses were my father, brother, sister-in-law and me.
Má was born in 1937 as Nguyễn Thị Bãy, a poor girl in a poor village in northern Vietnam. She died in 2018. Her original name was Linda Kim Nguyen, an American citizen who lived an ordinary yet epic life.
At seventeen, she married and became a refugee for the first time.
When I was seventeen, I had almost no
Graduated from high school
Because I almost failed
At the age of thirty-eight, Ma, the mother of two biological sons and an adopted daughter, became a refugee for the second time, and her sequel began in a foreign country.
At the age of thirty-eight, I
write a short essay
The story about Má.
Má’s name is Bãy. In rural Vietnam, it is common to name children with numbers. Families usually have many children. Some people will not survive. Why give a girl her real name?
As a girl, the seventh child, she deserved no more.
Má hates this birth name. During the last decades of her life, she wanted to be called her American name, Linda. But both of her names feel foreign on my tongue. I never called her by her name, I just called her Mẹ when I was a child, and Má when I grew up. Her journey as a refugee even shaped what I call her. Northerners say Mẹ, Southerners say Má, and I am, as always, somewhere in between.
Most Americans who have seen Má probably only see her mortal, mundane coils. If they knew anything about her, they might know that she had been a shopkeeper, a businesswoman, a refugee. If they know nothing about her, she’s just another Asian woman who doesn’t speak English well. Mẹ, or Má, never wanted to mention that she only had a primary school education. I’m reporting on her, but she deserves to be reported as well, even if it’s not the secret I’m reporting on. Look at what Ma has accomplished with only a primary school education, she has overcome everything – almost everything – except her mind.
Like many others, I was defeated.
A hero is not someone else’s
A hero, but not a soldier. People like Ma who will not be remembered by history are also part of history, drafted as unwilling participants in horrific wars. Twentieth-century wars—including Vietnam—killed at least as many civilians as soldiers.
Civilian stories can also be war stories.
Maybe what happened to my mother was just the fate of her body and mind. But history and war have taken turns to hit horses. It made her uneasy. Break her.
my mother child
They are also Bama’s children, and they chose each other. Even though we lost my mom over the years, she never lost her father’s love. She saw this reality from a surreal orbit. I know because the last words my mother said in the family ward before praying the Lord’s Prayer with my father on the hospital bed were for my father, for my father:
I love you.
I will translate this even though
Translation is not enough:
I love you.
After the Lord’s Prayer, there was silence.
My doctor brother gave Má morphine
My sister-in-law, the doctor, looked on.
Má’s eyes were closed for a long time.her breath
I leaned close to her and told my mother in Vietnamese that I loved her.
She lived a wonderful life.work hard and live hard
sacrifice. A hero’s life.a life
It takes so much power,
Dedication and love.
I don’t know where my mother is
These qualities are found.but i am
beneficiary.These words, this belief
For her, this betrayal was the result.
The horse’s eyes did not open. She showed no sign of hearing.
Her breathing finally stopped. It’s midnight.
Her journey on this earth is complete.
My mother is mine and mine
My mother is also other to me.
My brother called. Within an hour,
A polite stranger, possibly Filipino, arrives
Take the gurney, fill out the forms, take my mother away,
Leave the empty hospital bed in the family room,
and took my mother into the night.
I remember my mother loved me.
I can forget. ❖
This is taken from “A man with two faces: a memoir, a history, a memorial“.