My parents come before I

How best to tell my story but start at the beginning?

There is a current in my life. I was born on the shores of Asian parents: ruthless, demanding and wishing me all the best. It was something I was conditioned to and I have always washed up to their whims. Disappointed and never appreciative of my talents. It was always medicine, accounting, engineering—Ideas and the ever-proliferating career suggestions that held no interest to me.

I loved writing but they are my parents, and that means everything to me. Friends always wondered why I bend to their wishes—push over they called and perhaps a little context would suffice.

It’s every parent dream to watch their son grow up in success. For my parents—they have a right to be disappointed. I had everything they’d ever wanted. A comfortable affluent life, private school education, a car, a home, anything I ever wanted.

My parents too braved waves. They washed up on shores—fleeing Vietnam was in the grips of civil war. One of my great grandpa’s was a landowner in Vietnam. By royal decree, he was gifted the lands by the then emperor, as a tribute to his services as a personal doctor.

When the Vietnam War began in 1962, their lands were confiscated and on my father’s side, the family slated for execution. I suppose it was lucky then that not all landowners were reviled as the communists believed.

The local village rebelled—hid my family and they fled with few possessions. My grandpa wasn’t so lucky.

Not killed—thankfully but captured, held imprisoned. My dad doesn’t talk about it.

I don’t want to imagine the horrors that occurred to him there.

By that time, the rest of the family had moved south. Grandma, bless her soul, refused to leave family behind. She walked north on foot—a trip of several weeks. There was a lot of fighting at that time, tensions and fear. She walked a tightrope across the ocean where a fall would mean she’d drown.

She came back of course—a rescued grandpa in tow.

I’m not sure how my uncles and aunts were young and grandma doesn’t speak English. She’s old now and I don’t want to bring up terrible memories.

Darwin_harbour_w685
Conditions on boats were always cramped. It was estimated 200,000-400,000 Vietnamese died at sea. Photo Courtesy National Museum of Australia

The war turned sour and both my mum and dad fled with few possessions. Grandpa despite his wealth was a fisherman. Mum’s family wasn’t so fortunate; they bought passage from people smugglers to escape.

My dad was thirteen when he came to Australia.

Mum was twelve.

Australia was a much more welcoming place then; dad was taken in by a charitable family willing to him and so was mum. Dad was one of seven children, mum the second youngest of eight.

Amidst the waters and the turbulence of language barriers, there were depths my parents couldn’t hope to reach. Somewhere along the way, they found a place for themselves and each other.

With no money, my refugee parents made what they could for themselves. Afterschool mum, worked hours a week. Her mother had procured the recipe for Vietnamese sliced pork (bi), a lucrative luxury amongst the early community.

800px-Com-Tam-2008
Vietnamese shredded pork (b) was considered essential to the ethnic broken rice dishes (com tam)

 

Everything was offered in exchange for the recipe: Sons, daughters, money. There was also the odd case of blackmail (Or so I’ve been told!).

Eventually, their monopoly ended but mum succeeded and made something for her life.

Dad was no different but they eventually built a thriving business for themselves in retail and I washed up on their shores.

It’s every parent dream to watch their son grow up in success. For my parents—they have a right to be disappointed. I had everything they’d ever wanted. A comfortable, affluent life, private school education, a car, a home, anything I ever wanted.

They’ve crested a wave a life in their making and they turn around—look at me, on my yacht, helipad, swimming pool and all. Floundering.

I suppose luxury yachts aren’t suited to the storms they faced.

They can’t see my talents in creativity. They might reject that, reject me and what I want in life, but for all that they are my parents and I love them.

 

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