Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have to tell his story

I cannot NOT tell you what I heard today. I have been going to the same nail salon for a while and though I am not regular, they know me.

I have usually been treated by the young wife who speaks very little English, but today the husband of the team did the manicure and as we chatted, he told me his story. Though good, his English is still improving and my Vietnamese non-existent. While I did ask questions, I didn't catch all the details and was more impacted by the bridled yet raw emotion that came through as he told his tale. I had only known him up to then as a light-hearted young father. This is his story.

During the Vietnam war, his father worked with the US forces, they did not want the Communist take over under way. When the US forces left before the formation of a local government, the communists from the north (that's what he called them) came in and violently took over.

The US was trying to get those who worked with them out as quickly as possible he said, but must not have gotten to his father in time. The Communists from the North put him in jail. He was there for three long years. He suffered so much during his imprisonment that he never recovered his health and has remained a cripple to this day. I don't know how his release happened but it did and later (again, I'm not sure how much later) he was able to come to the US with his family. My friend the manicurist was then a working young man.

He said life under the Communist from the North was horrible. The control was everywhere and anything could only be settled by a bribe, under the table was his gesture. Upon arriving in the US, life was hard, they shared a home with two other families. They worked for food, not even pay, but they were grateful to be here. They counted themselves lucky.

When he began to earn a living in the US, he saved it all so he could return yearly to visit his grandmother. Then he met his lovely wife. He quickly returned again to marry her. For nine long years, he worked and saved for that yearly trip to see his wife and eventually their little girl who now looks to be about 9 years old. The separation was horribly hard he said. A year and a half  ago he was finally able to bring her here through immigration channels. They are now working as a team in their shop and his family live over an hour's drive away. Though his father has remained very ill, things are much better for them all.

He kept saying, we were the lucky ones. It all started when I asked about a small picture of the two of them hanging on the wall. It just looked like an overseas picture to me for no particular reason. Yes, said he, that was taken after a church service in Vietnam. Then came the rest of the story. I will never forget it.

1 comment:

  1. Here a note of correction: I have removed from the story any mention of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Though the forces of North Vietnam (Viet Cong)found cover in Cambodia from which to attach South Vietnam, my dear husband pointed out that Pol Pot was the leader of Cambodia, not Vietnam. In my youth, these all blended as one and who can forget the Killing Fields. I found out the French had colonized several of these countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia, and called them French Indochina. There was naturally a desire to be free from French dominance and alignments to the Chinese by some and the Soviets by others complicated things further. The US entry may or may not have been wise but I do not believe it was ever to dominate and control.

    I stand corrected however, and am wracking my brain to remember if that is what my manicurist had said about who imprisoned his father. I decided to leave in only that of which I am absolutely sure. I might ask him next visit but I might not. It's not a topic for the light hearted banter of a nail salon.