The Years of Suffering

“I got you, I got you...” The loud voice of a man echoes in the silent afternoon at Lake Washington. The laughter of a girl follows. I stop reading and turn toward the laughter. My gaze remains: a man is holding a little girl in his arms, turning around, and laughing with the girl. “Dad, dad, dad...please put me down!” The little girl’s begging bring me back to the time that I begged, “Dad, dad, dad...please out me down!”

Thirteen years ago, my father put me down as I begged him and then left me for seven years even though I had never begged him for that. It was in Vietnam in 1982, at my grandmother’s apartment. After having chased me around the dining table, my father held me in his arms and raised me in the air. “Dad, dad, dad...please put me down!” I begged him and laughed. Suddenly, someone knocked on the door very hard. Before my father reached the door, it was pushed open suddenly. After that, a strange man pointed a gun toward my father, and then four more armed men jumped into the house through the window. They all yelled, “Freeze!” I stood as still as my father did. It seemed that a cold air was covering the room and a black sheet was blocking my sight. The house was in a heavy silence, and my face turned blue. I stared at them with the utmost terror and could not even hear or understand what was happening around me. I could not say anything until they handcuffed my father and took him out. “Dad, dad, dad, ...” I yelled with tears on my face, but the only response was from my father’s eyes.

I appreciated my father most because of his absence in my childhood years. Similar to every man who worked for the American government in the Vietnam War, my father was forced to be re-educated in jail on May 1975 after the Communist government took over South Vietnam. On November of 1975, I was born without my father present. Six years later, when I was five years old, for the first time in my life I heard my father’s voice, got his hug, and called him Dad. Unfortunately, just was one year later, in 1982, my father once again was taken away from the family. The Communist government put him in prison for seven years because he led the Vietnamese against them. When I was almost fifteen years old, at the age that my father could not hold me in his arms and raise me in the air anymore, he was released from jail.

Now, looking at the little girl, I remember the most memorable time in my childhood. I was just like her, the same age, the same begging, and the same laugh; however, her father has put her down but does not leave her as my father did. Therefore, she laughs instead of crying and yelling as I did.

I was thirsty for years, but it was not from having an inadequate amount of water. I did not receive either the love of my father or the care of my mother. As I reported the event to every single relative of my family, I increased the pain in my heart. Then, there was time for the silence and the challenge. My mother had to work for almost fourteen hours a day, seven days a week like a machine in order to feed the family. The family included my mother, my father (in jail), my brother (nine years old), and me. My brother worked as a dish-washer in my uncle’s restaurant in order to help my motherwithour school supplement. Therefore, cooking and taking care of thehouse was my job. There was no time for my mother, my brother, and me to laugh or even cry. There was just time for work. I had a real family, but we could not see each other more than two hours a day.

The time passed very slowly, and the silence covered our house for seven years. Our family situation made me become a withdrawn person, and the event of taking away my father affected my character. I was scared of going out because I did not want to see other people who were living happily. The more happiness they had, the more pain I gained. I hated to hear my friends telling me that their father gave them a new toy or took them to see a movie. On birthdays, they were happy, but I cried because nobody celebrated my birthday with me. The responsibility was so heavy on my mother’s shoulder that she did not have any time to take care of her children. I did not blame anybody but my fate. I just wanted to stay at home in order to have time for praying, wishing, and dreaming of having a perfect life and a wonderful family. Besides, there was nobody who had time to take care of or control me, so I did whatever I wanted to and did not care if I hurt others. Sometimes, I believed that I had the right to take things from other people because my father had been taken away from me. The fact that I “lost” my father became the most suffering event in my life. It made me fear the word “loss.” Whenever I lost my toy, failed a test in class, or could not get what I was seeking, the word “loss” echoed in my head. I feared that my life would be full of “loss.” This feeling stayed in my mind and my dreams for years.

At Lake Washington, the man is now reading a book to the little girl. She listens and tries to make sound like her father does. I turn away and try to concentrate on my reading, but the words are dancing on the paper. The tears block my sight. Books, school, and education had brought tears to my mother, my brother, and me once. “I know that you like to draw, you’re good at drawing, and you want to be an artist, but there is no way for me and your brother to afford you that much money in order to go to that art school,” my mother said to me in tears. I threw away my interest in art and gave up my goal when I was in the sixth grade, which was just two years before my father was released. If my father had been there with us, my mother would not have had to work like a machine, my brother would not have had to work at the age of nine, and I would not have lost my goal.

At Lake Washington, it’s getting dark. The man has left with his little daughter, and the silence comes back to the lake; however, the tears are still on my face and that memory stays in my mind. Even though today my father is living with us, he cannot heal the pains of my mother, my brother, and me. After seven years of working, my mother has a back problem that can’t be cured. My brother’s thoughts are old beyond his age, and I trade my enthusiasm for envy when I am around happy people. This sadness has been with me since the day my father was taken away.