“When you were born, nobody was by my side in the hospital. Your father had left me and never came back.”
“Really? Who took you to the hospital?”
“I came to the United States a few months before you were born. My family, my relatives, and my friends were all in Viet Nam. I had no one to turn to in the United States. The personal who took me to the hospital was a female friend. She drove me to the hospital and then left.”
My mother told me this story when I was beginning my 7th grade. At that time, I did not realize what importance that story had and how it affected my life. I have thought much about it over the next several years and have slowly begun to realize what I was missing in my childhood.
When children are young, their fathers play catch with them in the backyard, take them to Disneyland, take them to the zoo and let them touch the animals, swing them around in the air, hear their secrets, build model airplane and put together puzzles with them, and do many things with them. I did not have this experience in my life. Up until now, I did not realize that my childhood could have been better.
My mother mentioned my uncle often, but never my father.
When I was little, she told me, my uncle had just arrived in the United States. He knew very little English and struggled to find a job while studying at the same time. He shared a room in our home in Garden Grove, the home that I have lived in ever since I can remember. My mother would tell me stories about how my uncle helped me in everything.
“When you were little, your uncle did not want you to suck on a bottle. He was afraid you would harm your teeth. So he took you into the backyard where I would not see you and would force you to drink milk from a cup. You would cry and cry.”
“When you were little, your uncle did not want you to experience he did, so he taught you math. When you were four years old, he asked you what was math problem here. You could not answer it at first and cried. You asked me for the answer, but I did not tell. After much crying, you said the correct answer, and he rewarded you with a stack of coloring books.”
My Uncle Barry did more things for me and loved me more than any other person, besides my mother, of course. Seeing the importance of education and understanding the concept that “All men are born free,” and have equal opportunities to succeed, Uncle Barry was determined to see that I would succeed in life. From seventh grade and throughout high school, my uncle helped me the only way he could, by teaching and helping me with math. Every day I would fax math questions I needed help with and he would take time to help me, even though he was supposed to be working. In addition, every week he would sacrifice his free time to teach me math so I can be ahead in my math class. Gradually I became less dependent on him because I was able to understand math concepts on my own. However, occasionally I would require help and he was happy to help me.
[arg, feels better *somewhere* else]My mother had nobody to support her 17 or 18 years ago. Initially she could only speak very little English, and she wanted to increase her English speaking skills by taking ESL classes at community colleges. However, she could not take classes because I was constantly sick. For some reason, I became sick every few weeks when I was in elementary school. Because my mother did not have anyone to take care of me, she had to be absent from her classes. Eventually she had to completely drop the classes to take care of me. As a result she is not very fluent in English today.
I believe that if I did not have my Uncle Barry to help me, my life would be quite different. My uncle essentially took up my father’s role. He loved me as much as any father would. He made me feel as if I did not need a dad. It took several years of thinking and pondering before I was able to reflect upon my past and realize this. Even now he still helps me by tutoring me in math and taking me every week to practice tennis with him.