My Life: Struggles, Loneliness, and a Single Dad
To the most attentive Redditors,
I stand here before you, to blurt it all out, that simply the story you about to hear is emotionally evoking story, that no books I've ever read will be that convincing to the grains of details; that story, none other, is the story of my life; to which bittersweet details I find still conforms me for who I really am today.
So aside from the intro, I just want to say that this story is written from my recollections and the deepest of my heart. If you like it, please share it so that everyone can enjoy it. I don't usually share my life story, but because of the circumstances I'm living in, it begs me to write the story. So enjoy with a cup of tea besides!
So, my family is very tiny. It consists of just 2 people: my dad and I. When I was about 3, my mother left us. Because of that, my dad became a single father overnight. At that time, we lived in Vietnam, with a small house on the outskirts. Our house wasn't big; it only have two floors and one of which was filled with croaches on the second floor. (The floor would creaks eerily with every steps) I remember from my childhood that I always stay at home alone, because my dad was the sole breadwinner. My dad would always locked the front door, and tell me, "Son, if you have any troubles, just call the neighbors." So there was I, alone at 4 years old, not having any significant "family moments" like any other American family I see on Facebook (More on America later). My other relatives, an uncle, lived miles far away, so virtually no one I can play with except my neighbors, who doesn't have any kids.
I mildly remember that at the age of 5, my dad bought me my first PC. It was a bulbous 90's monitor with the most clanky keyboard, so clanky in fact that I might as well bought an oil can and pour over it. It was the way that I connected to the outside world and it still is today as I'm writing in a cramped 100 square feet room (more on that later). Later that year, he called one of his tech friend to help installed "English games" inside the computer; and it was that moment that I was obsessed with games all day. I was hooked on Feeding Frenzy, Iggle Pops, Dynomite, and PVZ. I would try to beat Zuma, but loses at the second-to-last round because of my tiny hands, you know. If any of you know any GameHouse employees or Popcap employees, can you give me my sincerely thanks to them for creating my childhood games? I didn't know English well, but it was the game elements that speak to me; it was so simply anyone can play.
My dad is an driver-ed teacher at a drving school. it was an on-and-off job to make money. Sometimes, he would make money, other times he would not. At 2 years old, my dad rented and started a small photocopy shop at the place nearby. At first, he was successful, because the students of nearby school would come in and photocopy their school documents, but eventually, as he explained. with "rent cost rising, and the copy machine would constantly failed", it was too much for him. For that reason, I would remember my childhood with a photocopy machine draped with a black cloak at a corner of the already-small house.
At 5 years old, something came upon me, mathematics. My dad saw my peak interest in mathematics, so every night before bed, he would pull out a board the size of a minicar and would scribble down multiplication tables equation and made me fill from 0 X 0 = to 10 x 10 =. He would also buy books from the bookstore and fill the shelf by my desk. He also enrolled me into English schools, where I absorbed the material like the sponge. even got bored with the material so I just take frequent bathroom breaks and bailed out. At 6 years old, he used all of his money to help me attend an International School, which is where the school teaches you Humanities (Writing, Reading, Math in Vietnamese) and English with a certified nonnative English teacher. This is where I stand out the most. Because of my exposure to English at a young age, I was able to skip English class for 1st grader to English 6, English for 6th graders, while learning Humanities at 1st grade, which means I often make the transition back and forth.
All is kind-of going well for me until something happen that impact me the most. My mother, who lives near there, still frequently visits me whenever my dad left for work. She lives with her gambling friends day-by-day in a tiny convienience store. Then, one afternoon on a Saturday, as my dad was at home, my mother showed up. She had thought that my father has gone for work (One of her close friends live kitty-cross from our house). My dad demanded that she paid the money she stole from my dad for gambling years ago. She made up excuses; one arguments led to another. My dad closes the front glass door, and refuses to talk to her further. My mother, enraged, grabbed the metal chair in front of my neighbor's front porch and threw it towards the glass door. It shattered into millions of shards. My dad's instinct kicked in immediately, pushing me back away. He quickly grabbed his motorcycles and went to the police station, and told me not to sweep the shards away. (I went to grab a broom and a dustpan) My mother left the scene.
When I was in second grade, we received a second letter for an interview to the United States. My aunt from my grandmother's side (lives in America and still is) is sponsoring us. Before that, my first interview with my dad in 2009, became a flop. Because of the divorce and my birth certificate printing the wrong birthplace (It prints my mother's birthplace), the USCIS (Immigration dept.) got suspicious and denied the application. (They think it is a marriage scam, where a non-American pays to a American citizen a fee to help them get to America through the marriage visa) We've appealled and in 2012, we were prepped to do the second interview. This is it, it was make it or break it. I remember walking up to a female iimmigration officer and he would ask us to raise your right hands, say a pledge etc. Then she would ask my dad first, through an interpreter, all the questions in the documents. She turned to me, and I answered her, straight in English, about how I was living with my dad and my mother was already divorced. She has no intentions of going to the United States. After for about 40 minutes, my father and I were asked to take a seat. And this is what my dad said pharaphrased: "I remember that we were waiting almost all afternoon, as the sun nearly set. We were second-to-last to get called apart from another guy sitting by. The chairs were empty, and I remember the intercom calling my name. I walked up to them and they handed me a blank visa. I cried softly inside my piteous soul as they directed you and I to get our pictures taken."
So, my dad and I arrived in United States in March of 2012. My aunt and uncle picked us up from the airport. At first, I was kind of in shock of the roads and houses, but I just chuckled and kept it to myself. I arrived at their house, and the first I saw was my grandmother that I haven't seen ever. My grandfather came downstairs, and say that "you are lucky to get here" in a mildly condescending tone. So, my aunt and uncle (let's called them A&U) gave us a room of about 130 sq. ft with a decent-sized closet. So, my dad and I set up our belongings in our closet and we quickly got settled there. A few months later, my dad bought two wooden desks from a friend. So, basically, two people lived in a room. From that point on, I never really have my own privacy space. I became mature enough when I was 7 and onwards. Because my dad knows limited English, he would often turn to me for English documents and for daily activities like buying things at Safeway etc. I would talk with people in English, paused, and translated that back to my dad, then with his quick, almost scream-like tone answers, translated that back to the speaker. Basically, I was his free translator. (Beat that Google Translate) To be honest, this made me shameful of myself in front of friends. I was thinking to myself that my friend saw how my English skills was phenomenal, and then to see my dad speaking non-English to him. That is a lot of guilt to carry for me at that time. Conflicts of my identity began to pop up. I saw how my uncle would often drove his kids to go out and play in the beaches, while often I have to stay back and do homeworks, help out the houses (my aunt commanded me to), and "be with my dad". I witness the lack of "Family material" in myself. It was just my dad and I, only on the journey of grim loneliness. I wish I have someone to turn to for my misery and confusion, but turning to my dad would often end it a "Suck it up" attitude. I was the lone rider of my journey. My dad found a job at a casino called Riverside as a cook. He would often work at night from 10pm to 5am. It was that job that he got his first traffic ticket, and I have to dispute with through phone. He often said it was the most grueling job, but also the most rewarding in terms of food discounts and tips.
After 3 years, A&U sold their first house to buy a second house in a nearby neighborhood, because that neighborhood associates with a different (richer) school district. They did that for their kids, so my dad and I moved with them there. And obviously, my A&U and their kids get the master bedroom, grandfather and grandmother gets decent-sized rooms, we were to get the smallest room in the house. The new room was about the same as the old one. So, we quickly moved our desks in by ourselves. I was about 10 and a few months. I remembered in that closet we would stashed Halloween candies inside a plastic bag labeled Free Tax-Duty. (Bag from my Aunt's Canadian trip found in her sink) and small 3-file cabinets to store knick knacks and paddy whacks. There is a reason why though, and that is my aunt. If there was one word to describe my Aunt, it would be: authoritative. She would be nit-picky about that little speck on the glass that I need to wipe until it's gone by using paper and Chlorex. She would say the floor is so dirty, and literally I could not see a speck of dirt anyway. She would always She wanted things to do her own way. And whenever there was those episodes, my grandmother and grandfather would side with her and berate me, calling me illiterate and blaming my dad for not teaching me those things. Basically, my A&U, grandfather & mother, and their two kids began to form their factions against my dad and I. There was always the threat of "The Boot" looming above our head if we didn't listen. And you think the argument will be over the next day, no you are mistaken. They will drill your mistakes in your brain; constantly bringing up the old mistakes after I make another "mistakes". They would drill the "Bless" propaganda into my brain: "You should be blessed you're living in my home." or "You should be blessed you're not one of those Homeless." I'm sorry, I just want a normal childhood, I didn't choose the path to get berated or get told what to do in a condescending tone. Why are you blaming my dad when you understand that my dad has been the the breadwinner for me, so obvious he doesn't have time to teach me life skills? My dad, feeling offended, would refuse to eat her cooked food and instead eat the stashed candies for "dinner". And even if he has the audacity to go downstairs and eat her food, then she would bring up her 'Bless" card and start drilling it down into our brains. Often times, I want to go to another friends' house after school, but my aunt, with her conservative brain, flickers the greatest lines of Excuses 101: You going to have bad influences from your friends, When I was young, I didn't get to hang out with my friends like you did etc. That plus the shame I have burdened me throughout my childhood. I was sick and tired of living under her roof, following her silly excuses. I just want to be normal and enjoy my life to the fullest. When someone ask where I live and can they come over, I would just duck the questions or try to change the subject. One arguments led to another and finally in 7th grade, we decided that we have enough, and leave with our stuff.
At this time, my father was done with his job at the casino. He switched over to work as a caregiver for the elderly. His client mainly speaks Vietnamese, so when we move, we actually move into one of the client's room that is available. The first client was a 75-years-old man who lives in a mobile home. He proclaims himself as a "decorated" Vietnam War veteran, but I doubt his claim of being decorated. At first, I thought he was a nice man, but actually he only act nice when I was there. If I went away, he would treat my dad like trash, and one time, he grabbed all our food in the fridge and throw it out on the floor. He would screamed and commanded my dad to do his things, and condescendingly called my dad names etc. There was one story of him threatening his daughter with a knife when his daughter didn't listen to him. Police were called and he earned himself a bullet in the stomach. The room was very small, then, 75 sq ft to be exact. It was the size of a prison cell. Imagine, living in that room with your dad and a spring mattress that is provided with a musty smell and downgraded wood wall. We were forced to leave one of the desk behind and brought the other desk to put it obscurely behind the mobile home.(there is a small clearing behind his home)
Luck came with us, or well that's what I feel at that time to get away from the old man (I really just want to called him boomer). My dad also find out another male client that is 75-years-old that lived with his wife (75 YO). So, my dad cuts ties with the current boomer and ended his care for him. My dad asked the wife of the new client if we can have a room to rent and stay, and in return my dad will take care of the husband (let's called New Client: NC) NC's wife agrees, but as we were about to move in, the public housing authority here asks for a relocation to a nearby unit which offer more accomodations for the elderly. So, naturally NC's family agrees and they move to the new place and offers us a room for us to stay, which is the room I am staying in today and currently typing this post. That second room was supposed to be for NC and his wife separately, but they want my dad to stay overnight and take care of NC , so my dad and I lived in that room. Many changes occur, first we slept on a convertible sofa offered by NC's family. But that sofa would filled 3/4 of a room, then we decided to sell it to someone on Craigslist and decided to buy a bunk bed. The bunk bed filled nearly 1/2 of the room, along with a minifridge, a working black desk, and a $100 piano stowed away in the closet. In other words, the walking and breathing space is limited to about 6-7 paces of walking. It is where I live today and it is quite frustating when you want to do poster project or some Arduino projects but space is limited. I don't go outside my room often because that's NC's living space, well actually NC's dead since 2017, so Nc's wife's "living space". In fact, I got into a near-fight with the caregiver of NC's wife. She would always observe our living activities when she performs her caregiving tasks to NC's wife. So, she would always criticize our activities behind our back to NC's wife and yet again, playing the "Bless" card. That day (Dec 2019), I was in my room, when she came over, she was seeking for my dad to complain about how he is "affecting" NC's wife with his home activities (like what? cooking,taking a shower), and he should be blessed that NC's wife allow my dad and I to live here. She started pointing and berating my dad. I record the conversation as it got heated, and then when she raised her voice, all hell breaks loose. I rushed out and pushed her away to one side and said to her: "Don't you disrespect my dad like that, you imbecile child." and yes, I called her a child. Words were exchanged and the cops were called. The cops, as usual, just evacuated them out of the cacophany, and told them to go home. 'Til today, from 8 am to 12pm, I detest going outside of my 50 square foot room, because I dislike seeing the face of the beast that mock my father.(Her working hours) I don't have any friends outside of school much, so the internet is officially my friend.
Epilogue: So yes, that is my story, and I am sorry that it is long (sorry for my grammar if i oofed up somewhere), but that is my struggle. Now I know that there are people who suffers in different forms and to different degrees, but by keeping this story inside of me, I will always bury that guilt. In hopes of doing so, I hope that you, whoever is reading this, might take your life as a gift that is the culmination of some shear luck/atoms that combine to form you, and you should taken granted of the 150 square feet room that you are reading this post in or the $500,000 house that you are blessed from your parents. Thank you for your time to read, and if you can is it possible on this subreddit to refer me to a small favor?
The favor: So, I'm really interesting in mathematics/physics, and would like to work with a math mentor on a hands-on project about something interesting in mathematics/physics (E.g. Like meeting a math professor and he/she can mentor me, a mentorship etc.), so that I can gain some high school research experiences (I guess it's called like that?) If you can do so, I would gladly appreciate your help. Thank you so much for reading and please post as much questions as possible!
submitted by QuestionsAllTime