By Wennie Hong
For Northwest Asian Weekly
More than 30 years ago, my father lost his family.
The Cambodian war had broken out and he did what many others had done. He fled. Days and nights were difficult, food was scarce, and even the water he consumed was littered with dead bodies.
But what else could he do? Survival was the only thing on his mind, so he endured. He carried a single blanket with him on his journey, but when he came across a dead woman, with her family surrounding her, he laid his blanket over the woman’s body, so that she could rest in peace. My father had nothing but the clothes on his back when he reached the Vietnam border.
At the border, he was almost killed because he wasn’t a Vietnamese citizen. Luckily, he ran into his godfather, who claimed him as his sick son and was able to take him into Vietnam. His godfather saved his life that day and gave him a chance to start over.
A couple of years later, he married my mother. Their journey to the United States — the camps, everything — is an entirely different story, an amazing one, but one unrelated to this one.
A few weeks ago on Chinese New Year, I received a phone call from my mom.
My great aunt, who lives in Saigon, had come across a newspaper article that she had clipped and saved. The clipping was about a woman looking for her older brother, from whom she had been separated decades previously.
The location, ages, descriptions, and names all matched details recounted by my dad. She stated that if anyone had any information, they should contact her friend in Vietnam because she did not live there. As my mother told me the story, I felt my heart begin to sore for my dad. This was his chance to finally reconnect with the family that he had thought was gone.
When my mom told me the clipping was from 2006, my heart broke. This was my dad’s one shot, and it seemed to be five years too late. His one glimmer of hope seemed to be fading fast.
Recently, the newspaper clipping was put in to my parent’s hands. One glance at the picture and I knew instantly that it was a younger version of my dad looking back at me. Every few days, my parents would place a call to Vietnam to check on the progress of the contact.
So far, there hasn’t been much news. My brother and sister have placed e-mails to papers in Canada and Germany, hoping that the woman who placed the ad would see it, or that someone who knew their story would see it.
We’ve all got our fingers crossed and are hoping for the best, even though five years have passed.
My parents are humble people, never asking for much and always working to provide for our family and giving the best life they can. In the past few days, I haven’t seen them this excited, or so full of hope.
It’s my wish to see this work out, to see my dad reunited with the last bit of family he has left. I urge you to spread his story, to help my family, to help a man who never imagined having an opportunity like this, gain back what he thought was long gone. ♦