Nguyen Thuy Nhu
"What Is Past Is Past"
I was in second grade in 1975. I had four brothers and a sister. I was the youngest. My dad worked for the Americans at Tan Son Nhut.
We had maids in Vietnam and we were always afraid that they were communists. My dad was afraid that if the Communists got hold of him he would be killed. He worked for American intelligence, undercover. And so he knew that he was in danger. He worked for the Americans for ten years.
The last week of the war he was very quiet. He came home one night and told us that the Americans said that Vietnam had no chance of surviving and that the Communists would win. They said he could leave and take the family with him.
My mom was really upset by all of this. She knew that dad might just have to leave by himself. And we might have to stay behind. She didn't tell us that until we go to the US. My Dad burned all of his papers that week.
On the night we left, about 7 or 8, my dad's friend came over to our house. This was April 22. He said that the Americans could take the entire family if we wanted to leave. He took us with him to the airport then.
He was my Dad's best friend. We had to find my dad at the airport then and it was difficult. I didn't realize that we would be leaving for good.
Mom had us each bring a small bag. My dad had gone home, meanwhile, to look for us. And the house was empty. So he came back to the airport. We could not leave with my dad not there, so just before we decided to go home again my dad showed up.
My country was unlucky, I think. It just had too many wars with too many people.
You could take as many people as you wanted, but nobody told my dad that. My grandmother didn't want to leave because she didn't want to be separated from her husband any more. Her husband lived in the North. They had been separated in 1954 and she thought that when the war ended she would at last see him. So she refused to leave.
For me it was all exciting because I didn't even know what war was. And I didn't even know what communism was at that time. So it was exciting. I was only eight at the time, just a little kid. I wasn't scared at all. It was exciting to be able to go somewhere on a helicopter.
So we got on a helicopter at Tan Son Nhut. It was a big one with two motors on it and people were just packed inside. And there was no air in the thing for breathing. It was maybe one or two in the afternoon at the time. They took us another place where we were then put on an airplane.
Finally, they took us to an island where we stopped and spent part of the day.
I hadn't ever been in a helicopter before and there was lots of crying and screaming and praying and I didn't know why. I truly don't know what war is. I read books and I see it on television. But I don't know what it is. I was so small. It is hard for me to imagine it today. I guess I would be able to feel more deeply had I seen some of the war. But I didn't. My dad tried to explain some of it. But he couldn't.
I guess I'm lucky. I get confused sometimes. The books I read are so different from anything I knew in Vietnam.
I didn't get to take a final look at Vietnam because they closed the door of the helicopter and it was all dark inside. I have forgotten my childhood friends who stayed behind. I never wrote to them and can't even remember their names now.
My dad is upset now because all of his friends are back in Vietnam. He is the opposite of what I am. He is upset now and gets headaches when he remembers it. He couldn't sleep for almost a year after we were here. He got really sick. Now he's losing his memory. And he's forgetting Vietnam. At the same time he has a bad temper.
But he's forgetting it all. He stays in his room a lot now and thinks about his parents and his friends in Vietnam. The rest of his family is still in Vietnam. He had a big family and I think he misses them a lot. It depresses him when he thinks of them and he thinks of them a lot.
My mom's whole family is over there still, too. She stays at home and makes clothing and takes care of my father now. They're never really happy, even when they seem happy. Even when they don't show it, you can tell they're not happy.
When we had been here about three years my grandmother died in Vietnam and then two years later my mom's dad died. Now my parents tell us that they are just living for us. Just because of us they are still hanging on. They are really good parents. Sometimes my dad says he is so sad. He doesn't talk about suicide or anything. But he says that he lives for us so that he can see us grow up and have a good life in America.
I'm all right, I guess. I adjust. It's easier for you when you're younger. When you come here you can adjust easier when you are younger.
My dad hates the communists. He fought against them most of his life. When he sees articles on Vietnam he reads them and he gets angry. He tries not to make a fuss, although he says some of the stories are just BS. But he keeps most of his feelings to himself when it comes to writings about the war. Some people write just to write a story and make money. They don't care about the truth and the way things really were in Vietnam. He cuts the stories out of the paper and he saves every one of them. He wants to write a book on Vietnam some time, on his life. And he wants to read it to the family. He doesn't want to publish it, but he just wants to have it for the family. He says that when he dies he wants us to remember what he went through and so he wants it down in writing, so we won't forget what really happened, no matter what everybody else writes about it.
I myself feel that what is past is past. I hate to see my dad get upset about those things. That's the past.
I'd like to get my college degree and travel for a couple of years, perhaps live in Europe or Asia for a time. I want to learn about other countries and travel.