Beloved mom

    So thus from now on, beloved mom I have no more the means to speak to you again, as I cannot have any more the occasion to see you again in Vietnam. The time passes so fast, when the telephone rang since the country announcing your death, at 11 am in the morning the 07/04/2001, is the 14th day of the 5th month of the year Tân Tỵ of the lunar calendar. When I received the new, my heart turned over, drunk as if I have just drunk a glass of alcohol. I have difficulty in explaining my feelings at this moment there between the enjoyment and the sadness mixed.

    -Happy to see you finally freed from your incurable disease, nailing you in the bed without being able to move for years.

    -Sad because I know that I can never take you again in my arms, caressing you as these last years when I still have the chance to see you again in the country.

    Learning the new, I even had no time to ask for a visa to bring in the country that you are already buried next to dad two days later. I lamented a lot, thinking of dad’s death, already his children were not able to be present beside him because of the war, now it is your tour to leave us, and you were not even able to see again your daughters for the last time… I still speak to you quite slowly in my spirit, I always wait for the occasion to be able to return in the country, to see your grave if it is kept well, place of your eternal rest.

    Dominique Hardy called me from Strasbourg, she said to me that her group of theater is going to leave to Saigon within the framework of the research on the “Cải Lương” during two weeks and that she needs my presence. Mom, I am very happy, by which fate, my wishes are fulfillled because I could visit you and dad. It is a chance, maybe that you love me and that you gave me this occasion to bring in, because seven months passed since your disappearance…

    In January, 2002 at Saigon, I was an interpreter for our French friends on the “cải lương” by visiting to sister Phùng Há in the pagoda of the Artists, either by meeting the journalist Kim Cúc, by observing the rehearsals of the young artists at the theater Trần Hữu Trang, or by visiting the school of training of the actors at Cống Quỳnh street, Then by going to see the “cải lương” at the theater Hưng Đạo, by attending a play in the center of exchange cultural French-Vietnamese. In spite of my obligations, every day I ask Quang, the son of brother Minh to be my driver to visit dad and you, lighting incenses and sat in front of your graves, to feel me near you every day…

    The years follow one another, two years occurred very quickly, I do not have still courage to write on you mom, although the subjects abound and that I want great to recall them so that your grandchildren know you better.

    Mom, a few days ago somebody asked me to animate one musical evening to celebrate the age of his parents and their 50 years of marriage. The woman entrusted to me that her mother is of Hanoi, her father of Corsica, and that they have six children. In this evening, she wanted to offer to her mother a gift surprised by this representation of the traditional Vietnamese music.

    Mom, when I heard this woman, I think of you and dad, and I am happy for this friend who still has happiness to have her parents, I accepted the proposal, and it is one evening very special because I never still played in a restaurant. The inspiration on the filial love gave me the idea to prepare a program whose principal topic is the filial love and duties. The guests were numerous and come from all the countries, only four Vietnameses are present, they are the brothers and sisters of the mother. When the program began, I requested the permission from all, of speaking in Vietnamese to the mother, and my words were as if they are addressed to you and dad. In this anniversary of the age, I thought of you through this old couple, also my daughter Như Lan played of the music with me, with an aim which she can see the happiness of this family in this festival of the parents.

    By looking at their very white hair, their still good health in spite of their 80 years spent, I sang and played of the pieces of music reporting the merit of the parents to have put at the world children, their love towards them and the duty of the children towards the parents. In the current society, these images became quite rare with a life vibrating, running behind the watch, the money, people lost any feeling towards the parents, the family, the children.

    After the representation, one invited us to take part in the festival, but I refused because I wanted that this family keeps their intimacy, we went me, my daughter and a friend to eat in another restaurant because it is already 9 pm. It is done late when we returned to the house, I kept the inspiration to write some words as usual. I tried to take all my courage to write to you, my tears run, because I still do not dare to accept the reality of your death… These two years, with each anniversary of died of dad and you, with each time one fastens me a white flower on the chest, I burst in tears because I know that I lost you in this world. At these times, Như Lan was always there to take me in her arms, comforting me as I did it to you with each time I could be near you mom.

    Mom, when I married, you still have black hair, in spite of your 60 years, this image is always alive in my heart. In 1989, when we prepared your lodging so that you can come to visit us, to see your grandchildren, I always take in memories your released form, quiet of an old lady at the exit of the airport, I did not recognize you because you changed. You are so thin, in your “áo dài” of doubled black cotton velvet, a shawl color sunk around the shoulder, the hand holding a bag of betel chews without what your hand is not held quiet, you say. My voice was strangled because I did not recognize your image before I left the country. But there is something in me which says to me that this old lady is my mother. In spite of your 80 years spent, you are still in full form, with an easy step, however your back starts to be arched. We want to keep you in France, you did not want because you do not have the same life here that with the country, you cannot visit to the neighbors, you cannot leave to eat when you want, you must remain constantly in the house, you cannot raise your voice (you have a resonant voice, you sing very well) and you say that here, you can do nothing, you are so sad.

    Mom before we decide to make you come, your four daughters agreed, dividing each one its time to be with you, there is always one who is there to deal with you and however you complain to be sad, I wonder how much is the loneliness of the other old people here, when their children leave them at the adulthood, not being able to deal with them and forsaking them in old people’s homes?.

    Three months were passed very quickly, when arrived the moment to return to Vietnam, you expressed the desire to still remain, but when we want to go to prolong the visa, you remembered brother Minh and you want to again return. Your children then make an appointment with you, promising to you to return to go visit regularly as you asked them…

    In 1995, for the first time after 20 years of absence, I returned to Vietnam whereas you are seriously sick. During nearly one month, you slept each night in my arms, at this time you are still valiant, you still have your teeth to eat, although some started to move, some put themself of through. Như Lan is only 11 years old at the time, every night she `adores’ being beside her maternal grandmother, to hear her ‘to snore’ and to give her air with a fan. Then each year, I sought to return to the country by my work, and thus to have the occasion to see you, to clasp you in my valiant arms, to comfort you, ‘my small mom’ ‘must be nice’ so that her daughter fills happiness to her.

    You age more and more each year, your body starts more and more to waver, you lose your memory, you all the time repeat the same history of tens and tens of time each day without finishing. Thus by practice, when that arrives, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren surround you and repeating you the history, to hear your laughter of satisfaction, until closing your eyes, the large mouth open and toothless.

    Mom cherished, I still remember the past, towards the age of fifteen, sixteen years, I lived with you and dad at Quang Trung. Each morning, you awake very early, making cook rice, roasting fish with the sauce ‘nước mắm’ and lemon, thus preparing the breakfast for your children before they go to the school. Up next to you, your face so kind burned by the sun, you do not stop every day taking charge of domestic cases, without ever complaining about difficulties, occupying you of your children with love. Sat watching us eating, me and older sister Tâm, you did not forget to pack of to eat so that we take it, we bicycle at the school of Quang Trung until Saigon. At midday, the two sisters eat in garden Tao Đàn, at this time I dreamed that with a thing `if our house is not so far’. After one period of difficulties, we could move street Phan Đình Phùng in the 3rd district, it is at this time there that I was not cyclist any more on the axis ‘Quang Trung-Saigon’ each day…

    Then further in the past, when me, older brother Phát and little brother Đạt we had hardly 7, 8, 6 years, you were not often at the house because by your work of vendor you were far, Cúc older sister had to replace you to deal with us, I remember it unceasingly, our childhood missed your presence, each evening after the school, the baths and before the dinner, all the three we went to the principal street, looking at passing the cars, hoping that a rickshaw brings you back towards us, this lack obsessed always me, marked until now…

    Then I married, and here in France, I miss often home because of my displacements for representations, but now the means of communication are very developed, it is a good thing for me. Then when I miss, I could telephone your grandchildren to give them my news, so that they can hear my voice, telling them the details of my work of each day. But before the appareance of the cell phone, then sometimes in places without telephone as in wood, at the sea, I was sad because I could not join my family. And I believe that my children them also await my news as I awaited yours when I was small girl.

    Once, when Như Lan was one year old, I had to leave for the New Orleans at the United States for one month to teach, older sister Cúc replaced me to deal with my children like she replaced you to deal with me in the past. The every day when my daughter awakes and before she goes to the bed, I telephoned the house to give my news. Cúc older sister said to me when she hears my voice, my daughter at the beginning sought me with her eyes. Then after she understood that I speak to her through the telephone, then to each ringing, she walked on all fours towards the telephone, she takes it and ‘crunches’ it with her mouth understanding that her mother is there…

    I still remember it very well this lack of your presence in my childhood then I show myself very understanding towards the children who very early miss the presence of their parents. When Như Lan was 3 years old, it starts to know to speak, I prepared to go to teach in the State of Texas, when I must go away a long time, I always prepared the spirit of my children to that by saying several days in advance which I would miss. Như Lan panicked by extremely tightening me in her arms, feverish as if she will undergo a torture ‘mom, mom, does not leave me’, my son he is sad, not pronouncing any word, tightening his small sister to move her away from me.

    The image of my son Long tightening his small sister crying, points out my childhood to me, when you went yourself from home ‘secretly’, because your children did not want that you leave them, but you go away from them nevertheless without a word of recommendation towards them. Did you know mom that we missed you much every evening? ….

    Then I refused this voyage. In the four years which follow, I always refused to go to teach far to remain at home near my children then I took again my functions gradually afterwards, and on one condition that my daughter accompanies me when I must go far.

    Mom cherished, two years passed, if you are still in life you will be 98 years old already. Now when I want to meet you, I can only request and speak to you all gently in my heart. Your photograph with dad taken at the time of my marriage, I increased it and put it in the living room, thus, I can see you smiling to me each day, each second.

    Now you are not there any more, but you always live in my heart. I do not hasten any more like each year at the time of the holidays, now, to return to Vietnam or not is not any more one important question for me. And I do not regret either because I could create the occasion so that you can see your grandchildren, as I could take to you in my arms, the night sleeping beside you to occupy of your sometimes difficult sleep in your last years of advanced age and of physical weakness, it was little but it is better little that nothing the whole. Today I sing again the song ‘Lòng Mẹ’ of the musician Y Vân, each letter, each word, each note are like honey running in my throat, I felt that the musician left a marvellous song celebrating the heart of a mother. Especially that now, I am also a mother, in a role of mother then I deeply understand the feelings of love and the concerns of the parents towards their children…


        Lòng mẹ bao la như biển Thái Bình dạc dào
        Tình mẹ tha thiết như vầng trăng tròn ngọt ngào
        Lời mẹ êm ái như đồng lúa chiều rì rào
        Tiếng ru êm đềm theo dần năm tháng mẹ yêu…
        Thương con, thao thức bao đêm trường
        Con đã yên giấc, mẹ hiền vui sướng biết bao
        Thương con, khuya sớm bao tháng ngày
        Lặn lội treo neo, nuôi con tới ngày lớn khôn
        Dù cho mưa gió không quản tháng ngày mẹ hiền
        Dầm mưa giải nắng cho bạc mái đầu buồn phiền…


    When my daughter is still small, at each time I will teach far, in the train, I write many poems to her. Once, there is a representation at her school, but I was not there. I asked older sister Cúc to replace me. When I returned, my daughter entrusted to me :

    -Mom, today there is representation, the school is full with world, there are many moms, but you were not there.

    With hearing she speaks thus naively, my heart was tightened, I had pity of your granddaughter, isn’t it mom.

    I am a bad girl isn’t it mom, because it is only now that I dare to write some words for you, does not quarrel me mom, from time to time I will still evoke memories, images that alive you left us.

    I kiss you and I hope that dad will read also this letter beside you.


                                                        Phương Oanh.

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