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Sooner or later, I know you will read this letter. Where should I begin? To demonstrate my pride for a noble father who dedicates his life to family? Or to spin a yarn about the saddest days throughout my childhood? Will this society, and my friends, turn back on me or look at me with a different eye from now on? Whatever happens, I still write this to you. I hope at night I am no longer tormented by the past.
The differences between your generation and mine have created a gap in which we can never understand each other. You play a key role in the family, always ask others to follow your arrangements. I am like a bird that is left behind. I believe everyone has only one chance to live; hence, I would like to stand on my own legs. Someday I may slip on my way, yet I will stand up. Every now and then, I question my existence in this world. And not just once, I lost faith in family values.
When I was young, I was totally proud of you. You are a straightforward and typical person; you know how to do a variety of jobs, you manage to overcome any difficulty; you seldom break promises or get very drunk. But do you know that you just keep people at a distance — not anyone is patient enough to stay long with you? Even your closest friends are pretty reluctant to communicate with you. You are severe to everyone. If anyone does something wrong, you are not easy to forgive and forget. All my siblings are uncomfortable to talk about you. Why can’t we live in harmony and peace?
I remember when I was a little kid, all maternal relatives hated you, and they hated me as well. Nevertheless, I still loved you simply because you are my father. They even interrupted a conversation as I accidentally came across. They were afraid that I would narrate their words; you would then nag at Mom all day long. I comprehended the situation, so I kept silent — those that I had heard would be dissolved into the wind. At a very young age, I already had an inferior complex about family and did not feel as innocent as other kids.
I did not dream of a big house, but a dinner with all three members. A bowl of vegetable soup and a span of tiny shrimp cooked with brine were enough to make me happy. Even so, I did not dare to sit on the same table with you; we both could hardly maintain a good communication. Only Mom could tolerate you, but when she got sick, you rarely took care of her. There was a time when I often felt obsessed: everyday we would not have a good meal without your quarrel with Mom. Have you ever felt what I had to endure?
By third or fourth grade, I was bought a blackboard, and you taught me homework. Day after day I learned how to do unit conversion. Because of being keen on playing with friends, I often gave wrong answers, each of which you punished me. I was frightened and did by habit without any knowledge. You beat me so much that I became indifferent to the rod. Compared to other kids in the neighborhood, my class result was always good, but still could not make you pleased. You usually said: “spare the rod and spoil the child.” What if I had lived in vagabondage or studied badly, would you have ever accepted me as a son?
Everyday before leaving for school, I had to come in front of you to say goodbye. Occationally, I had to repeat a couple of times so you could hear it, then gave me some pennies. I gradually considered politeness as a compulsory behavior that did not indeed come from my heart. I did not mind it any more.
I remembered in the fifth grade, I was sponsored a trip to the city. That was the very first time I travelled by myself, you gave me twelve thousand dongs. I was so happy with the money. But did you know that it was too little for me to buy anything? I kept the whole amount back home. Looking at friends who bought so many presents, I felt sad but without any complaint.
Once, the coordinator selected me to represent the school in the meeting of obedient children. While other students praised their fathers, I felt ashamed inside. How would I brag about my own father? I told about Mom instead…
I remember many late nights — you woke me up to go collecting mangoes. The tree in our neighbor’s garden was very big and laden with fruit. Ripe ones usually fell down at night. I was very scared of the darkness. But because of my eagerness, you took me out. At times I found three or four, I became really excited. We both turned back to sleep, then you went to work and I came to school in the morning.
In biology class, my friend brought one durian plant as a sample. After class, she gave it to me. I grew it in the garden; it has never born fruit for a dozen of years. You often tell me: “every time I see the little tree, I miss the past days you were running around my legs.” So why did you try to grow a dragon fruit plant that killed my flamboyant tree? That made me sad for a couple of days.
Do you remember we used to go swimming in a river? You passed me a ring buoy, released me far away from the bank. At the middle of the river, I felt scared and swam towards you. Now I feel a chill tingle along my spine; however, I was very interested before. I knew you were always observing me. Life is like a whirlpool in many ways, it can swallow us at any time. But beside you, I had no fear.
On heavily raining days with roaring thunders, I felt so terrified that I ran to you and lied on your body. You recalled the days in military. Mom also participated in your story while sewing clothes. Mom said that you were very handsome when you were young, which made me proud of. You told me about your team and American soldiers. Since then I have been dreaming of the land of freedom. Was I born to accomplish your life’s ambition?
“A mother can take care of ten children,
but sometimes ten children can’t take care of one mother.”
I grew up with Mom’s folk songs. After secondary school, I entered high school in the central district. On early days living away from home, I faced up with many difficulties. Every time I returned home and asked you for allowances, I shed my tears out. You calculated every single penny with me. I felt helpless since I was still dependent on family even at that age. I wanted to give up. Then I moved on although I had no idea what was ahead of my reach…
Those are over now. Having gone though bitterness makes me appreciate today. And the story about father and son has not ended yet, has it?