Dream from my father

Sorry President Obama, I have to steal this title from you. It was a good one.

I’ve been trying to put together my thoughts for a while now. I have this urge to write something about this topic, but I always feel like there isn’t much depth I can go into. After all, most parents want the same thing for their kids. But I have that urge I can’t rid of, so I force myself to sit down and write about it.

A month ago, I received my official degree from UIUC (yayyy!). So immediately, I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Without a doubt, they were happy (which parents don’t). But they knew I had graduated, so there wasn’t any surprise.

And then Dad called me, once he arrived at work. He was visibly happy and proud of myself. I was proud of him too. Without him, I couldn’t have afforded to come to college and get a CS degree. Out of a sudden, he told me something that caught me off guard: “You should keep this piece of paper carefully. I have a similar piece too, even though it looks much older, but I’ve used this paper to find my bowl of rice (đi kiếm cơm) for almost 30 years!”

Obviously it’s hard to explain the way he said it in Vietnamese when translated to English. But I almost cried when I heard it, or every time I thought about it. The way he used the phrase “đi kiếm cơm”, it just sounded so simple and primitive, but it made me think about all the hardships he endured to find this bowl of rice, not just for himself, but for his 2 sons who didn’t have to take loans to go to college.

His dream, when he grew up, was simple. To find the bowl of rice to make ends meet, day after day. He used to tell me, his father, my grandfather, was a slave. He had to serve other people when he was less than 10 years old. We came from an extremely poor, war-torn, family. Being able to migrate to Ho Chi Minh City, and made it there, was a revolution. He would never have thought they would make it. He was going to drop out of college because the family was too poor. But my grandmother stopped him and made him continue his studies.

But he had a dream for me and my brother. To go overseas, to get the best education I can get. He had a big dream for himself, to go to college, to get out of poverty. But he has a bigger dream for his sons. He wanted to instill in his sons the life values that don’t often exist in a competitive society. He wanted his sons to learn from the world, and give back to the world. But first and foremost, he wanted his sons to find their own bowls of rice.

I have not been able to do anything big, like some of my peers did. But I’m proud to report to you, Dad, that I finally found my bowl of rice.

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