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Cycle Breaker Magic

by Rebeka Nguyen about a month ago in immediate family
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Written by the daughter of a refugee.

The 90's were a fun time with dad.

My father was five years old when he first came to America as a refugee during the Vietnam war. The trauma this man has overcome is astounding. Even though our family doesn’t have an enchanted house with magic doors or super powers, I wholeheartedly believe that he is a cycle breaker that is just built differently.

He has no memories before the age of twelve. Unfortunately, our story begins before the escape from Vietnam. He started life in a rough place due to an unloving biological father and a petty grandmother. Kidnapped and sick, he only survived because his own dad did not want a sick baby and gave him back to my grandmother. After only a few years time, he had to become a boat person to escape a war torn country.

In America, things were difficult in a different way. The stereotypes and heavy expectations of many overbearing Asian-American households rang true. Eventually, he became the stepchild under the thumb of another shady father figure. Fortunately, over the years with English as a second language, he began to excel in school.

Education changed his life. As a star student, with a lot of hard work, he was able to attend a few universities in Colorado simultaneously without having to pay a cent. After four years, he came out with 3 bachelors degrees (a single credit away from a 4th degree), a teaching certificate, and the girlfriend he would eventually marry and build a life with.

That life has been leaps and bounds away from where he started. I was never in need of anything. He made time to spend time with us on top of his career as a chemist. Any time I’ve ever faltered, when my sibling came out of the closet, he was there. I’m not saying life was always perfect and charmed, but I consider my childhood to have been really good. He was the barrier between us and the toxic life that his parents had given him. We have the communication he never had. We have the safe place he never had. We have the support he never had. We have the goofy and playful dad he never had. I don’t know where he learned how to be a good dad, a patient and level headed parent, but he did it anyway.

Currently as an adult, I actively see him being the cycle breaker. There was a point in time where his step-father drained my grandmother’s savings and snuck away to Vietnam to give it to his first wife. This of course was a catalyst for a lot of fighting amongst the 5 siblings, and we really only ever had to watch it go down like it was some kind of soap opera. When all of this happened, I personally did not know exactly how to feel. My grandparents have not been the most present in my life. In response, my parents sat with me and listened to my conflicted thoughts and opinions. For those of you who don’t know, this is generally pretty rare for 2nd generation Asian Americans; it is another cycle broken for my family.

There are so many rarities with how he’s handled his trauma, he is the definition of a diamond built under pressure. He communicates with his mother, even after everything, he is supportive and kind. He holds strong barriers when bad things happen, and the fallout rarely touches us. He is always learning, always evolving, and is surprisingly patient and understanding for someone who has tried to microwave a questionable amount of things. My father has undoubtedly had a profound impact on my psyche, personality, and sense of humor. I love him dearly, and I am lucky to have him.

immediate family

About the author

Rebeka Nguyen

asian american millennial full of existential angst

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