As I’ve previously mentioned in my memoir before, I grew up with a single mother and four younger siblings... Life haven't been always easy for my mother and I, and/or my younger siblings. My grandpa was African American, my grandma was Asian. So it makes my mother an anchor baby. Her and her siblings (our family) immigrated here to the U.S. back in 1991. My mother was about nineteen years old, this was before she had me.
Her life wasn't always easy living in a third world country, our family being poor and so forth in Vietnam. Her and my youngest aunt spent most of their life working as teenagers to help my grandma provide for our family. Working most of her teenage life, not being able to come home to spend New Years with her own family. Working for higher class folks. Not being able to afford school or even a fresh pair of shoes, clothes. Then immigrating to here to America. Not having the opportunity back in her own country let alone a new one.
After some time, she met my father. Everything was good for some time and I don't want to seem as if I'm bashing him in this backstory. She found out he had another wife while being with her. All those abortions before me. Another child while being with my mom back in Vietnam. The house he lives in now, was bought under my moms name. Until they transferred ownership of real estate.
After she found out he was making paperwork for his wife and kid to come to the states, my mom was pretty livid. Before she knew she was pregnant with me, she got married to someone else. Not knowing she was pregnant again for the fourth time. This time, my biological dad didn’t find out. I wasn’t another forced abortion; until this day, it’s unclear to me whether I’m a miracle or a mistake. This is where I inherited the last name ”Tran” or it would've been Le. Tran fits me better anyway.
There‘s a lot I still don’t fully understand, how can my real biological father not want me or loved my mom. Why he did the things he did. With a higher level of education and the funds to raise a happy family. To take responsibility for his accountability. For the things he put other women including his own daughters mothers and us, ourselves. Why couldn’t he accept his own faith. I forgive him for everything he has done but I’ll never understand any of the logical reason behind it. I’ll never understand why he continues to do the things he did. I’ll never understand why he left when things got bad. I’ll never understand the empty promises and fulfilling lies he ever told me.
I’ll never understand why I had to take his place, put my own life on hold for the sake of my mother and myself. From all the paperwork I had to learn filling out growing up, translating. Taking time off from work and school to be there. I guess I’m still accepting and grateful for it. It taught me things I’ll never be able to learn if our family was perfect. If he had been the perfect man and father. I would‘ve never been the person I am today. Filled with grace and integrity. I would not have survived life itself if it wasn’t for him leaving me to my mom to raise alone.
The thing I can’t wrapped my head around still is, why? In general why... they both came to America, both as immigrants. Both not having much, yet my mom was so giving and loving to him and his family. The only barrier was she’s half black. And that’s just the sad reality in society. Having a darker skin tone, by your looks—people treat you differently. Hence why they never got married because my mom is half black. When my mom gave birth to me, many people weren't there nor did they really know. My biological dads parents (my grandparents) came just to see if I had curly hair or straight hair. Even Asians are racist and shameful of having a deep skin tone, hair. Mostly looks. They like to be traditional. Before my mom had me, being an anchor baby, being mixed. She was often wearing scarves to cover up. Society back then compared to now haven’t really changed. They treat you based on race and ethnicity. It's worse when you look more authentic if that makes any sense. My mother looking more different than anyone else made it difficult for her to be a real citizen here. She struggles with the American language. Their structure of living. After me, three years later, I had a brother. My twin sisters and I are twelve years apart. My youngest brother and I are seventeen years apart.
I wonder how life would have been if none of these things happened. My father got his first wife pregnant again. Being the middle child on my dad's side of the family and the oldest on my mom's. I often wonder how different life would be, how ours would be. I've always co-parented my siblings from John to Kristal, Kristy and Isaiah. So far, the hardest has been the easiest. My step dad is in the picture still. Vise made it easy for us to feel welcomed and accepted. I’ve watched my mom be misused and mistreated for so long. Having to help her replace my siblings fathers. Their place while still playing the older sister part. Teaching them the values of life, family and education. Filling out all my moms paperwork, being there to translate, from housing to buying her first vehicle without the help of anyone else. To helping her use social media so she can feel like she’s part of this modern society even if she feels like there’s no need for it. It gets rough sometimes because we always have fallouts and disagreements. The pressure to do well by my mom and the pressure to do good to be good to be a positive influence for my siblings. Lastly the pressure and hunger to succeed in a broken world we live in. The exhaustion is even tired. I’m constantly working towards a white painted future. Not being able to tell the difference between my dreams, my goals and reality itself.
Having all these downfalls with financial stability. Maintaining a social life, school, work and being out on my own. Finding balance between friends, family. Constantly feeling like I can’t really go far or do much because I’m responsible for my siblings and basically take her place whenever work comes up. Or when she’s ill. Making sure she isn’t being scammed or mistreated in the real world. I can’t stress enough how much I want to succeed for the sake of my family. Growing up in a low income family, home. What people call it low income housing or the projects. Yet I’m not embarrassed of admitting that or saying it. I take pride in where I grew up and how. It made me more grateful; for all these experiences, these opportunities and all the knowledge I’ve obtained in the last twenty-one years. Until this day, I’m still co-parenting. I still show up when it matters most. Even though my mom lived as an immigrant most of her life, she was able to still become a citizen through hard work and perseverance. She made an effort. I can’t even bear being in her position.
Having to do hard labor in her country then starting over working barely a minimum wage paying job. Having five kids, maintaining her bills, work, children. With barely to no English language background. Not having her parents near, not being able to meet my grandpa. Losing my grandma recently. There are so many things she sacrificed by making the choice to come here to America. She risked a lot and have done a lot just to make a living and a somebody out of herself to help her family back in Vietnam, from helping my grandma and my youngest uncle building her house/pho shop. Putting all her efforts and with little to no money, making sure her family gets it all first. My mom is the most selfless person I know. I don’t blame her for days where she is emotionless. I know she’s tired and numb from all the pain she had to intake. I’ve already felt like I didn’t get the chance to be close to my mom due to her busy schedule but she still made the effort to raise me and the rest of my siblings.
My fathers behalf, it already feels like I don’t have one. He only chooses when to play dad. Half there or not there at all. Vise (my step dad) was the one who raised me. From the age of third-teen. He was the father figure I never had. From buying me school supplies, school clothes and shoes. He was the father figure that supported every decision and hobby I picked up on. He gave me rides before I had my license when my mom was working late. Puts food on the table when my mom is struggling with finding a new job. There’s a lot that no one really knows. Vise is the person who taught me how to drive. The person who drove my first car off the parking lot. He was there for every event, every life decision we all made. He made the effort to show up for my brothers six grade graduation, and to my high school graduation. From me moving back and forth from different apartments. You see my mom wasn’t fortunate enough to get a higher education but her family, her kids always came first. My mom is the type of person who’d rip off the clothes off her back to keep us warm. And she found someone who would give us the world too, not from the most they have but the least they have. My parents are my heros.