Several years ago I threw a surprise birthday party for my Dad on his 90th birthday. Because he was born in 1923, he lived through the most horrific and fabulous century ever, surviving World War II, the Japanese occupation, the French resistance, the Vietnam War, the move to the United States with 11 children. In his 50's, he had to learn a new language, a new culture, got new jobs, found new homes, and continued to raise and inspire all of us for decades.
During his lifetime, my Dad went from canoes to bicycles to rickshaw to moped to cars and now he rides in an electric vehicle. He learned about traditional herbal medicine then quinine then penicillin then vaccines then medications then surgery, and chemotherapy. He was raised under the traditional religion of Năm Ông, studied in a French school, stayed in a Buddhist temple, was imprisoned for months for contributing to the resistance, learned about Nationalism versus Communism, attended Lutheran church on Sundays, and was even baptized once in a river.
My Dad was able to hold on to some of the old traditions and customs that he thought were good, he adapted to new ideas and practices that made sense, and was able to change his habits and behavior when it was needed. He served as a wonderful example of what to do and how to be.
My parents have many siblings, and thus nieces and nephews, 11 children, and a multitude of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At the surprise party, many of us were able to contribute materials for the slideshow, entertainment, and recounting of notable events in my Dad's amazing life. Many of those were pivotal moments that made us who we are and where we are today.
My sister Amy found this poem about fatherhood and I translated it into Vietnamese. We included both poems in the party favor bag that we sent home with party-goers.
I think it makes a great gift to all the great Dads I know.
Here's to all the Fathers out there, thank you for being you.
What Makes A Dad God took the strength of a mountain, The majesty of a tree, The warmth of a summer sun, The calm of a quiet sea, The generous soul of nature, The comforting arm of night, The wisdom of the ages, The power of the eagle's flight, The joy of a morning in spring, The faith of a mustard seed, The patience of eternity, The depth of a family need, Then God combined these qualities, When there was nothing more to add, He knew His masterpiece was complete, And so, He called it ... Dad
- Author Unknown
Ông Trời lấy núi Thái Sơn,
Thêm cây hùng vĩ, ngày hè ấm rang
Êm đềm của biển mênh mang
Tấm lòng rộng rãi của Ngài Thiên Nhiên
Vòng tay an ủi đêm huyền
Trí toại thông thái, sức phi đại bàng
Nụ cười của ánh dương xuân
Niềm tin lúa mạ, mức kiên muôn đời
Gác thêm gánh nặng gia đình
Cộng nhau, hoà lại, đặc vào trung nhân
Ông Trời mãn nguyện hài lòng
Kiệt tác hoàn hảo, gọi là ... Người Cha
-- người thông dịch Denise Ánh Dương Phan
My Dad and one of his grandchild, circa 1977