The conversation began like any other. Someone asked, “Do you have any siblings?” I quickly replied,” No, I am adopted. I was brought here to the US during Operation Babylift. My father was an American GI and my mother a Vietnamese woman.”
In a few short sentences, I shared the tragedy of the first flight that crashed with my birth certificate and the amazing volunteer who thought to write it all down. I have spoken of these events many times. I anticipate the next series of questions by adding,” I learned this information from my adoptive parents when I was in the first grade” and “yes, I did meet the volunteer who cared for me on my journey to the US. My adoptive parents have both passed away and I am the sole survivor of my family; raising two children with absolutely no relatives. ”
As a listener, you can feel the escalation ……..
”Have you ever gone back?” I knew it was coming, and so I swiftly replied, “Just as tragedy brought me here, there is a tragic end to my journey home.”
I tell the story of traveling back to Vietnam beside this man I was about to spend the rest of my life with and “just four hours after returning home, I was performing cpr. He never made it.”
There it is, poured onto the table like a spilled cup of coffee. I can feel them flinch as I deliver the final words. My voice sometimes cracks when I talk about losing my partner. I still feel that slight burn inside my nose as my eyes tear up. I normally speak at a rapid pace, so I can imagine to the listener, there is hardly enough time to digest the gravity of the events I have just described. I don’t tell the story for sympathy. I believe telling the story honors the decision of the woman that chose to give up her child during wartime. Telling the story validates the man and woman that chose to adopt me and give me a second chance at life. Telling this story shares the heart of a man who traveled to the other side of the world just to be the person next to me when I stepped onto my homeland. This is me. My story is filled with love, heartache, struggles and strength and I am proud of the person I am.