Losing a second "mother"
H.’s mother left home when she was nine months old. Her father suffered from addictions that he still has not overcome. He also left home. By circumstances of life, although H.’s grandparents were old and in poor health, they had to shoulder the responsibility of “parenting” five granddaughters.
In a cramped boarding house in District 7, the seven family members lived together, relying on their grandparents’ small grocery shop. Day by day, the grandparents were getting older, their health deteriorating. They eventually couldn’t continue operating the grocery shop. Despite the difficult situation, H.’s sisters still consider themselves lucky, because their grandparents never intended to abandon their poor grandchildren. H.’s two older sisters had to work at a very young stage to support the family and raise the younger sisters. Her oldest sister was a worker in the manufacturing and exporting zone. The salary was not enough to support the whole family. In the family, H. is the youngest but the most unfortunate one. Because at least, some of the other sisters still have the memory of their mother’s image. As for H., she doesn’t even remember her mother’s face, not even a small fragment of her memory of her mother. For H., her mother is essentially none other than her beloved grandmother. She raised and cared for H. like a mother. She loves her grandmother deeply.
During the time when Ho Chi Minh city was hit hardest by the epidemic, her family faced many difficulties. Her grandfather and sister had Covid. The whole family survived on a meagre allowance from the company where her oldest sister worked. Most painfully, the impermanence of life took H.’s grandmother away forever. Her grandmother passed away from Covid. It took a long time for H. to accept the fact that her grandmother had died. H.’s mother had left her when she was a baby. Now another “mother” who had taken care of her from her first steps, had also left her forever. This disappointment and loss is probably the thing that H. can never forget in her whole life. The young girl’s face, at the age of twelve, was filled with immense sadness, hidden with fear. That was even more apparent through her statement: “I want to continue going to school and living with my grandfather and sisters!”. Faced with the unhappiness in life, what she craves the most is still the word “family”.
The taste of mum's Canh Chua soup
Standing in front of a small boarding house, we smelled the faint aroma of tamarind and spicy vegetables from the Canh Chua pot. When we stepped straight inside, a young teenage girl struggled with a pot of boiling soup on the stove. The place where we arrived was a small, quite humid room of about the size of 9 square meters in Tan Tuc town, Binh Chanh district of Saigon. The girl with long hair, named N., was quickly preparing lunch for herself and her younger brother. N. hastily turned off the stove and greeted us with a sad face. When broached about her mother, the girl’s eyes filled with tears, and with a choked voice, she said: “My mother worked hard, working day and night to support us. Sometimes, she didn’t even come back home until midnight or until early morning the day after. I remember the dishes my mother used to cook. All of them were delicious. I love the Canh Chua soup which my mother cooked.”
In the past, N.’s family consisted of her father, her mother, her younger brother, and N. herself, who were all living together in the same room that we visited. N.’s mother was a worker at a garment company. The meager salary was not enough to support the entire family, so her mother had to work part-time at a karaoke establishment in the evenings. N.’s father is a bricklayer. However, his job was not stable. When there was construction, people called him to work. N.’s family situation was difficult economically because of that. But it seemed like the adversity of life did not stop there.
Unfortunately, her father has been suffering from chronic insomnia for four years. It has caused his nerves, memory, and health to deteriorate significantly compared to before. Previously, although N.’s family life was difficult, all family members were still together and present. N. and her younger brother still go to school every day. As it is, with her mother deceased, a lot of changes will definitely affect N.’s sisters. Before, N.’s mother was the main economic provider for the family. And now, many difficulties and worries weigh on the shoulders of her father, who is in poor health. N. has not yet fully recovered from grieving the loss of her mother. When N. was talking with us, troubles and disorientation were evident on her face.
"I miss my dad so much"
“I miss my dad so much …”
That’s what we heard throughout the majority of our conversation with H., a middle school student in Go Vap, HCMC.
Visiting the family, we found out that he is currently living with his mum and younger sister at his grandparents’ house. During the recent outbreak, H.’s entire family contracted Covid-19, and unfortunately, his father passed away on the 17th of September.
When asked about the family’s current living circumstances, H. informed us that his father was the family’s breadwinner. His mum is a kindergarten teacher, earning 5-7 million per month. Since his father’s passing, the family has been facing financial difficulties. As the primary caregiver, H.’s mum now has to take on the role of primary provider as well – carrying the financial burden of providing for two young children, solely.
When we asked about his father, H. candidly shared: “I miss my dad so much. I remember we used to drive around as a whole family every Sunday. We’d drive around in the cool wind and get bubble tea. Every Sunday, I find myself missing this family tradition”.
“So, at this moment, what do you wish for the most?” – we asked;
“I wish we could drive around on the motorbike as a family again” – H. answered.
Riding with dad to school
T is a secondary school student in District 5, HCMC. Her family comprised of her parents, T, and her brother, who all resided together in her grandma’s house in District 10.
Following her father’s death, T’s entire family continued to reside at her grandmother’s home. Despite the suffering, her mother, who works as a labourer at a fishery, strives to maintain control over her emotions and provide for her children, with the modest income of about US$200 a month.
Sometimes, T has flashbacks to the times when her father drove her to school. There were late nights when he had to wait for her for an extended period of time after a long day, but he never grumbled. The more she mourns her father, the more she feels for the hardships that her mother now has to face alone in order to care for her and her brother. Pain and adversity pile up on her route to education and her life but T is not willing to give up. She hopes to continue her studies with the dream of enrolling in Foreign Trade University in order to be able to assist and support her family in the future. Her greatest wish right now is perhaps for her mother’s well-being, so that they may all work through this tough time together.