The Night My Brother Left Vietnam

ThuHuong Tran

     My most vivid memory is of the night before my brother left Vietnam. In the summer of 1985, I was 10 years old. My parents made a plan for Tien, my brother, to leave my country by boat. We had to keep that plan a secret, for if we didnít, the police would arrest my parents and my brother. My parents prepared a lot of food and water for Tien. They had already signed a contract with the boat captain and paid him an amount of money. The night before he left, we prepared a small family gathering to worship Buddha and our ancestors and to pray for my brother. We hoped he would be safe and have a lot of luck. All my family were sitting together in a sad mood because we already knew that Tien would live far away from us from that time on. We all expressed our anxiety because we didnít  know when we would be able to see each other again. Still, we all hoped for a better future for all of us. That night, I didnít know what would happen to Tien. Suddenly, I realized that my brother would be leaving us the next day, and then I cried silently a lot. My mother knew I had been crying, so she explained to me that Tien had his life in front of him, so he had to go away to do something good for himself and after he succeeded, he would help me. She didnít want me to cry in front of  him. She said I shouldnít let him see my sad face but should encourage him by proving that I was a strong girl, and that I shouldnít  bother my parents or anyone else with my tears. I understood what my mother said, but I still cried and felt so sad because I loved my brother so much.

     Tien had always been so close to me. He helped me to understand my homework, taught me how to swim, and especially knew very clearly what I liked and what I didnít like. That night, none of us slept. Every person in my house prepared a gift for him. I didnít know what kind of gift he would receive from my sister, my other brother, or my parents. My gift was a poem that I wrote to him. I saw my brother smile when he read it. It went like this:

You are my brother, a brother of mine.
Whether you live near me or live far away from me,
you are still my good brother.

     After that, I fell asleep. When I woke up, my brother was gone. I cried a lot and ran to the beach. I felt so worried about him. I also felt so sad and empty. I missed him for a long time. One month later, he sent a letter to my parents that said that he was in Hong Kong. He was okay and they shouldnít worry about him. But how could my parents not worry about him? When he left Vietnam, he was just 14 years old and very inexperienced. Six months later, he moved to California to live with my aunt. He worked hard and studied hard. Sometimes, he would write a letter and send a gift or money to me. He advised me to move to Hue city and study there, so I did that. He sent money to help me. I lived alone during those years of study.

     Twenty years later, we were reunited in the United States. He sponsored my family (my husband, my daughter, and me) to come here. Thanks to my brother, I have a chance to tell to you about my sad childhood memory and its long-awaited happy conclusion.