Learning to love my father's new wife
By Destiny Xiong
So, who is this other person? Let me tell you.
My mother lost her life after battling cancer. It was probably the most difficult thing I've had to deal with in my life thus far. I lost courage, I lost faith, I lost hope, and I lost myself.
My courage, my faith, and hope was not yet recovered. The journey to who I was began because I didn't have a mother to tell me who I should be. I had to look deep within myself to remember the things she said that really makes me a better a person.
My father lost love, courage, faith, hope and himself too when my mother passed away. He never recovered. In his journey to find himself he went back to Laos. Before he went, I recall saying, “Dad, don't go marry someone who is younger than us.” He laughed.
Upon his return he showed us a picture of a young woman that he said he married. The anger and the disappointment I had was beyond words. The man that sat in front of me was not the same man that I remembered holding my mother in his arms as she began to wither away.
This young woman, who I called, "Kuv txiv tub poj niam," came to the United States not knowing that hell, in the form of me, my sisters, and the world that she knew nothing about, was waiting for her.
I avoided her as much as I could. When she spoke to me I responded in a single word or in English knowing she wouldn't understand me.
I saw my sisters doing to her what I did and in that moment I realized my anger and frustration is not because of her but because of myself. I let myself become who I am not.
So, let me ask all of you the same questions I asked myself and of my sisters,
Do want a better life for yourself or your family?
Do you want to be happy?
Do you want friends?
Do you want an education?
Do you want to be loved?
In those questions I realized she is no different than us. She is a woman with hope, courage, faith, and while she may not know who she is she too is on a journey to discover who she is.
I began to talk to her more. I let her get to know my children. I found out that she too like me tends to put a lot of salt on her boiled chicken that she packs for someone who is on a long journey.
So what now? While I still do not condone the act of marrying young women from other parts of the world regardless of what culture you are from, the fact is they are here and they need to be empowered to become successful in their journey. They need English skills. We encouraged my father to talk to her in English. We talked to her in English so that she can gain the English skills she needed to buy groceries, to have conversations and to gain meaningful employment.
They need to be able to socialize with others besides their husbands. We encouraged my father to help her find employment. She is working now and probably understands 50 percent of what I say if I'm not speaking jargon.
They need to have their own identity and have fun being themselves. We encourage my father to allow her to be herself and not be someone she isn't or a person who my father thinks she should be. And guess what? We learned she likes to bowl and go cray fishing.
I remember the first time she hugged me and said in Hmong to me, "I don't know if you American children like hugs but I am going to give you one anyways." I realized that she truly wants the same things that I do too.
So I ask you, how many of you know a young woman in a similar situation? What are you going to do? How have you identified yourself to being an ally to them? And what are going to say to their husbands? And lastly, who are you in your journey? We all have to take personal accountability in reducing oppression within our community.