Thursday, 20 October 2011

Daddy's princess

Oh, you thought he meant me?  Ah, nope.  I'm talking about my dad's younger sister*.

My dad has always had a soft spot for his little sister.  He has two older sisters, but unlike them, his younger sister is deceased.  It's a topic that turns him from this take-charge, assertive, angry little man into a gentle, kind, protective older brother.  Sometimes I'm convinced he loved her more than he loves me.

She died of severe illness during the genocide in 1978.

BUU: My younger sister was sick.  What can we do?  There's a story that I still remember 'til now.  I thought I tell you before this kind of story. . . . One husband and wife which lived in the same village, because of the husband and wife, they had no food so they were hungry.  Sometimes they fought over a little food. On that day, we can't say divorce, we can't say nothing.  Husband and wife, they don't want to be husband and wife anymore.  They lived in the same house but they were just strangers to each other.

But the wife, that lady that . . . when she saw my sister, because the symptoms of my sister's sickness.  Her skin suddenly turned yellow and we still don't know what happened.  And she felt so weak and we don't know what to do because we have no money.  We have nothing to exchange for medicine.  And we don't even know where to get the medicine, so all we have to do is we just watched my sister, the situation, the condition went from bad to worse.  And then that lady came to talk to my mom, "What happened to your daughter?"  My mom said, "I don't know what to do."  And the lady said, "Why don't you get some medicine for her?"  And my mom said, "We have nothing, we have nothing to exchange.  We have no more gold.  We have no more rings.  Nothing."  That lady, after she was thinking for a little bit, and then she went back to the place she lived, and later on she came back with one ring.  Gold.  I still remember.  I remember all my life.  The ring with a very nice, shiny, yellow stone.  Yellow stone.  She gave it to my mom.  She said, "Go, get it, take it. Hurry up.  Go exchange.  Look for some medicine for your daughter."  But it's too late.  And we don't know if the medicine we got was the right medicine for my sister.

We looked at my sister getting weak day by day and finally she can't move anymore and then we sat beside her and watched her pass away silently.  We ran out of tears.  We just took her to be buried and then kept going.

There are so many ways to die.  Hunger and sickness.  And one terrible thing is you can get killed so easily because the life of people is so cheap.  Those people . . . they were too hungry so they stole some food from public lunchrooms.  Even a piece of meat.  If you steal a piece of yam in the field and get caught, then you 100% get killed for sure.

C: I thought you said she died by drowning.

B: No, by drowning was my brother.

C: Oh.

B: That was an accident.  That was when the country was peaceful and prosperous.  But he went to swim in the river.  And right now we have new information that . . . because a group of boys, they went swimming.  And one of the boys that survived recently talked to your uncle.  He said, "You know how your brother died?  He was trying to rescue someone else.  That's why he died."  Okay, that's a different story.

C: Vicky's dad (my uncle) told her that your younger sister reminds him of me.  Why would he say that?

My dad gives me the most disgusted look and said, "No."

I shrug it off.

B: Why would he say that?  Ha.  She was really pretty.

Thanks, Dad.

B: She was so adorable, so nice, so adorable.  She loved everybody.  She loved me so much.

At this point, he looked sullen and told me to end the interview.


*Any surviving pictures of my dad's little sister would be at my grandfather's house.  I'll put some up as soon as I get my hands on them!


  1. Wow, this clearly still is something that causes him a lot of pain. Thanks for sharing. It's really sad that they couldn't get her medicine.
    On a different note, do you record these interviews, or how do you conduct them with accuracy?

  2. "No, by drowning was my brother."
    Saddest line ever.

  3. Jenna,
    Thanks for your comment! I record the interviews with my family on a recording device, then type them out. However, I have edited *some* of the interviews for easy readability. I try to keep them as authentic as possible. There are clearly some flaws with my interview methods, because my mom speaks to me in Chinese and some things may get lost in translation. Overall, I try to keep the interviews as untouched as possible.