“Our ancestors are totally essential to our every waking moment, although most of us don’t even have the faintest idea bout their lives, their trials, their hardships or challenges.” – Annie Lennox
I’ve never known much about my dad’s childhood, and so I have decided to interview him on Story Corps to begin to collect these special stories and share them with the world.
I recently found out that around the age of 7 years old, he went to live with priests in exchange for an education. I want to assume that this greatly influenced his decision to enter into the Priesthood as a young adult… that is, until he met my mom ? .
My grandparents were illiterate, poor and also lived in the countryside where there was no access to schools. My grandmother delivered water using a long bamboo stick with 10 gallon jugs on each side of the stick while balancing it on one shoulder. My grandfather was a fisherman. They wanted to give my dad a chance at a better future, and sent him to a school run by priests, where he could have free room+ board and an education, as long as he took care of their goats!
What a hoot! I cannot imagine my children being that responsible! I also cannot imagine sending them off to boarding school and not to be able to see their precious faces, hear their infectious giggles for years!
The priests had a ton of goats, and in addition to being an altar boy, he also tended to these animals. He remembers heading into the woods to find them special leaves and then everyday having to milk the goats, to which he states, “Goat milk is #1!” I’ve had never goat milk, but I have had goat milk yogurt and well, I don’t think I can appreciate anything except goat cheese with a nice flakey cracker and apricot jam – you know THAT sounds good!
After several years, there was another major interruption and transition in his life. This time, the Viet Cong (Communists) invaded the north, and the priests and my dad fled further south on a boat in a refugee holding camp run by the French. His parents escaped days later with the rest of the family, and they were reunited.
To be continued.
My interview ended here, but it was a good time to pause – both literally and figuratively and reflect on my own life.
Today’s lesson: It’s funny how you think you know someone but then realize you never knew them. The older generations have stories of incredible struggle and victory. We can learn so much from them.
“Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.” -Ralph Ellison