“I feel like I never know what to expect with life.” My baby sister and I were sprawled on a makeshift bed for our “slumber party” with our mom when she said this. After our father died two days earlier in that same living room, we seemed to not want to leave it. So we just didn’t. Unexpected to be sure, my mom just went to get their Tai Chi tape so they could practice together and when she came back her partner of 37 years had passed away. Indeed, my mom’s life has been full of unexpected turns.
When she was only 23-years-old, my father was unexpectedly sent to reeducation camp by the Vietnamese Communist government. Not only did she have to take care of my six-month-old sister but she had to take care of my dad’s extended family. She spent the first five months of her pregnancy with me in a refugee camp living in a hut with multiple families. She helped clothe, feed, and put five daughters through college in her new adopted country, and somewhere in between found time learn a new language, go to school, and start her own small business. And last month when my father passed away suddenly, my mom was the glue that held together her five daughters, three son-in-laws, and two grandsons as grief overtook every corner of our lives.
Like many women, my mom has been a pillar of strength for our family. She’s given everything to her children, to her husband, and to her business. Even with all her strength, she needed Medicaid when we first came to this country for political asylum and she will need Medicare and Social Security to ensure that she is secure in the future.
If my mom’s life has taught me anything, life is unpredictable. As strong as you are, you still need safety nets. Just as I learned after my dad’s death, as strong as you think you are you still need your mom.