Father’s Day

It’s father’s day and I’m sure every single one of you is out there celebrating it. You probably even did tons and tons of shopping. Maybe, just maybe, you even woke up extra early to get to the store making sure you were the the first customer just so you can get that shirt, shorts, phone, etc for your father. Well, I’m happy for every single one of you who is out celebrating and appreciating your father. But my question is do you appreciate your father every day?

Let me tell all of you a story. Summer 2017, I was still working at Rugged Wearhouse and a customer came in. After I check her out, we spend a few minutes talking and she was telling me how much she appreciated me as a cashier and wish I was at every store she shops. As an appreciation, she gave me two target gift cards. Now, as a policy I’m not allowed to take it from her and I told her this. However, she was persistent. Quickly, she took out some old receipts, wrapped it around the two gift cards and asked me to throw it away. That was how I got my two target gift cards, each worth $25.

A few weeks later, before father’s day. My siblings and I all got together and we decided to buy our father a gift for the first time ever. Therefore, we decided to use the two gift cards the customer gave me because we were all still in school and was saving up money before the semester started. On father’s day, after I got out from work I went to Target. After much browsing, I got him a blue polo shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. I used the two gift cards and paid the rest with the $10 that me and my siblings all pitched in.

That night when I got home, we all secretly went into the other living room and out the clothes in a gift bag. We gave it to him and he was so happy. He was so happy that he wore it for the entire following week and it did got dirty pretty quick. I was also happy that he like the clothes because he, and including my mom, never spend money in themselves. Their clothes are old and worn until you can see holes and seams undone. That was our first and last gift to him.

As many of you know or may not know, I lost my father in August 2019. And it is a very tragic accident because he did not died from natural causes. It was an incident, than many people/parties were involved in and no one came forward to apologize to my family or wanted to took responsibility. The whole world was against us. Additionally, I can say for the first time that the death of my father and preparing for his funeral, for the very first time I was not proud to call myself Hmong.

Anyway, recently there was a little problem where a close friend of mine stole my identity. She took my pictures from Facebook and Instagram using it as her own to make dating profiles. I don’t know if she talked to anyone, but I caught her and we’re no longer friends. So, I took time to go through my pictures on Facebook and Instagram, debating whether I should keep or delete the pictures that she stole. While doing so I just happen to came upon a few pictures I took that included my dad.

Some memories came back as I recall those times, but I realized one thing. I realized that because I felt my dad was so patriarch and strict, as an adult there lots of times I resented him. I didn’t appreciate him as much as I did when I was still a rascal. I guess, what I’m trying to say here is that for some stupid reasons there were times when I was jealous of my some so-called friends then because they didn’t have curfews or strict parents. Really I had no logical reasons to be jealous.

My family had no idea that Father’s Day of 2017 was going to be the first and last one. Of course, there was also father’s day in 2018, but we spend the entire summer taking turns going to Charlotte spending nights there in the hospital that it was so exhausting and Father’s day wasn’t even on our minds.

This year we have no father to celebrate father’s day with. I am jealous of my coworkers who requested off to spend time with their fathers or grandfathers. Also jealous of my friends, who still have his/her father around.

I know I’m not the only one had lost my father, there many of us in this world without a father. We all went though the same pain and emotions. But for those of you that still have a father, I really do hope that you all had a blast celebrating father’s day. However, make sure you show him that appreciation time to time not just on Father’s day or any other special occasions. Finally, for those of us that had lost our father or don’t have and never met our fathers, memories are also wonderful gifts that our fathers (or any fatherly figures) left for us.

Happy Father’s Day.

My Father’s Last Breath

August 12th, 2018 at 10pm my father took his last breath on this Earth. The entire day our house was filled with family friends and relatives. My aunts and uncles were with us the whole entire day from dusk until dawn. It was an exhausting day as everyone had already cried their eyes out and barely slept. While sitting in the living room with my other siblings, I silently re-evaluate my relationship with my father. It was a rocky relationship. My dad’s words have always been the “law of the house” and there were plenty of times when I wished we had a friendlier relationship. Though I was not the best daughter, including my siblings as well, I sat there wishing how I could have been better. I thought of how during and after college, I drifted from my parents. The taste of being away from home and having no restrictions to what I do and when I come back home was addicting.

When he was still at the hospital, the only thing we look forward to was the doctor’s approval of him getting into the rehabilitation center and then coming home. We were hopeful that he would make a steady recovery even though the doctors had warned us of his very limited time on Earth. The one thing we all hope for was to hear his voice, but at last, he didn’t even have the strength to say anything. The first few days when he arrived home, he would say a few words making broken sentences and it took three of us to make out what he was trying to say. Afterward, he didn’t say much because his throat still hurt, and he didn’t have the energy.

There are days and nights when I go for a long drive to get things out of my mind and I think of how I can live up to my father’s name. When he was still alive I wasn’t afraid of faltering because no matter how hard or soft I fail, he was always there to catch me. Now, the only one that had always had my back is gone and I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I set my goals too high I’ll fall so hard that I won’t be able to get up. I’ve always been a risk taker at everything I do, now I’m starting to think about consequences because the only person that would be able to help me, if I get into any problems that are out of my league, is gone.

From the day he was in the hospital up until his last day, I thought of all the words I wanted to say. Just six simple words, two sentences. I love you. I am sorry. At last, I could never do find the determination to say those words out loud to my father or on his deathbed. Four times I visited his grave, I just stand there and stare where he now lies. The words are still stuck at the back of my throat. There are times when I wished he was still alive, his body fighting against all odds. And when he fully recovers, my family and I can go on a trip. Everyone finally forgives one another, past mistakes, and move on. As I watched my father exhaled his last breath, my first time seeing the process of death, for the first time I wanted to stay home. I didn’t want the world pitying or sympathizing for me and my family.

The Journey through My Father’s Traumatic Brain Injury: The Beginning Part 2

After identifying my dad and letting most of the people who came to see my dad, the neurologist wanted to speak to us. My brother, who had arrived while my mom and I went to see my dad, and I went in with my younger sister and mom following a few minutes later. As soon as we got in the neurologist asked us to speak to my dad to see if he will respond to our voices. I didn’t have the courage, so I told my brother to speak to my dad. My mom came in with my younger sister and she was crying saying that my dad can’t hear us. There was no response. The neurologist then told us he’s going to speak with his head department and will come back later.

We went back out to the waiting room where most everyone had left except for our uncle, aunt, and two cousins.  After a few hours, my uncle and aunt gave us some money for gas and food before they left because he had to leave for work the next morning. Moreover, his mother in law was with the rest of the younger kids at home. After they left, we waited some more until the nurse came to get us to talk to the neurologist. Once inside my dad’s room, the neurologist told my mom and I that due to two blood clots there is pressure being forced on my dad’s brain. One blood clot is growing bigger and that it can exert damage on the brain stem. There were two possible solutions, 1) perform a craniotomy and 2) leave it as is. I explained to my mom and after telling her that its best for us to continue with the craniotomy before the pressure can have any effects on the brain stem. Since it was me who spoke to the neurologist and understand what’s going on, I signed the consent form. Of course, my mom also agreed to the procedure.

It was getting late and after discussing we decided to for younger sister A to stay overnight with mom at the hospital. Since it was going to be my first day back at work the following day my mom didn’t want me to be absent. Additionally, hours earlier I have texted my supervisor of the event because I was going to have to go in two hours late since I was the only one available to take my sister to school at 11am.

For the next few days, we needed to figure out things. The two youngest siblings were still in school and would not be done until the end of May. Moreover, younger sister B work part time at Bojangles and does not yet have her drivers license. The good thing about her job is that younger sister A also works at the same Bojangles, so there were nights that they can come home together but cannot go in at the same time. Additionally, we were also deciding on which days who should stay overnight at the hospital with our dad. The first week my older sister did not go to work and stayed overnight at the hospital. My mom also did not go to work for three weeks.

We also received many phone calls from different people in the state and out of state. Very few of them I know quite well and some I don’t even know. There were so many phone calls asking the same questions. Can my dad speak? Does he recognize people? Can he open his eyes? What happened? Can he eat or drink? Where exactly on his brain is injured? All the while trying to remain my cool when answering I was so frustrated. We’re talking about my dad, who is now a patient with a traumatic brain injury and not yet awake, in a coma.  For the first time, I just wanted to unplug the phone. The phone and my dad’s cell phone rang 24/7. I was tired of hearing the same questions and giving the same answers. In fact, I’ve been giving the same answers all over that I no longer knew what I said to each person that called. I’ve become dumbfounded and gave up talking to people who called to ask about my dad’s condition.

For the first whole week, my older sister stayed at the hospital with my dad. I have already told my supervisor, who is probably the nicest boss ever work under, about my work hours and gave him my schedule. For the next two weeks I gave my boss the days I can work so that I can also stayed overnight at the hospital. The four of us, whom are all twenty years old and above and can drive, rotate staying overnight. My mom also stayed overnight. There were a few nights when both my mom and I stayed overnight. She would sleep in my dad’s room, while I camp out in the waiting room. Of course, there were also nights when she stayed overnight with another younger sibling. Thus, begins our long days and nights at the hospital.

The Journey through My Dad’s Traumatic Brain Injury: The Beginning

You’re probably thinking “MaiMai you’re still alive!” yes, I’m alive and barely doing well. A lot has happened in my life recently, as a matter of fact, there has been a dramatic change in my life. Before I was almost always complaining about my life that it was boring, and I needed more excitement. Right now, I cannot even complain about my life if I want to.

On Sunday morning May 13th, 2018 two days after I have come back home I received a phone call from a relative telling me that I needed to get hold of my mom and tell her to call my dad’s cell phone immediately. My mom and younger sister A had taken younger sister B to work and was going to stop by the Hmong store to get ingredients to make Pho. Well, younger sister A had changed her cell phone number without me, being the only one, not knowing. Frustrated, I decided to call my dad’s cell phone. An aunt picked up and I could hear all the noises in the background. She broke the message to me. A tree had fallen and hit my dad. Somehow, I was able to process all the information without going into shock. In fact, as soon as she told me that I asked immediately where my dad was being taken. She replied Charlotte which is an hour drive towards the east. That was not how I wanted to start my summer.

I immediately went after my older sister and younger brother B, who were at the laundry mat, after calling and leaving a message for younger brother A. I told my older sister and she took off to go to the Hmong culture park (more like an empty lot of land where the Hmong new year is held each year). However, she didn’t make it that far as she came back to finish the laundry and told me to go back home and that my mom and younger sister A was going to finish paying at the Hmong store.

Once we all got home we tried to figure out who was going to Charlotte and who was staying home since we all wanted to go. After a few minutes of discussing, my mom, younger sister A, and I left for Charlotte after calling our uncle to let him know. Mind you, that none of us has ever driven to Charlotte except for my dad and younger brother A. Well we made it safely to the hospital and here is where more trouble begins.

At the front desk, I gave the patient representative my dad’s name and he was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes, it was getting busier and the representative asked us to move aside for a moment. By this time my uncle, aunt, and two cousins had also arrived. Now, the address was sent to us by the aunt who picked up my dad’s phone and address was given to her by the EMT’s. So, there was no way we were in the wrong place. I started to call all the hospitals that were within an hour from home. Younger sister A called the aunt back, and the aunt called the hospital. We finally thought we found our dad only to immediately know that the patient was female, and we’re back to square one.

Frustrated and angry, younger sister A and younger cousin A called the president of the organization, we were pushing for them to tell us where exactly our dad is and why no one thought to follow our dad to the hospital. Now, having taken an EMT course I know that the plane cannot carry that much weight or any other additional passengers. However, someone could have driven to Charlotte so that when my family and I got we would not have run into any problems locating my dad. Of course, since my dad was only volunteering not part of the organization and not their relative no followed him to Charlotte.

By this time my older sister has heard of the news that our dad could not be located at the hospital and was calling Catawba EMT. Meanwhile, members of the organization and some other people that were there on Sunday morning volunteering showed up. They went up to the front desk and got visitor passes, my mom told them that it wasn’t the right room, but they insisted. So, they went up only to came back down. Just as I hanged up, my younger sister A came up to me and said, “Hey so that aunt sent us dad’s license so maybe we can just show it to them.” Frustrated I just glanced at her, but then I realized something. If that aunt had my dad’s wallet with her all along there was no way the EMT could have put in his information into the system, he was an unidentified patient.

I told her to get in line with me and the patient representative we talked to earlier, waved at us to go to him. All along I thought they no longer care about, but since we were persistence about staying at the hospital until our dad was found and more people kept showing up it looks like he’s been making phone calls around the hospital. By this time my older sister had called and talked to the Catawba chief paramedic. Once again, the patient representative asked me for all the details and I finally told him that there was no way my dad would be in their system because he has no identification on him and we didn’t know that. One patient that flew in had match my dad’s physical description, the time frame and events led to the injury matched. So, the patient representative and I rushed to identify the patient after my sister showed him the picture of my dad’s driver license that was sent by the aunt, whom I talked to earlier.

Well, we didn’t make it in time to identify the patient since he was already taken to the CT Scan room, but the patient representative got a good glimpse of him. So, he told me that we’re going back to get visitor passes and he’ll take us the STICU (Surgical Trauma Intensive Care) waiting room.

By the time we got back to the lobby, Catawba EMT had called to let the front desk know and most everyone had gotten visitor passes. Everyone that was not family went their own way, but I told my family which also consisted of my uncle, aunt, and two younger cousins that we’re going with the representative. After a long wait, my mom and I were the first two to see my dad. I can still remember his condition. His head was so swollen and they shaved his head. They wrapped up his hands in mitts so that he doesn’t start to pull on any of the tubes and IV fluid lines. I couldn’t even look at my dad for so long because the tears just kept coming. I spent most of my time in the room looking out the window just to wipe away the tears until the ER doctor came in. By this time younger brother A had arrived at the hospital all the way from Boone and was with everyone else in the waiting room.

Of course, we let all the visitors saw my dad so that we can get rid of them and sent them home. I didn’t feel like looking at their faces. I didn’t want to see them. I felt so angry and disgusted because my dad has done a lot for that organization, he has helped most of the people in the organization and within the Hmong community. The least they could have done was sent one person to Charlotte with my dad’s identification so that when we got there we wouldn’t be stuck in the lobby for three hours. When they told us over the phone that EMT has my dad’s information and identification, I couldn’t even think twice about not being able to locate my dad. I was upset, so upset when I learned that EMT didn’t even get hold of my dad’s identification.

From the moment I saw my dad laying in the hospital bed, I knew that I took granted of my life before that event took place. I thought my life before was hard, complicated, and boring now it’s even going to be harder. If anything, I was grateful for the patient representative that helped us.