Home in Missoula,
Home in Truckee,
Home in Opelousas,
Ain’t no home for me.
Home in old Medora,
Home in Wounded Knee,
Home in Ogallala,
Home I’ll never be.
The book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The memory: En route “home” to Texas.
On the Road: A book of adventure, restlessness, and wanderlust; I had always wondered from where mine came. A few years ago in Vietnam, a neighborhood aunt “read my face” (similar to palm reading) and immediately told me I had một chân đi, literally – a foot that goes. Is that a real thing? But that foot is rooted somewhere, yes?
My thoughts naturally drift towards my father. Now, I’ve never even attempted to immortalize our relationship in literary words, but in my head I’ve scribed passages upon passages about this man. A devoted man for whom kinship is the strongest of bonds. A thoughtful man whose well-worn face bears time’s passage.
He always said I got the wanderlust from him. He’d then recount his “back in my day” stories – like when he was in the army in Vietnam, he would travel from province to province, even to Laos and Cambodia. Those stories were brief; they weren’t even stories, but more highlights – he never really went into detail. But once in a while, he’d share a really special detail, mostly involving my ông nội and bà nội, both of whom I never had the chance to know. Whenever he spoke of them, there’d be a gleam in his eyes, like he was simultaneously taken back in the past, relishing in those pure childhood moments with them, but still he was existing very much in the present, mourning in their empty presence. Whenever he thought of them, I could almost always catch a tear well up at the corner of his eye, but it never fell.
My grandfather always required the children come together for dinner; for him, that was a sacred time and everyone had to eat dinner together. When my father was in prison after the war, my grandfather followed him wherever he was, visit him, and sneak in food for my dad. Once, when my father was 10 or 11, my ông nội and bà nội took my dad, and only him, to Angkor Wat. My dad could remember every single moment of that trip, even now.
Would he remember every single moment of our trip, when, almost 50 years later, he, my little brother, and I went to Angkor Wat? I would say I hope so, but undoubtedly, he does, because he’s that kind of person who holds those special moments close to his heart. And probably even more now that we’re all so scattered. Of course, when I’m back in America, he’s in Vietnam. When I was in Vietnam, he was in America. He’s picked up his nomadic lifestyle back up once again. What’s he looking for now? I hope he finds it.
He always said I got the wanderlust from him.
End, Memory Two.
Next Week: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert