first survived, 3

There is no way of talking about my family’s history without speaking of survival. This is the legacy of war. This is the legacy of destruction, suffering, and the human urge to overcome.

The silence that exists between my father and me is crowded with the experiences he has lived through and does not share. It is a cycle of silence caused by my fear of opening his old wounds, multiplied by each year of silence that passes, perpetuated by the fact that I have never articulated how much I want to know what he has been through, to share and thus divide that pain.

My father is the eldest son to survive beyond the war inflicted upon the Cambodian population by the Khmer Rouge. A war that was a cancer, borne of the same country that it would destroy, taking away critical organs: the educators, the statesmen, the ballet teachers, the thespians, the two uncles whom I will never know. My father’s older brothers.

My mother, the first child to survive, the eldest daughter. My father, the third son, the eldest son to survive. There are many stories from their lives that I do not know and need to understand. It was not until this moment that I realized what parallels exist between them.

This telling is not the egotism of the child who attempts to use family history to explain and validate her own life; it is an endeavor to honor and understand my family beyond that context.

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