A Portrait of My Grandmother

by Dieu

20120923-160426.jpgVintage photo of my grandmother (late 1950’s – Saigon, Vietnam)

My grandmother is a strong woman, and I am proud that I have the same blood running through my veins. This photo shows my grandmother in the prime of her youth, for she must have been in her 20’s when this photograph was taken. And although I love the romanticism and fantasy of the photo – the details such as the delicate lace veil she wears and the exotic backdrop, all of which contribute to creating a fairytale story that she is a part of, I know that it does not reveal the whole story of her life.

When my mother was only an infant, her father, my grandfather was mysteriously taken away in the dead of night from their home. This was in Vietnam during the 60’s. Everyone knew that in those dangerous times, anything could happen and that he was most likely killed. I am not sure if anyone knows the answers to what exactly happened. My mother has never told me the full story and I’m not sure if it is because she herself was never told, or if the full story is just too complicated to tell. My grandfather was only in his late twenties when he was taken away to be never seen again. Then, my grandmother faced the hardship of raising four children on her own, and because life can be cruel and unforgiving in how much tragedy it must unleash on a person, she later lost two of her children, a daughter to a motorcycle accident, and her only son to an illness. Both were young, barely into their twenties when they passed on.

When I think of my mother growing up with no memory of her father, and of my grandmother surviving through the grief of losing her husband and two children in the prime of their lives, I think to myself that I have strong blood in me, and I am proud and I am grateful. I see this photo and I see beauty, but I also see that it is so beautiful because of what came after. Life is beauty, but it goes on after the picture is taken. The photo reminds me that we were all young and beautiful once, but it also reminds me that that is not the only thing that matters.