I love this picture of "My Two Mothers."
I collected some of my favorite Nam stories - so those of you who didn't experience him between 2008-10 can get a sense of what a character he was, and for those who did (about 12 of you), to relive some memories.
I got to pay proper respects to him this morning. Yesterday, his sister invited me to Sunday breakfast - I had been trying to see Minh (his nephew who always translated between us) all week, but his job at the travel agency keeps him really busy.
Over beef pho and 7-Up Minh told me this version of the story: The oldest daughter - who is married with a year-old baby - was robbed on her motorbike and broke one of her legs when she went down. That happened four months ago. Two months ago, Nam's wife was walking back from the market and was hit by a motorbike, and one of her legs was broken. Meanwhile, Nam had been getting more and more sick. I knew Nam had a drinking problem, but Minh said it had gotten worse and worse.
"Nam was a very kind man," he explains, "but when he drinks, he can't control himself. He talks and isn't so nice."
So his stomach problems were probably alcohol-related, and the night he died, both his daughter and wife were upstairs with broken legs. His other daughter has been working two jobs to make ends meet, so no one was there to help him.
I'm sure this is the correct story; Minh's English is very good.
So we drive to District 8, me on the back of Minh's bike and Minh's sister and niece on the back of Nam's sister's bike, and visit Nam's house, which is the size of my kitchen. Nam's family is Christian, so a picture of Nam sits on a table with a flowered vase of incense burning in front and a picture of The Last Supper hanging above. We are given incense when we enter the house and we each bow to Nam's picture (he is about 30, very handsome) and set the incense in the vase full of sand. A figure of Christ on the cross leans against the photo.
Minh translates, and I tell his wife how sorry I am, that he was a good friend to me and to many of my friends in America.
She sits on the floor, holding a very fat grandson, her leg in a cast. She graciously thanks me for visiting, then asks how I am, how my work is going in America, and was I hit by Hurricane Sandy?
Then Minh translates this: In Vietnam, they believe that butterflies visit when the soul gets to its resting place. The other day, a butterfly flew in the house and rested on Nam's altar.
It helps to have this visit and some closure.
Yesterday I went to a special market to buy an outfit for him - here they burn paper outfits, money and houses for people to have in the afterlife. I especially like the Adidas hat. And, of course I had to buy blue...I will burn it with people who knew him when I get home.
Enjoy some stories, and feel free to post a favorite Nam memory:
The Cowboy of Nguyen Canh Chan (his story):
When Nam Falls in Love with Sue:
When Nam Involves Himself in my Shoe Decision
The Day Nam Finds Out I Have a Motorbike:
When Nam Spies on Me at School: