News

A Father Who Never Stops Giving

Instead of eating Sunday dinner at their parents' house as usual, today Hau and Luan Doan are cooking.

Hau will fry chicken wings and Luan will fry crab cakes in honor of their father, Dung Doan, who sneaked his family out of Vietnam at night in 1978 on a boat he built to flee the communists.

The story of the escape is one Hau (pronounced How) and Luan (Loon) heard many times growing up in America. Six days and six nights without food or water, their father, mother and 2-year-old Hau, grandparents and friends, lying exhausted and dehydrated on the bottom of the boat, then jumping to safety when they drifted close to Malaysia, where they lived in a refugee camp for 18 months before immigrating to America.

When you are young, you don't always understand the sacrifices your parents make. You may hear the big stories. For the Doan family, it was the terrifying escape and the years in the refugee camp, where Luan was born, and where their parents sold their wedding bands to buy sausage for Hau to eat while they subsisted on rice and soy sauce.

But the small sacrifices often pass untold.

Not until his mother told him two years ago did Hau understand the significance of his red tricycle. He was 4 when his family arrived in the United States in 1980 and settled in Virginia Beach. Hau saw other boys riding red tricycles and he wanted one. And so around their third day there, his father, who had been studying to be a lawyer in Vietnam, cleaned up sea shells scattered in front of a building near the beach. He earned $20 and he used that $20, the first money he made in America, to buy his son a red tricycle.

Not until he was older did Luan understand that when he and Hau got new outfits at the start of every school year, their parents continued to wear the same old clothes, as they struggled to establish themselves in this country. Their father worked for a furniture company, then in maintenance for a cement company; their mother, Linh Doan, who also had been studying to be a lawyer in Vietnam, worked as a school custodian, and later as a waitress.

Two different social worlds

When your parents are Vietnamese and you are growing up in America, influenced by American culture, you find yourself navigating two vastly different social worlds and it is not always comfortable.

You have been taught to obey your parents; even grown children in Vietnam are expected to obey them. But you want to spend the night out at friends' houses and go to the prom, and do all the things American kids take for granted. You don't understand why your father is so strict.

To Hau and Luan, their father seemed overprotective and old-fashioned, and sometimes they resented it. He embarrassed them occasionally, as parents sometimes do, like the time Hau stayed out late at a dance club in Charlotte on a work night and his father tracked him down at 2 a.m. and took him home. Hau was 25.

The older they have become, the more Hau and Luan understand and appreciate all their father has done for them – and still does. One of the most important lessons he taught, Luan said, was by example: How to love your wife. “I see the way he loves my mom. It's unconditional love. The best gift a father can give his son is to love his mother.”

Dung Doan says the greatest gifts in his life are his sons' college degrees – Hau's in finance from Virginia Tech, and Luan's in software information systems from UNC Charlotte.

Education, he always preached to them, would be the key to their success.

Hau is now 32 and works for Vanguard; Luan is 28 and works for Bank of America. As they build careers, they realize what it meant for their father to work 16 hours a day for the cement company before moving to Charlotte in 1994, where he now works in their mother's salon, Matrix Nail off East Boulevard. Their father gives manicures, something he never would have imagined himself doing in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese have a saying: A parent's love is like a river that never stops giving. Even now that Hau and Luan are grown and sharing their own house, their father cooks extra noodles, curry and spring rolls on Mondays, his day off, so his sons will eat healthy.

How, they wonder, can they ever repay him?

The Buddhists have a saying about that: Even if you put your mother and father on your shoulder and carry them for your whole life, you will never be able to repay them for their love.

Instead of eating Sunday dinner at their parents' house as usual, today Hau and Luan Doan are cooking.

Hau will fry chicken wings and Luan will fry crab cakes in honor of their father, Dung Doan, who sneaked his family out of Vietnam at night in 1978 on a boat he built to flee the communists.

The story of the escape is one Hau (pronounced How) and Luan (Loon) heard many times growing up in America. Six days and six nights without food or water, their father, mother and 2-year-old Hau, grandparents and friends, lying exhausted and dehydrated on the bottom of the boat, then jumping to safety when they drifted close to Malaysia, where they lived in a refugee camp for 18 months before immigrating to America.

When you are young, you don't always understand the sacrifices your parents make. You may hear the big stories. For the Doan family, it was the terrifying escape and the years in the refugee camp, where Luan was born, and where their parents sold their wedding bands to buy sausage for Hau to eat while they subsisted on rice and soy sauce.

But the small sacrifices often pass untold.

Not until his mother told him two years ago did Hau understand the significance of his red tricycle. He was 4 when his family arrived in the United States in 1980 and settled in Virginia Beach. Hau saw other boys riding red tricycles and he wanted one. And so around their third day there, his father, who had been studying to be a lawyer in Vietnam, cleaned up sea shells scattered in front of a building near the beach. He earned $20 and he used that $20, the first money he made in America, to buy his son a red tricycle.

Not until he was older did Luan understand that when he and Hau got new outfits at the start of every school year, their parents continued to wear the same old clothes, as they struggled to establish themselves in this country. Their father worked for a furniture company, then in maintenance for a cement company; their mother, Linh Doan, who also had been studying to be a lawyer in Vietnam, worked as a school custodian, and later as a waitress.

Two different social worlds

When your parents are Vietnamese and you are growing up in America, influenced by American culture, you find yourself navigating two vastly different social worlds and it is not always comfortable.

You have been taught to obey your parents; even grown children in Vietnam are expected to obey them. But you want to spend the night out at friends' houses and go to the prom, and do all the things American kids take for granted. You don't understand why your father is so strict.

To Hau and Luan, their father seemed overprotective and old-fashioned, and sometimes they resented it. He embarrassed them occasionally, as parents sometimes do, like the time Hau stayed out late at a dance club in Charlotte on a work night and his father tracked him down at 2 a.m. and took him home. Hau was 25.

The older they have become, the more Hau and Luan understand and appreciate all their father has done for them – and still does. One of the most important lessons he taught, Luan said, was by example: How to love your wife. “I see the way he loves my mom. It's unconditional love. The best gift a father can give his son is to love his mother.”

Dung Doan says the greatest gifts in his life are his sons' college degrees – Hau's in finance from Virginia Tech, and Luan's in software information systems from UNC Charlotte.

Education, he always preached to them, would be the key to their success.

Hau is now 32 and works for Vanguard; Luan is 28 and works for Bank of America. As they build careers, they realize what it meant for their father to work 16 hours a day for the cement company before moving to Charlotte in 1994, where he now works in their mother's salon, Matrix Nail off East Boulevard. Their father gives manicures, something he never would have imagined himself doing in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese have a saying: A parent's love is like a river that never stops giving. Even now that Hau and Luan are grown and sharing their own house, their father cooks extra noodles, curry and spring rolls on Mondays, his day off, so his sons will eat healthy.

How, they wonder, can they ever repay him?

The Buddhists have a saying about that: Even if you put your mother and father on your shoulder and carry them for your whole life, you will never be able to repay them for their love.

  Comments