“I grew up very fortunate, living in the countryside in the province. Our village was right on the side of a mountain and my dad was a miner so we did well. He made enough money that my mom could open up a little store and we had plenty to eat.
But others in the village were very poor. They’d come to my mom’s store and ask for a bag of rice or some medicine for their children, but they wouldn’t have enough money to pay.
“Please, I will pay you tomorrow,” they’d say, and she’d give it to them, even though she knew they couldn’t pay tomorrow, either. But she carried medicine at the store even though she made no money on it, and ay sundown when she heard the babies and children in the village crying from hunger, she’d always give out some rice. I had everything as a little girl, plenty of food and clothes and gold necklaces, and never had to be sent to the mountain to work like the other kids.
But when I was eight years old, things went bad when my father met another woman in our village. She was older than him and very rich, with many houses and gold since she owned the mine. They started having an affair, and soon my father left my mother. My mother was crushed, but I was too young to understand that my father wasn’t coming home anymore. I grew very sick with a broken heart.
My mother had no more money from his mining job. The store didn’t bring in much because she gave food to those who were hungry and medicine to those who were sick, even thought they could not pay. I grew even sicker and I stopped eating. I only wanted to see my daddy. For months, I didn’t eat anything but liquids and I grew so thin that even the doctors thought I would soon die. My mother tried to take me to more doctors and buy me medicine, but she had no money. And there was no medicine for my broken heart. My mother sold everything in the store and then the store itself and started selling our furniture just to keep our house and enough food. But I did not eat. I only watched the window every day, lying on my bamboo matt on the floor because I was too weak and sick to even sit up, waiting for my father to come home. There was nothing more my mother could do because I refused to ear, and she was heartbroken, herself.
The rich older woman was in love with my father, and wanted him to come to the big city. She had a beautiful house there where they could live with servants and always be comfortable and he would never have to work again. He agreed, and they took their things and went to the bus station to travel to the city.
But once they got there, he couldn’t stop thinking of his children and his family. Their bus was leaving soon so he told the rich woman that he had to go to the bathroom. He left her side and all of his suitcases but instead of going to the bathroom, he went to the ticket counter and bought a ticket for the next bus back toward our village. He never went back to her, but got on the bus and left.
I was so sick that there was nothing anyone could do and my mother was waiting for me to die, but I wouldn’t eat. I had such a bad fever sometimes that I would say crazy things and see things that weren’t there. Sometimes I’d call out to my father. My mother had no choice but to ignore me after a while.
But one afternoon, I thought saw someone walking on the long dirt road that ran into our village from the main road, where the buses ran. I was dizzy with fever but I thought I saw a man walking towards us. I knew I was sick so I thought I must be seeing crazy things again, because it looked like my father. But I watched him walking, and even thought he was still far off, I could tell it was my father.
I cried out to my mother that my father was walking home, but she dismissed me as having feverish dreams once again and went back to doing the wash. I called out again when he was closer, but my mother just swept the floor. Finally, when he was so close that I could see his face and I knew it was actually my father and not a dream, I cried out to my mother again.
My mother turned around and dropped her broom with what she saw. It was him.
He walked up to the home and came inside. He saw that there was no furniture and his daughter was very skinny on the floor. He hugged me first.
“Is everything Ok?” he asked my mother.
“No, everything is not ok,” my mother said. “We have no food or medicine and our daughter is very sick. She hasn’t been able to eat rice or solid food in months. She just drinks. She is going to die and the doctors don’t know what it is.”
He hugged me again, and then hugged my mother. He apologized and she hugged him back and they both cried, because she knew he was home for good and her heart opened up to him again.
“Mommy,” I said. “Can I have some rice? I am hungry.””
My friend told me that she ate well from that day on, and grew healthy again. Her father moved back in and her mother forgave him. He tried to go back to work but he couldn’t work in the mine again, and they didn’t have money to open the store, so they were poor. But the people in the village remembered that the family had been good to them and shared what they had. Things were not easy, but somehow, there was always enough.
Her father and mother never left each other’s side again, and lived the rest of their many years together until he passed away around Christmas, the year before.