How I Plan To Honor My Father's Integrity Through My Own Perseverance

by Viet Nguyen

It seems like everyone has a story about his or her old man to tell come Father's Day.

For most of us, it's one of the few times a year our thoughts truly surround the men who raised us.

I'm ashamed to say I do not think about my father enough, despite all the influence he has on me today.

Sometimes, when you are busy (especially if you're a college student), thoughts are reserved for the immediate circumstances around you.

But, I have a personal narrative to tell. It is one of sacrifice, perseverance and unconditional love.

My father came to this country from Vietnam with my mother and three children. They left their home to pursue economic prosperity, something many immigrants do in the search for a better life.

Although my family was given about six months to learn English in the Philippines before moving to the United States, they did not have enough time to prepare for the journey ahead.

Here in the United States, my parents never had the opportunity to go to school and properly learn English.

Thirty years old with three children and another on the way, the top priority for my parents was to work and make a stable income to put a roof over our heads.

Growing up, I was upset my dad couldn't be there for me all the time.

Because he couldn't speak English well and only had a high school education, my father worked a low-end job at a furniture manufacturer.

To this day, I still have never been inside that factory. I've never even really asked him about it.

To help pay the bills and assist my siblings with paying for community college, my dad took another job at Safeway.

It was during these few years I saw him the least. He was working 80 hours a week, and the rest of the time he would spend resting for the next day.

Being only 10, I recognized the sacrifice he was making for our family, but I couldn't truly grasp it.

Although it was hard not seeing him and being able to talk to him every day, I was conscious enough to understand there was reasoning behind the sacrifice.

But, when he was away at work, he was also always with me.

His disposition was ingrained in my character. My father's hard work and perseverance are traits I learned and came to value at a very young age.

Although we lived a modest life, I came to appreciate the little and often overlooked things.

I came to know my dad during the first couple summers while I was in college.

At this point, he had moved past his days at the furniture factory and started his own landscaping business.

My dad had first encountered landscaping through working for his friends, and he eventually made enough money to buy his own supplies and equipment.

Landscaping supplies are far from cheap, and quality mowers go anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

Out of anyone I know, my father understands the value of a good investment.

He told me and my siblings time and time again to worry less about the debt we were taking on with college and to worry more about making something out of ourselves.

Repeatedly, he would tell me if I didn't want to end up like him — working hard for others with little pay — I would have to go to college. To this day, these words still ring in my head.

During those summers, I worked with my dad endlessly. I got to know him well — more than I had in the first 15 years of my life — just through being with him 10 hours a day.

I asked him about his life back home and about how much he missed his family.

We would talk about life, and he would ask me about my ambitions and friends during our lunch breaks getting pho.

He would always buy me coffee in the morning, and we would always end the workday when he felt I didn't want to work anymore.

Fast-forward to today: I am about to graduate from college at the University of Washington.

This entire year, I have worked full-time while balancing good grades, but I rarely get to go come for weekend trips.

Although my father has less of a physical presence in my life now, he continues to dramatically influence who I am.

He calls me often, always asking me how I am and telling me to come home to visit. Most of the time, I hear his messages through voicemails because I am busy either at school or work.

After I leave my undergraduate years behind, the thing I am looking most forward to is not my future job prospects or how I won't have to sit in lecture halls during sunny days.

I am most excited to go home and spend time with the man who has showed me unconditional love, despite my inability to sometimes do the same.

Cheers to our fathers and our inability to truly express our gratitude and love toward them.