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Xuân và Tôi

Hôm nay tôi dành thời gian riêng với Xuân, thằng con trai yêu dấu thứ ba của tôi. Cũng không làm gì nhiều. Hai cha con đến công viên chơi xe lửa (hai lần), nằm dưới bóng mát, ăn potato chips, và cùng nhau đọc sách thiếu nhi. Chỉ như thế thôi tôi cũng hạnh phúc rồi.

Dĩ nhiên lúc nào đi đầy đủ mấy anh em cũng vui nhưng lâu lâu phải dành trọn sự chú ý cho mỗi đứa để nó biết cha mẹ luôn quan tâm đến nó. Chỉ ba tuổi thôi mà Xuân đã biết rất nhiều. Khi nó không hài lòng là hờn dỗi rằng, “Tôi khóc vì không ai thương yêu tôi cả.” Nghe nó mếu máo mà mình cũng xót xa lắm.

Xuân thường hay gây gổ với thằng Đán nhưng khi đi riêng với tôi nó cư xử rất ngoan. Có lẽ nó không cần phải tranh cãi để được sự chú ý của người lớn. Tôi rất quý mến những giây phút riêng tư đó.

Đã lâu rồi tôi không có dành thời gian riêng với Đạo. Chắc chắn phải tìm cơ hội.

Letter to My Sons #6

Dear sons,

These letters I am writing you were inspired by Julie Yip-Williams who wrote to her daughters when she was diagnosed with deadly cancer. In her letters, she was completely opened about her dying. Her hope was that her daughters would understand when they get a chance to read her words. I don’t want to wait until I become ill to begin to write to you.

Death is a heavy subject, especially at your age. I am still scared, but I have to accept the reality that I won’t escape death. I am still in good health today, but I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. These days, massive strokes and cancers can easily cut someone’s life short. If it were my turn to go, my greatest concern is you. I hope will remember me, but I want you to live on with your life.

One of the benefits of having four siblings is that you can rely on each other. When I was a kid, I loved this Vietnamese proverb: “Một cây làm chẳng nên non, ba cây chụm lại nên hòn núi cao.” It means one tree alone can’t do much, but three trees together will make a mountain. The four of you can make anything together. Even if I would end up in hell, I would be happy to know that you guys love and take care of each other. So don’t cry for me. Just remember my wish.

Sorry, this letter is a bit dark, but I want you to understand how I feel about death before it would be too late. I can’t take time for granted. Last week, one of my friends passed away unexpectedly. A few weeks before his death, we were going to get together with him. He met Đạo and Đán, but not Xuân and Vương. Unfortunately, we lost our chance. He had a massive stroke and could not recover. Life is short. So don’t wait before it’s too late.

Love,

Daddy.

Read The New Yorker

If you are looking for some enlightening reads, check out the following essays from The New Yorker:

Some News

I jazzed up Vietnamese Typography a bit. The homepage now has several cover designs loaded in randomly. For chapter header and small text, I switched to Adapter, a brand new typeface designed by William Montrose and Sláva Jevčinová for Rosetta. It’s pretty neat. Go give it a visit.

I snatched up a ticket to Typographics next week. The speaker lineup looks amazing. I am also looking forward to meeting up with some friends. Let me know if you’re attending.

I am reading Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. I am only about 100 pages in, but the book is so good. I also ordered Ocean Vương’s debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. It’s one of my summer reading list.

The kids will be done with school next week. I am looking forward to the summertime.

A Lovely Letter From Susan

This letter from Susan made my day:

Hello Donny,

I’m Susan and I’m a college student from Louisiana. I’m emailing you to give you my thanks for creating your online book, Vietnamese Typography.

How I found your webpage was accidental so I’ll explain it to you. I’m a Vietnamese-American and my parents were refugees from Vietnam. They worked hard for me in so many ways, one of them being providing me with the tools to learn Vietnamese from a young age so I could be as fluent as possible. Watching educational videos from Thế Hệ Trẻ, going to Sunday School at my Vietnamese church, attending summer school for even further learning, and talking with my extended family are some examples of how I learned to read, write, and speak so much Vietnamese as an American-born.

Now fast forward to June 2019. My boyfriend, a Filipino-Canadian, has requested that I teach him how to read Vietnamese. He searched up some alphabet charts while I went to find some sort of guide to teach him about dấu. Your website appeared first on my Google search. Initially, I was completely unaware that this site was meant to help typographers, as the Google search only directed me towards the “Tone Marks” page. Upon further reading though, I can see that this site offers the utmost respect to our language and simultaneously teaches typographers how to create optimum designs for its use on the screen. My boyfriend casually remarked that he wanted to know the history of the Vietnamese language. I couldn’t impart such knowledge because I was never taught about it, and yet, there is a chapter dedicated to this subject readily available on your website. This is a wholesome page.

I’ve also reviewed your portfolio website. Your work is beautiful and your passion for our language is quite inspiring. I have never seen this sort of appreciation for Vietnamese by a Vietnamese person before. I’m glad to have found Vietnamese Typography and I’ve donated $5 via the support page. I wish you all the best, Donny.

Keep up the good work,
Susan

My response to Susan:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for supporting my Vietnamese Typography book. Furthermore, I appreciate your wonderful story. I am glad that your boyfriend wanted to learn about our beautiful language. When someone is willing to go that far for you, it’s true love. Congratulations!

My hat off to your parents. You probably didn’t appreciate their effort then, but you must be pleased now that they had instilled Vietnamese into you. I am encouraging my kids to learn Vietnamese as well and it is not easy; therefore, I understand and respect what they had done for you.

Reading your letter has confirmed that I made the right decision, which was to make this publication online for free. I am happy that it has reached you.

Thank you,

Donny Truong

Always Be My Maybe

I want to root for this Asian-American rom-com, but I am not feeling it. I love Ali Wong’s work as a comedian, but not so much as an actor. Randall Park is OK. As far as portraying the lives of Asian-Americans, they got the details right, but I can’t relate to Sasha and Marcus. My childhood was different because unlike them I did not speak English; therefore, my experience growing in America was much different. Not that a film has to be about me for me to like it, I just thought the chemistry was off and the story was predictable, which most rom-coms are like that.

Thank You, Big Brother

On November 2, 2011, I wrote about my love ones:

I also missed my wife even though we only communicate with each other on the basic level. These days if we go any further than that, we would ended up arguing. If we talk to the point where I started to feel comfortable, I would bring up my problems and she is sick and tired of hearing them. I am sure you’re pretty tired of hearing them too if you follow this blog. Carrying the baby is already hard enough; therefore, I try my best to keep my own issues to myself and not giving her anymore burden.

After reading my blog post, brother Hải sent me the following email:

Hey, Doanh,

How goes it, lil bro? Long time no see. :o)

Hope you don’t mind me saying this, but the highlighted above raise all kinds of red flags in my head: I was there.

I know it’s tough: new job, a business on the side, a toddler, a new baby coming, mom being sick, etc. I was in a similar situation, and—had I known to prioritize things—I would still have a family.

Can’t tell you what to do, or how to fix it. However, I think you would agree with me that it needs to be fixed; or—at least—not get worse.

Again, hope you don’t mind me saying the above.

Please give my best to everyone.

Thank you big brother for saving our marriage. May your soul rest in peace.

Michael Yo: Blasian

In Blasian, Yo shares his personal experience of being raised by a Black PhD father and a Korean mother. His story, accompanied by family photos, is sweet and hilarious. Yo also shared his own marriage to a white woman, his love for old school hip-hop, and his experience going to all white school. His special is light-hearted and entertaining. Worth a watch on Amazon Prime.

Vĩnh Biệt Anh HML

Anh Hải mến,

Chỉ còn vài tiếng đồng hồ nữa là anh sẽ rời khỏi cõi đời này. Thật đáng tiếc khi chưa được cơ hội để anh gặp gỡ hai thằng nhóc của em. Vài tuần trước mình hứa hẹn nhưng em lơ là vì nghĩ rằng mình sẽ còn có nhiều thời gian. Không ngờ giờ đây đã muộn màng.

Lần cuối mình gặp nhau là lúc thằng Đán mới sáu hoặc bảy tháng. Hôm đó mình ăn trưa ở nhà hàng Present và anh gọi cái bánh xèo nhìn hấp dẫn. Em cũng không nhớ rõ mình đã ăn món gì. Lúc thằng Đán khóc, anh nâng niu nó vào lòng rồi bảo vợ chồng em, “Chừng nào bây cần thời gian riêng, đem hai đứa cho anh trông.” Thấm thoát sáu năm đã trôi qua và chúng em đã thêm hai thằng nữa.

Giờ đây nhìn lại, em vui được biết đến anh qua trang blog của mình. Lúc ấy, anh thường đọc những bài viết của em và trả lời qua những lời comment khôi hài, khuyến khích, hoặc dạy dỗ như một người anh lớn. Sau này tuy trang blog không còn phần comment nữa, anh vẫn thỉnh thoảng gửi email động viên em, nhất là sau khi đọc những lời tâm sự về chuyện tình cảm vợ chồng em. Anh đã nhắc nhở em nên quý trọng những gì đang có. Anh đã từng trải nên hiểu được sự đổ vỡ.

Không ngờ rằng trang blog cá nhân đã đem đến cho em không chỉ người vợ mà còn một người người anh lớn. Từ mạng đưa chúng ta gần hơn mỗi lần gặp nhau tại quán Hải Dương anh em cùng nhau thưởng thức những tô bún mắm đậm đà và những ly cà phê thơm phức. Chỉ lần đầu gặp gỡ em đã quý mến đức tính trầm lặng, hiền hoà, và cảm tình của anh. Gần hơn nữa, em ngưỡng mộ anh khi được chứng kiến tình cảm anh dành cho cha mẹ, các em, và con gái của anh.

Em cám ơn những tình cảm anh đã dành cho vợ chồng em. Khi anh rời khỏi cõi tạm này, em tin rằng anh sẽ tiếp tục những chuyến phiêu lưu kỳ diệu với tràn đầy màu sắc, ánh sáng, âm nhạc, và bình yên. Chúc anh thượng lộ bình an.

Rob Dunn: Never Home Alone

An informative, eye-opening exploration of creatures living in our homes and bodies. The good news is that not all of them are bad. While pathogens are harmful, other species are beneficial to us—spiders are my new friends. Dunn explains and emphasizes the important of biodiversity. He encourages us to invite bacteria, fungi, and insects back into our lives instead of getting rid of them. This book has validated my decision for turning down services that wanted to exterminate all the bugs around our house. I am also going to stop using disinfecting wipes, which kill 99.9% of viruses bacteria including the good ones. Although I struggled to finish the book because of my own lack of interest on scientific writing, I am glad I made it through. I have learned a ton about our little friends I didn’t know I had living with us.