Events that have occurred since I began my search ooze through my brain like globs of hot molasses. They pool together in the center of my consciousness, searing, smothering. My mind wants to shoot off in a hundred different directions, but synapses refuse to fire. I have to fight with myself to stay focused. And here is where I default to my outlet of choice – writing.
This is the only tangible clue, other than my adoption papers and a few old photos, neither of which have played much part in my search.
At first, I was reluctant to publicize it out of respect for Ta Kim Cuc’s privacy. I sent it to a few people who I thought might be able help, but they kept coming up against a wall. The address, it seems changed over time or is incomplete by today’s standards. No one seems to know where this place is.
After writing those posts for the NY Times, I was contacted by a television show in Vietnam that specializes in searching for missing people. The show would probably have been my best resource, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be THAT public.
Fear is the mindkiller…
How far was I willing to go and was I willing to take all of this on with almost no support from family members? Could my already strained relationship with my adopted family withstand the impact? Frozen by my own indecision, I could not force myself to move forward with my search. The universe, however, never seems to let me rest for too long – or run very far either. It gently pushes, prods and sometimes outright throws you wherever it deems necessary. “Psssst, hey look at this,” it seemed to say, “Isn’t it exactly what you were needing?”
DNA test beckons. As mentioned before, I happened upon Operation Reunite’s DNA project. Voila, two questions were answered. My adoptive father was not my biological father, and I am not Amerasian. After some further research, what I could determine was that my genetic roots traced back to Asia, not Europe. I am most probably Vietnamese with trace amounts of Chinese ancestry.
The only other partially tangible clue was a letter my father had written. I say partially tangible, because I’m am not sure how much I can trust its accuracy. It’s not just because of his previous edits to my personal history. Memories fade and change over time. In the letter, he wrote:
“…You were lying in the center crib on the aisle to my right when I took this picture of the cribs. I had not seen you yet. I was still in my jungle fatigues, because I had just returned from three months in the jungle. I was stationed at the army outpost close to Way Phu Bi on the DMZ. There was someone with me (at the orphanage). This person knew of you and she was leading me to your crib. Her name was Ta Kim Cuc. We stopped at the foot of your crib. She said smiling, ‘This is the baby you want, Mun. Her name is Le Thi.’ ‘Mun’ is the nickname Cuc gave me which in Vietnamese is short for ‘Munoi’. You were so tiny. I fell in love with you instantly. I nodded and the orphanage nanny who was with us, picked you up and gave you to me. Cuc exchanged information with the nanny and we left. We took you back to Cuc’s home in Cho Lon. I started the adoption process at the American Embassy in Saigon immediately. Cuc cared for you in Cho Lon during the next six months while I was away at my duty station. I would fly or drive down to Saigon every week or so to see you and Cuc. We went to the airbase Ton Se Nuc in Saigon to fly home. Cuc asked for two of my business cards and a pen while we were waiting for our flight. As she held you, she began to diligently write on the back of the business card. She was writing symbols as she hummed you a lullaby. When she had finished, she handed the cards back to me and said, ‘When Le Thi is big, she will understand. Give this to her to write to me.’”
This is the other card he is referring to:
I’m not sure what the second card means, but it looks like she was trying to figure out how to write out the address.
Time passed. Life moved forward. Frustration had reached a peak again as I ran into brick wall after brick wall. Eventually, I took the leap and posted the address and a plea for help on Facebook. Thankfully, some very wonderful VN adoptees stepped in to assist. One was able narrow the location down for me and pointed out how the address was specifically lacking in information. The address really was incomplete and there were misspellings. It seemed my only options were to either hire someone to search for me, go there myself and search, none of which were very viable options…and there was the television show.
So I began to fill out the application trying to cobble my very confusing story into something that made sense. All my frustration had hardened into determination to see this through to its end – whatever that might be. I had barely begun to write when I received an email from someone who claimed my mother was looking for me.
I stared in disbelief at the short email. After several exchanges (with the help of some wonderful people who volunteered as translators), I was given enough information and a few photographs to seriously consider the possibility. There were discrepancies here and there, but enough similarities to try a DNA test. With the help of Operation Reunite, a DNA test is on its way to Vietnam.
My search abruptly came to a halt as I awaited the results. The universe would again have its way, however, as it sent another nudge.
But that is a story for another day…
I am still searching, still hoping. There is no other choice. For me, there never was.
More than anything, the one thing that has touched me most is the kindness, support and generosity I have received from complete strangers. I’ve held back their names out of respect for their privacy, but they know who they are. Thank you. I am forever in your debt.