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Home | Episode #39
Fallen Leaves
May 2, 2019 | Student Producer:

Lily Yates
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Fallen Leaves
Poet Viet Mai explores the struggle of connecting to his roots. (3 minutes)
Viet Mai

My grandma died and I don't really know how to cry about it. I was too busy working, too busy playing Halloween. I was just too busy trying to create a future that I forgot about losing my past. You see, my blood lines feel so thin at times, there's no wonder why I get anemic. My roots are only as deep as San Diego suburbs. I was still a cub when I learned how to separate from the den, I then learned that family was anyone who fed me or let me sleep on their couch. The only thing I knew about my grandmother was she was a gambler. How bad? I have no idea. What was her hustle? No clue. Apparently, Grandma was senile and she had been for awhile. How long? I don't know. How old was she? Like 90-something... or was she nice? Was she funny? Did she tell stories? What kind of stories did she have? How did she...?

I don't know. But I know there should be at least, like, a mini lesson in social studies class that says something about ethnic ceremonies and customs, how to properly honor our past, and science should teach something about family trees that look more like bushes and fallen leaves that aren't sure which branch they come from. I never enjoyed history because I could never connect to it. I learned more about wars than I did about tradition. I learned that foreign languages are only required to get into universities, two years minimum, four is a plus, so I pretended to have cooties when partnering up with a new Vietnamese girl that didn't speak any English. I didn't understand why the Vietnamese boy called me a disgrace. Shit, I was getting straight A's and stars on the green card, punk. So I was taught that I was good at math and science and I learned that there's a solution to everything, and everything has a formula.

So, through science I figured that death is just a part of life, but I never understood why division was so difficult and why subtraction was so confusing. How can you just take away when I never had enough to begin with? I couldn't just borrow. That was as foreign to me as my knowledge of family history and I always thought that history wasn't as important, only two years required in the A through G. I learned that history is why I have four half-brothers. I learned that art was only an elective and I didn't have to express myself if I didn't want to, I could just get the credit. So I didn't waste time with feelings or emotions, they don't put food on the table, a roof over your head, or clothes on your back. I learned that crying was only allowed for injuries, cuts, broken bones, bruises, feather dusters, wooden spoons. I learned about 9-1-1, stop, drop, and roll, duck and cover and wait for the teacher's directions, but I never knew what to do when mom breaks down. There was no manual for pushing the wrong buttons, no instructions on what to do with what was lost. I was just told to find it whenever something was missing and I'm looking, but I can't find it, 'cause I don't even know what it is. So I'm sorry, Grandma.

No one taught me how to find it, and whatever it is, I'm afraid it's gone.