CALIFORNIA — The following essay was submitted to Johnson Attorneys Group for the 2023 Never Drink and Drive Scholarship Competition. The winner will be chosen by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and announced later this month.
Phuong Huynh Essay “The Moth”
“Mom, when will dad wake up?”
That was what my cousin Ký said the day after his father died in a drunk driving accident. My cousin was three years old and I was six.
Uncle Khương had thick, bushy eyebrows and a gentle demeanor. He was always taking my
family out to local Vietnamese restaurants. Once, it was a small stand that served the best
escargots in the city. Another time, he came home with a basket of clams.
All of those adventures ended when he drove into a lamppost on his way home from a local bar.
It was a head-on collision, his helmet hanging on the side of his motorbike.
I never got to see his bushy eyebrows again, his funeral featuring a closed-coffin.
In my memories, it felt as if my mother cried for months after hearing the news. When I asked
my father how I could make her happy again, he rested a hand on my shoulder.
“Sometimes, you just have to let yourself cry for a very long time.”
If my mother spent months crying, then my aunt must have cried for years. It took her more than
a decade to remarry, her son now a troubled teenager. Ký talks about his father with a smile,
saying he doesn’t remember much from the incident. However, I believe he grew up wishing his
father had been there for him. He constantly lies, steals from my grandmother and is known as a
heartbreaker at school. Had his father still been alive, he most likely would have diverted his
energy into more fulfilling pursuits.
Despite his troubles, Ký never fails to visit his father’s grave each year.
In Vietnam, it is believed that the dead can return in various forms whether in the form of a child
or an animal.
Last Lunar New Year, a giant moth flew into Ký’s room. My aunt shooed it away with a broom
but it came back an hour later. Finding that my cousin’s room was empty, the moth flew over to
his bike and landed on the handle, waiting. When my cousin returned from school, the moth
immediately flew over and landed on his heart. There it stayed for a few moments, listening to
Ký’s heartbeat. Making sure that he was alive. Making sure that he was healthy. Making sure that
he had come home in one piece.
It was the least Uncle Khương could have done.
Learn more about Johnson Attorneys Group scholarship opportunities on our website.
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