“Surviving does not a hero make,” my father, the rueful spirit, states softly with nodding disapproval of my insistence. “But Dad, it doesn’t not matter or whatever. It matters. You know it. This is not the time to be humble. Saving lives, especially the lives of your friends who you were stuck in that shithole with you, that’s no trite matter,” I plead. He drops his head and sighs in that way that he does when he just cannot bear to upset me. “No,” he says flatly while shaking his head, unwilling to see the disappointment in my face. “I’m sorry, Princess, I just … you can’t. I’m sorry. No.” Feeling the weight of the dark wood box, lined in lush green velvet, I look upon the face of the golden heart hanging from a small purple ribbon. “You didn’t just survive, Dad,” I sneer, annoyed. “Who cares about awards and ribbons when men died. Like you said, my friends died. And all the ones that survived, they’re all dead now too,” he calmly explains. Contemplating this I can’t really think of a retort to a situation or circumstance that I could never be able to relate to from personal experience.
And then, I had a revelation, he had saved my life. As an adopted child my life has essentially been saved by my parents. Struggling to conceive, due to various strokes of bad societal luck, my parents adopted my older brother and me from Seoul, South Korea. (No, we’re not biologically related. Yes, we’re asked this all the time. And please do not refer to my parents as my “adopted parents.”) Even after all that time in Vietnam, my father survived. Maybe he survived to save my life. Of course I am aware of and daunted by the grandiosity of the delusion, nevertheless, my father’s complete lack of ego ought to balance out mine. Thus, I—as calmly as I can—begin, “Dad, thank you for saving MY life.”
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