A FORTY-YEAR LOVE

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of our marriage,
I wanted to repeat what I had told her long time ago “I love you.”

 Lê Anh Dũng

After four years full of souvenirs at Tang Bat Ho High School, I was wandering to Nha Trang where I attended Vo Tanh High school, lived in a city full of warm weather, later got married with a school girl from Ninh Hoa to Nha Trang for continuous study. I proudly admitted that I was a resident of a city specializing in pork hash wrapped in banana leaves. Nothing much was mentioned during my short period of time attending two classes at Vo Tanh High school. The first class was for relaxing and second one for hard work to pass the exam. If not I had to be enlisted to the non-commissioned officer military school in Dong De. Since my family had to evacuate from war zone in Tam Quan Bong Son, I went to Saigon to attend at Petrus Ky for my senior class in order to enroll in university by chance.

Ninh Hoa was a center of different kinds of military training especially Rangers. Duc My and Deo Pass were not far from Ninh Hoa. Therefore this town resembled Pleiku in military uniforms. Other kinds of soldiers were available at Ninh Hoa. It was so called where there was jungle there were tigers. How dare a student, too young to tie a chicken, to flirt with a girl at Ninh Hoa. Moreover, this young girl had an older brother well known for his position as a gang leader of this small town.

Not until now did people know that “the deaf were not afraid of weapons”. But to tell the truth, I was not scared because I did not know anything. Attending Vo Tanh High school, living in a boarding house and tutoring two kids whose parents paid for meals were everything I was happy about. Other things around were new and strange that made me fearless.

Among my classmates, I was sitting next to a Vietnamese of Chinese descent from Ninh Hoa. I asked him to join Boy Scouts and we belonged to the same group of Khanh Hoa. He fell in love with a school girl whose house was in front of Poh Nagar Temple. The span of time from 1960, the area from Ha Ra to Xom Bong Bridge on First National Highway there were no houses but swamps full of wild plants. In such a deserted terrain, if riding a bicycle from downtown Nha Trang to the bridge of destiny to see girl friend was a scaring and risky trip. He seduced me into believing that there was a very cute little girl from Ninh Hoa at his girlfriend’s house. If I took time riding with him to Xom Bong after night class he would introduce her to me.

My heart was touched by his encouragement. As a result, he and I once in a while rode bicycles to Xom Bong at night. The ghost haunted distance between Ha Ra Bridge to Xom Bong became familiar and no longer scaring to us. His girlfriend and her companion also had a cousin living there. We convinced him to join our boy scouts group. We therefore met not only day, night but also during weekends in boy scouts uniforms at the house full of mystery in front of Ponagar Temple. For almost six months I still did not have chance to make friend with the cute and little girl because she was shy and young. A sentence in a song entitled “I am a Huong Temple goer” was true, “my dear friends, I’m just fifteen and very young.” 

On New Year Day of that year I bought a very nice card from a book store on Phan Boi Chau Street and carefully wrote: “A New Year greeting and an acquaintance note”. I asked her cousin give it to her. He told me that he had given her my card in person but I noticed that she did not show any sign that she had received my card. A long time after our marriage she revealed that while she was cleaning her brother’s book cabinet, she found a nice card with addressee as “little girl”. With surprise and curiosity, she opened it… Thus a short and simple note in the New Year card was strange and different from those with many romantic love letters of other gallant men. Therefore step by step the fish was about to be caught. 

After I said goodbye to the little girl in order to go to Saigon, our correspondence began. We traded letters telling each other numerous stories about everything from unnamed sulk to the songs of the war…Never did we tell each other love story. Although we did not exchange words of love but we had the same feeling that we were in love. A week passed without letters was considered nothing joyful. The excited feeling to wait for letters was one of sicknesses that the virus of love had already infiltrated in a dangerous condition. 

Nowadays in 2008 I absolutely believed that none of the lovers had the feeling to wait for the mailman and then rush to the mailbox. The young lovers at this time had cell phones which could connect them any time they wanted and they could meet anywhere they wished because they all had transportation to come together. This might be the reason their souvenirs of love did not leave better significance than their parents or grand parents. A philosopher had a definition of human being as “man was a creature living for the past”. If it were correct then love would have more beautiful souvenirs, more time to wait and expect. The longer the lovers got acquainted the better their love would be. 

When I first met her, the cute little girl was only fifteen years old and just started first year of high school. When she was twenty years old, I asked her hand and brought her home so that we did not have to trade love letters. The convenient time for me to disclose my love was during my military training at Thu Duc academy. 

Duc Tri School at Ninh Hoa could not keep her any longer. Upon my graduation I got married and took her to my outpost as my first trophy of war for a childish officer. By then I was twenty six years old, six years older than she. There was such an intellectual who said, “Where there is a lover there is a paradise”. That might be the reason for her accompanying me throughout my military career from Tam Quan, Bong Son, Phu Cat, Doi Muoi, Pleiku… and finally all the way to Hoang Lien Son., Yen Bai, Vinh Phu…to mobilize me during my imprisonment as a result of war. 

The year 2008 marked the fortieth anniversary of our marriage. For the past forty years full of ups and downs in love and life we had both sufferings and enjoyments. 

We tried our best to overcome the hopelessness but we were also proud of our children’s success. From the bottom of our thought, the reason for our success was a miracle. With our advanced age, we were fully bestowed by the love from both families and our descendants. Although our lasting happiness came from us, she was the main reason. She was the lady who could stay away from numerous temptations for survival and worked hard to take good care of our children during my long time in jail in North Vietnam without hope for reunion. I owed her every minute of happiness I enjoyed. 

To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of our marriage, I wanted to repeat what I had told her long time ago “I love you”. The old and simple words continued to exist in this world for ever. I would like to thank Ninh Hoa for giving me a loyal wife who had devoted her whole life for her husband and children. She was a typical example.

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