Me and my dad: StoryCorps

A year ago, when Asian Pasifika Arts Collective asked for submissions to do a podcast interview with a family member for StoryCorps, I thought instantly of my father. I’d wanted to approach him about recording a podcast series anyways, as part of a past thread of interviews I’ve done with him about his experiences fleeing Vietnam.

Of course, it turned out this would be the only episode we would record together.

It’s been a struggle to go back and listen. I’ve tried a few times over this year. The recording itself is riddled with technical issues and dropped connections. We had done a tech check the week prior and things had been fine? But on this day, he sounds so unbelievably frail. (How was it that it hadn’t clicked for me that something was deeply wrong at the time?) The voice of my father in my memory is clear, charming, razor-sharp and incredibly funny, and I remember being anxious to capture that version of my father on record to share with the world. Being confused and, to be honest, a little frustrated that the interview wasn’t quite flowing the way I thought it would.

Later, my stepmother would share with me that he had had immunotherapy the day prior – a combination of opdivo/yervoy, an intense cocktail of drugs that ram your immune system into overdrive so that it can lay waste to the cancerous growths in your body – along with everything else. He was desperately tired, so she tried to convince him to reschedule the recording, but he had refused. “He wanted to talk to you.”

There’s a few times where I’m laughing on the recording, and that’s maybe the hardest thing to hear – my laughter sounds cruel in retrospect. On that day I was low-key alarmed about how much my dad was struggling with focusing and using the technology, and I reacted by trying to keep things light.

It’s also tough to hear past, ignorant me trying to steer the conversation to shape it into something that I thought audiences would like. Had I known this would be the last time, I would have just let him talk.

This is not a perfect recording, but this was the best we could do. Thank you for listening. Love you, dad. ❤

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