My husband, Phil, is a refugee from Vietnam. He left with his mother and older brother in 1975 as Saigon was falling to the North. Staying in Vietnam was not an option as his father was a known sympathizer with the South. With two babies, age 9 months and 2, my husband’s mother climbed a rope ladder into a helicopter and was transported to a US Navy ship in the South China Sea. They waited in Guam for a family to sponsor them into the United States. Eventually they made it to Hawaii and were reunited with their father who had been in the United States working for the Army Corps of Engineers. The family moved to Oregon after a few years in Hawaii and raised three sons in NE Portland.
I met Phil on my second day at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. We had very little to do with each other throughout our time at Lewis and Clark. This is surprising in hindsight, given that we were on the same study abroad program in London, had the same friends, and were both involved in the arts. Phil is an actor and I am a musician. We did go on a date junior year, but I guess we were not ready for each other. Even though I can’t say we were friends in college, I was always keenly aware when he was around. Phil has a beautiful, resonant, and deep voice that brings attention to him wherever he goes. I fell in love with that voice.
A couple of years after graduating from Lewis and Clark, we passed each other on a street. He couldn’t remember my name, but I knew his and was happy to know he was still in Portland. About a year later, we ran into each other again at a dance performance. He still didn’t remember my name, but what was different this time was an obvious giddiness in the both of us. We started seeing each other and spending all our time together. He told me one day that he cheeks hurt because he was smiling all the time. I told him I felt the same way. I realized I was in love with him while grocery shopping one day. I hate grocery shopping and really any menial task. However, this day, I realized that it didn’t matter what we were doing because we had fun together. Years later, I learned that he fell in love with me during that same fateful shopping trip at Fred Meyers.
We married in 2002. We had a non-traditional Vietnamese wedding and a non-traditional Western wedding. It was a great party. Fast forward 14 years, we have built a life together. We have had enormous highs, Phil earning a law degree, the birth of two amazing children, my pursuit of a PhD, and travels around the world. We tell each other every day that we are partners and in this together. He is my strength on days when I have none. He is my conscious on days when I am not my best. He is my safe harbor everyday. He is my true love.
I wonder if I would feel this happy for the life I have built with Phil if he hadn’t had to flee his homeland and we never had the good fortune to meet. Out of a terrible tragedy, we found love.
Happy Valentines Day.
By Jessica Currier