Stranger’s face

My father’s birth mother died in 1981, after the war broke out in his home country of Laos. Back in Laos, my father’s family like many others had very little or nothing at all. The luxury of pulling out your phone to snap a quick picture was unprecedented. Dad never seen a photo of his mother. There isn’t a single photograph of her, I presume. Her face will only be an image in his memory.
Today, Dad pulled out his phone and showed me a picture he snapped from a video and said, “Me Kab. Tus ntawm no zoo li kuv niam kiag tsis txawv li os.” (“My daughter Ka, this woman looks exactly like my mother.”) Dad looked at his phone screen for long minutes. Quiet. He couldn’t tell me the stories of his mother anymore. He couldn’t tell me of how she’d have food already cooked for him after his long days of laboring in the field, of how she had hand washed all his clothes before dinner, of how she would take her hand and bless his forehead every time.
My heart breaks a little tonight as I stare at my dad who stares at a stranger’s picture because her face reminds him of his diseased mother. It pains me to see that the only visual photograph my father has of his mother is of another woman; that my dad wants to keep a stranger’s photograph as a visual reminder of how his mother looked.
Nws raug kuv siab ntau vim kuv pom kuv txiv quaj. Kuv txiv tsis muaj duab los puav pheej khaws uas dab muag nco txog kuv pog. Txog txhij hnub no, kuv txiv tsuas khaws tau ib daim duab uas yog ib tug niam pog li xwb vim tias kuv txiv hais tias tus niam pog ntawv zoo li peb pog. Ua rau kuv tu siab heev vim kuv txiv tsuas khawv lwm tus daim duab los saib xwb. Qhov no uas rau kuv hlub kuv txiv heev li.