I am happy to say that Mai’s ear has totally recovered. We had a follow up today and the young doctor that we saw said that there seemed to be no damage to the ear and that the infection had cleared. Thank Goodness!! Now I can tell again if I am just being ignored. ( not that I am brave enough to do anything about it if I am) We have one night left in Canada before we make our way back to NhaTrang. Things will be a bit different this time. We have one way tickets and the entry forms to Vietnam have a return ticket date on the form. I know from the past that an incomplete form can cause no end of trouble…. How can they apply that mighty red stamp if everything is not complete? Mai will also be entering the country as a new Vietnamese citizen. She will now have the same legal rights and obligations of a Vietnamese person, but have the added comfort that she is still a Canadian also. I am hoping that the 4 hour lay over in Saigon will be enough time to satisfy the immigration department. Now that we are soon headed back, I begin to think of the reasons I am there. I mentioned in a post a few days ago about a friend and co-worker named Tom. I think I have spoke of him in the past, but I do so again because he is a very large factor in my decision to live in Vietnam.
In Feb 2009, I arranged a tour for Mai, myself and 16 friends to tour almost al of Vietnam. Some of them stayed for 2 weeks only, and others remained for the entire 6 weeks. Thomas McKeough remained with us for the entire time he was able. The trip started with the group arriving in Vietnam and being met at the airport in Saigon by my now good friend Hau and Nghia, and some family members who were excited to see us. We were picked up in a bus and taken to District 1 to be on our own for a few days before starting our tour. One of the people who met us was a sort of sister in-law who was single and had no involvement with men for the past 25 years. As part of the deal for me hosting this trip, everybody had chipped in a little extra and she and a few others would accompany us on part of the journey. Tom was ecstatic and loved everything about Vietnam he encountered. Perhaps he was just that sort of guy. For almost a year before we left, he would seek me out with a question or comment on the upcoming trip. After 3 days we were ready to start our Mekong leg of the journey. In the few days before, Tom had taken to teasing my sister in law a bit from time to time. On the bus journey into the Mekong, he decided to tease her even more and would not allow anybody but himself to sit beside her. At first she was irritated and angry at this big foreigner hassling her so much, but after she realized the amusement it caused the others, she lightened up. His prey calming down, he gave her a little space and joked with us about trying to find another tactic. I have no idea why Tom had taken to bugging her, but he was acting like a little boy trying to upset the girl. On and off for a week did Tom find different ways of bugging her. It was sort of pathetic and cute at the same time to watch. He would sneak behind her and tug on her hair, or tap her on the opposite shoulder from where he was standing. Neither of them could understand each others language, but it was not necessary. After a couple of weeks you could see that they were smitten with each other. He was always the boyish type, and her the stern scolding one. They fit perfectly. Together they went to all events and sights. In the evening, the boys would go out and Tom would never make mention of his daytime affair. During one of these evenings, Tom went somewhere off on his own and returned with some kind of bite that turned a bit black the next day. We suggested he get it looked at, but he insisted it was fine. After another day of it being worse, it changed and cleared up. Just days after the bite had cleared, we headed up to Hanoi and Halong Bay for a cruise. Tom confided in my that he had become quite fond of my sister in law and upon returning to Canada, he was going to retire early, settle his affairs in Nova Scotia where he had a home, and then fly directly back to Vietnam. He had fallen in love with the country, but more importantly, fallen in love with my sister in law. He had decided to purchase a small house in Saigon and put her in it. Then he was going to do a six month stay in Canada, followed by six months in Saigon. I was delighted to hear this. My friend would be here in Vietnam with one of my family…. Making the family stronger. Tom began feeling a bit under the weather when we boarded the Cruise for Halong Bay and within a day had developed a bad fever. We talked to him about turning the boat around and getting him to a doctor, but he would have none of it. The next day he became delirious, and another of my sister in laws was tending him. As hard as we tried, we could not convince him to seek help and were relieved when the fever broke and he was eating again. We returned to Hanoi and we had our guide store and pick up some medication on the way back to the hotel. At last, we could see Tom recovering, and we helped the poor weakened pal up to his room. He joked that his heart was beating like a race horses. Damnit!!! At our age, one of us should have taken notice of that statement. In the morning, three hours before our flight, we found Tom had passed away in his sleep. Our party was rushed to the airport at the last minute, but I remained behind to handle the situation. I will not get into any details about that day. There are stories that are meant to be told in person and in private and that is one of them. Let me just say, it was a day I wish never to relive.
Anyway…. It is a sad tale of a romance that was never meant to be. A man’s dream gone, and a chance at a new life and relationship disappeared.
I think about him, what he said to me, and the broken heart of the woman he left behind. In my mind, I really had no choice. I committed myself to returning to Vietnam by investing in a property mere hours before my flight back to Canada, and within eight months I wrote the first page of this blog. I am now living his life. Perhaps the day I spent with him in Hanoi was bonding enough that he is sitting on my shoulder and we are living the dream together. I hope so. There is no better person to be watching my back. We live the adventure together
Thank you Tom…. It is because of you that I am…