Family reunited for Christmas

Published: December 5, 2007 | 6873rd good news item since 2003

Lien Nguyen spent most of the past decade half a world away from his son.

They’ll sit down together this year to a Christmas dinner provided by the Empty Stocking Fund.

“I’m looking forward to the family reunion,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “This has been nine years without each other.”

Nguyen, 79, came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1998 through a Catholic Charities resettlement program. He lives in an apartment across the street from one of his four sons in Knoxville.

Nguyen was once a village policeman in his home province of Vinh Long. That was before the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists.

Nguyen spent years in prison and in a re-education camp before coming to the U.S.

“It was a hard life,” he said.

He spent the next nine years in East Tennessee, waiting for all his sons to join him. The last son to come over, Vu, arrived four months ago with his wife, Anh, and their 3-year-old daughter, Nguyen.

“I’m very happy to see him again,” the father said. “It’s a better life here than in Vietnam.”

A daughter remains there. She’s married with children of her own, and Nguyen doubts she’ll make the move to the U.S.

Nguyen doesn’t speak English and suffers from arthritis and his eyesight has begun to fade, making most things a blur.

But he can still see the lights that shine from the manger scene in front of the home.

Vu built what the family believes may be Knoxville’s first example of a mangco – a traditional Vietnamese-style fixture of the season.

The decorations go beyond a simple manger scene, incorporating poinsettias, Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and stars.

They plan to enjoy the holiday beauty as they dig into their ESF basket, which will include a turkey and trimmings, canned goods, fresh fruit and toys for Nguyen’s granddaughter.

Nguyen said he can’t imagine spending the holiday any other way.

“This year will be special,” he said.

The family will be among about 8,000 people enjoying a brighter holiday thanks to the program, a News Sentinel charity that began in 1912.

Published in Reunited
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