International Day of People with Disability: Binh Pham writes for Creative Control

Sunday, December 6, 2020
By: 
Binh Pham

A smiling Vietnamese woman with short dark hair, wearing a red jacket.
Bin Pham

It's God's Will

Whenever a catastrophe happens, we all try to find ways to explain its occurrence to ease our mind and help us accept drastic consequences.  My sudden loss of vision during my trip to Vietnam shocked people and inevitably I became a target for many quirky comments and advice.

My sister and brother showed their concern by bombarding me with their wisdom. “You always do too much.  You never rest, so your body just collapsed.”

 “I went to the gym three times a week.  I was very fit before this happened.” 

“But your mind never rests.  You are always doing something,” they insisted. 

“I’ve travelled for three weeks with both of you, and I’ve done the same things you have.” 

 “No, you tried to learn how to play the shakuhachi on Thursday evening.” 

“How could watching a YouTube video for half an hour make me blind?”

They kept a dubious silence.  Here they were fully sighted while I was nearly blind.  Who would people believe?  I had lost all my creditability. 

At the airport, Vietnam Airlines allocated two newly recruited female employees to lead me to the terminal gate.  After enquiring about my sudden vision loss, one said, “Many Vietnamese expatriates fall ill while visiting Vietnam. They’ve gone soft and can’t cope with living in Vietnam anymore.” 

Back in Australia, I spent two days in the Emergency Department at the Eye and Ear Hospital.  I barely kept my head above water as I went from one clinic to another without being able to see. Finally, I was admitted to the Vision Ward.  A woman approached my hospital bed.  “I’m here to collect your blood samples for tests,” she said, then reached for both of my hands.  “I would like to pray for you to recover your sight.” 

She closed her eyes and softly recited her prayer.  I listened but did not feel moved by this communication with a god that I did not believe in.  I calmly thanked her for her good will. I’d experienced the same thing many years before at the Royal Melbourne Hospital when I had a brain tumour removed.  A volunteer had come to visit just before my operation. She gave me an orange and said solemnly, “It’s God’s will!  Everything happens for a reason.”  I was so angry that I nearly chucked the orange at her face.  How could she be so insensitive to say such things to a someone trying to fight for her life?  I stared stonily at her until she awkwardly left without another word. 

Although the nurses expressed some compassion and sympathy, their professional training prevented them from speculating wildly on the cause of my predicament.   The fun really started when I got home.

One fellow writer in my writing group was adamant that psychology was the cause: “You had not returned to Vietnam for many years, so you suffered a shock.”

Another writer said, “God only gives what one can take.” 

I stared at her in astonishment. “Do you mean because I have been resilient enough to cope with some terrible mishaps in my life, He has now raised the bar higher?  How could a god be so mean?”

Although inflammation of the optic nerve prevented me from receiving visual signals, my eyes still appeared normal to other people, making it hard for them to believe that I was nearly blind. I felt obliged to explain my blindness to the drivers who delivered my Meals on Wheels. One woman said, “Maybe the stress of travel manifested itself as a serious physical problem.  I had to buy a dress for a wedding and the stress made my skin break into a rash.”

God set the bar really low for that lady, I thought.

 


About Bin Pham

Binh Pham is a 2020 Write-ability Fellow. She enjoys writing short stories and children’s books.  Her stories were short listed for the 2018 Ada Cambridge Biographical Prose Award and long listed for the 2018 Harper Collins Aspiring Writers Mentorship Program. As ‘Binh’ (meaning ‘Peace’), she paints wild landscapes and children’s portraits. Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories inspired by her childhood in Vietnam.