The Long Lost German Cousin (Interview Part 2)

by - February 20, 2017

If you haven't already, read Part 1 of German Cousin's interview so you know my cousin's background and how he came to be so close to my parents and was able to send me Phamly photos I've never seen before. Above is baby me with Big Brother Pham and German Cousin. Below is Little Sissy Pham with German Cousin's brother.

Where did you live with my parents? 
When I joined Dad Pham, it was the time your parents prepared for their wedding. We were all living in cậu Mười’s (Uncle 10's) Flat in Giessen. The wedding took place in the City Hall of Giessen. After then, we moved to a new 2-bed-room flat in Giessen West (Check Google Maps for “Krofdorferstr. 176, 35398 Gießen”). Your dad gave up the translator job and started occupational retraining as service engineer for electronics. Your mom started her internship as a pharmacist. Things went well until Dad Pham had his very first schizophrenic episode. He began to drink and got frightened of Viet Cong spies, who followed him.

What do you remember about my mother? What was she like as a person when you knew her?
Your mother got pregnant during this time. It was quite hard time for her, I guess. Busy with the new job, being pregnant, taking care of her sick husband (and his lazy nephew). But I never heard one single complaint from her. She was a person who prefers to give more and take less. She was not needy nor demanding at all.

Were you living with them when Mum was pregnant with my brother? If so, was she a happy pregnant lady? She always made out like pregnancy and childbirth were so easy but I think she didn't want to scare me or my sister. 
I was living with your parents when your mom was pregnant with Big Brother Pham. And I kept living with them when she was pregnant with you and your sister. Actually, I stayed with you all the time until you left Germany for Australia. Even when my parents came to Germany, I decided to stay with Dad Pham and mom. My parents' flat was too small for the whole family. The other reason was Dad Pham. Living with him is very easy. And I was not willing to give up the big freedom (and I’m sure you know it quite well).

After Big Brother Pham was born, we moved to another flat, located in the city center of Giessen (Check Google Maps for “Marktlaubenstr. 5, 35390 Gießen”). The new flat with 3 bed-rooms is old but the location was more convenient and the rent was cheaper. You and Little Sissy Pham were born. The flat had one more room which was unused. So, your dad and mom rented it to anh Thịnh, a young Vietnamese goldsmith working for a jeweller in Marburg (a town near Gießen). Coming back to your questions about your mom and her pregnancy: The births of you all were easy. I think at Big Brother Pham's birth, Dad Pham was still in his first episode. So, your mom went alone to the hospital and gave birth to him on her own. I think your mom is a happy lady, optimistic in all life situations. At least she always showed herself as such.

What do you remember of my father? His worst schizophrenic episodes happened in Germany - were you still living with them when it began? 
For me, the worst schizophrenic episode was the very first one. Maybe, because it came suddenly and we weren’t prepared for it. In this episode, he drank a lot whiskey mixed with Coke (people say that this is a dangerous mix) and was not approachable. Mom couldn’t convince him to go to hospital. At the end, she had to call the police who took him (he was shouting and fighting) with them. The following episodes were not as scary as the first one. Later, Dad Pham came to understand that he needed medical care in such situation. How is the situation now after mom’s death? Does dad still recognize the paranoid periods when they are coming? If not, are you able convince him to go to the hospital?

Dad doesn't have bad episodes anymore! The last time was when I was in university back in 2014 - he woke me up in the middle of the night to drive him to the emergency ward of a hospital because he'd been poisoned by the Viet Cong. He lives with the constant delusion that anything bad is caused by the Viet Cong - he's convinced the aches and pains of a normal, aging body are because of the VC. It's hard to convince him to get medical treatment sometimes for his diabetes and such because he doesn't trust general doctors - he thinks they're working with the communists. But his schizophrenia is very manageable now. 

I moved back from Melbourne to Brisbane to live with him after Mum passed and settle him into a new routine, but he had no issues at all. If anything, Little Sissy Pham and I needed more comforting than Dad did.

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