It's about time I introduce you to my roommate, Father John Phan. He came to the United States from Vietnam when he was 16. After growing up in San Diego, he moved to Chicago and went to a seminary there, eventually becoming an ordained Roman Catholic priest. He is joining the Air Force reserve as a chaplain because he wants to serve this country that gave him and his family so much opportunity that they did not have in Vietnam.
Father John's dad served in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam war. In 1975, after the U.S. pulled out, his father was taken by the North Vietnamese and put in a prison camp. His mother was three months pregnant at the time - with Father John. So Father John didn't meet his own dad until he was released from prison when Father John was six years old. I find his story heartbreaking, but he tells it to me perfunctorily, like I would recite my own history. Grew up in Santa Barbara. Went to UC Davis, then Stanford Law School. Didn't meet my father until I was six because he was in a North Vietnamese prison camp. I guess that, being a priest, Father John has found some reconciliation and come to peace with what happened to his dad. Amazing.
Another thing about Father John - he is a total crackup. I never knew that priests could be so funny, but he really is. I suppose when you spend 24 hours a day with someone you see every side of them. And Father John is just a funny guy. He has a pretty dry sense of humor and he has this infectious laugh that kind of bursts out of nowhere. You can't help laughing with him.
And he brings a lot of other things to the table. Intangibles. Like the ability to bless the pendant that I got for Christmas from my Dad and Paula. Not everyone can do that, of course. The pendant has a picture of St. Christopher on one side and Air Force seal on the other. I wear it every day. Here are some photos of him giving the blessing.
And here's a photo of me doing my daily shave. The Air Force (like other branches, I'm sure) has a requirement that men be clean-shaven every day. I hate shaving every day because my sensitive Filipino skin gets irritated. But you do what you gotta do. So this is what I look like every night (I shave at night to save time in the morning).