The Holes in My Heart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 30, 2008
As a child in Cambodia, life was difficult. It went from bad to worse when my mother got sick. As usual, my father left us and went someplace else. I hardly ever saw him. I loved my ­father and maybe I still do. He wasn’t a nice man, though. He used to hit us, especially my mom. I never knew what we did wrong. Maybe the alcohol took over his mind.

One time after he left, I overheard people talking about how he had fallen in love and gotten married all over again. I never saw him after that.

Meanwhile, my poor mother’s heart was slowly melting. She was paralyzed because my dad hit her so much. She couldn’t move half of her body. So, at the age of six, I took care of her and my two brothers and sister. We had no money and lived in a very rural area without electricity and water. I had to cook, clean, beg for rice, and be the mother of the family. I rarely went to school.

I think my mom had seen me suffer enough. I’d had enough too! So, to make things easier, my mom sent my sister and one of my brothers to live with relatives in another village. People in Cambodia often take care of relatives’ children. I missed them but knew they were being cared for. I was the oldest, so I stayed; my mother needed me to take care of her and my baby brother, Long.

For a while it was just Long, my mother, and I. But then my brother, who was less than a year old, was very sick and skinny. One day I came home and Long wasn’t there. My mom said she had given him away to someone who said they could take care of him. He wasn’t coming back.

I was sad and confused but didn’t ask too many questions. I knew it must have been difficult for her, and we had no money for food or doctors to help Long. We didn’t know where he had gone, but my mom trusted the stranger who took him away, and hoped – we both hoped – that he would be safe and healthy.

My mom and I went on with our lives. We loved each other very much, but we suffered silently day ­after day. We were still struggling with hardly any money or food, and we missed Long terribly but ­never talked about him.

One afternoon, about a year after Long left, we ­received some good news. A man from the city came to our village and told us that a family in the United States had adopted my baby brother. He showed us pictures. My brother, now named Shane, was smiling, wearing nice clothes, and looking very healthy. Even though we missed him and life was hard for us, my mom and I were so happy to know that my brother was okay.

My peace did not last long. One night I had a horrible dream that my mom left me. I was crying and I couldn’t stop. I cried for such a long time that I woke my mother. I told her what I had dreamt. She said that she would never leave me.

Weeks passed, and then my nightmare came true. My mother died of a stroke. I blame my dad because of the injuries he gave her. Thinking about it now, I hate him.

I wish I could have done something. But when I saw my mother collapse, time passed so quickly I didn’t know what to do. I was only eight! The day my mother died, I didn’t cry because I didn’t know what death was. I did cry when they buried her. I knew at that moment that I would never see her again.

After my mother died, one of my aunts took me in. She was very poor, just like my mother. She was mean, and I think she was mad that she had to take care of me, but I had nowhere else to go.

One day the man who had brought the pictures of my baby brother came to visit again. It had taken him a long time to find us because I had moved. He was sad to hear that my mother had died. Then he gave me new clothes, a doll, and more pictures of my brother. My aunt asked him if the family who adopted my brother would want to adopt me too. The man turned to me and asked if I wanted to go live with my brother in the United States. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, I said yes. He said he would find out if it was possible. I waited for what seemed like forever. I started to think that maybe the American family did not want me.

But that wasn’t the case.

About a year later, the Americans who had adopted my brother finally came for me. As I now know, there is a lot of paperwork involved with adoption. They had to get permission from my family, the Cambodian government, and the United States government before they could come to get me.

The first time I saw my new parents was in a hotel lobby. I told the translator that they had long noses. I didn’t know I was being rude; I just wasn’t used to seeing Caucasian people. I was really nervous around them. I think they were nervous too. I didn’t smile until we went to the hotel room and my new mom showed me the clothes she had brought me. My face lit up fast! We didn’t talk much because I didn’t know how to speak English, but she made flash cards with pictures to help us communicate.

The day we left Cambodia I was filled with emotions. I was eager, worried, upset, and confused because I didn’t know where we were going and I had never been on a plane before. All I remember about my trip was that I threw up for most of the 21-hour flight. It was like the plane was a gigantic sickening machine. It felt as though the trip would never end.

When we landed in the United States I was so ­happy. After we waited in a bunch of lines, we walked out of the airport. The air was a lot colder than in Cambodia. In the distance, I saw a strange man waving at us. He looked excited and happy. I ­also saw a little boy next to him. I knew immediately it was my brother. I didn’t act excited to see him ­because I was still feeling so sick from the plane, but I was really thrilled.

My new grandpa drove us to my new home. In the car I looked out the window and saw strange yet beautiful houses. I kept peeking at my brother. He was now three years old and looked so clean and healthy compared to the last time I had seen him. At that moment I knew that I was going to be happy again.

And that is where I am now. The nightmares have ended because of two wonderful people who adopted my brother Shane and me. Adjusting to life in the United States wasn’t easy, but getting adopted is the most beautiful feeling. Even though we are not related by blood, I knew from that first day that my dad and mom cared about me very much. They filled up all the holes in my heart.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 178 comments. Post your own now!

blueandorange This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm
WOW.  This is very......perfect.
gillie23 said...
Sept. 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

im so happi that you got to see your brother again!I  now know that you are strong inside and are capable of being a good role model


Warriorsfan said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm
This article reminds me of a song.Cause when it gets cold outside and you got nobody to love.You'll undertsand what I mean when I say there is no way we're gonna give up!I am glad yoou are ok and have a good family that takes care of you!
inmyhead said...
Jul. 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm
love and kind of hate these kind of stories. I hate them because I don't like hearing of people who abuse others and the parts that make me cry. I love how everything worked out pretty well with your brother and family :) I hope everything comtinues to go up!
Best wishes! Katie
EmptySoul said...
Jul. 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

A very touching story. I'm sorry that you had a terrible childhood, but I'm so glad that you have a great life now.


Please read my poems and rate them. I need some outside feedback.

tsinger07 said...
Jun. 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm
This is a beautiful story! I think if you would've used more deep-filled words and better imagery, that the story would've come even more to life. The story was great though and I hope next time you use some different techniques to let the readers really "feel" what you are trying to say, because stories like this are very moving.
SaritaFajita said...
Jun. 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm

This is a BEAUTIFUL story!!

It's so sad that some kids like you have to take on such big responsibilites at such a young age. It makes us realize that we're lucky we have a loving family and home. I'm SO happy that you got to come to America and have a better life and share your lifestory. I really enjoyed reading it. Your a very talented writer and God will continue to bless you! :)

fizzaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 28, 2011 at 1:46 am
so nice. keep posting
RanaHewezi1998 said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 10:28 pm
wow! That is so deep and emotional! it makes me feel so thankful to have 2 very caring parents!
Horsesluvme said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 10:15 pm
This was a truely awsome poem! It was truely touching it brought tears to my eyes. Well done!
livvymylady1 replied...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm
it wasnt a poem-jsut saying.
purplelessskin said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 1:10 am
This showed me how we can personally save someone's life and give happiness to someone who needs it. It made me want to adopt a child when I'm older.
M_IML This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm
This is such an amazing story - I can't believe how strong you've had to be to get through this. It's hard to realize how many people go through terrible things in their lives and come out strong and much better people than most of us. Also, I love your writing - it's not pompous or overly formal, it doesn't try to be a sob-story or to make readers pity you or feel bad for you; it just shows how strong and sure of yourself you are. You really shine through
Jesusandwordsfanatic said...
May 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm
i love this story!!!!! it's a great informational're also a great writer;nothing too formal and flowery but straight up! i like it...great job! it was very moving as well. Looks like God was looking out for you. Now all you gotta do is trust Him for everything else! ;)
afuentes said...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm
I can really relate a lot to this story. As I was reading it I cried a lot to remember all the things that I've had to go through. I am very happy that you are now happy and are living with adopted parents whom are very nice with you. Right now I'm studying and working to save up money to go to college. In the future I hope to get a good job and try to help people from my country.
pyropoet said...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm
this is absolutely amazing! i love it!! keep on writing :)
zero1 said...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm
i can relate alot to the  beginning of this piece because my father is the same way, i am glad that things are working out for u and hope that they always will
noordinarymundane said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 1:38 am
This is such a beautiful piece. I really want to talk to the writer of this story, so if you are reading this Lea, could you provide your email or something so I can get into contact with you?
VictoriaSnigglebottom said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm
I can't lie....I cried. This is such a beautiful ending! So sorry for your parents
xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm
yay happy ending!!! im so happy for you... you deserve happiness after everything you suffered!!! :)
Site Feedback