Nguyen Thi Coi, 70, is a blind woman living next to the People’s Committee of the Binh Minh Commune.

Phan Thi Thiet, 58, took her in as an adoptive mother out of compassion.

A mother for the local people

Coi’s house resides along the coastal way into the heart of the Binh Minh Commune.

Sitting on a wooden table placed in the middle of her place, the old woman was chewing some betel and areca leaves, making guesses at what was happening from the sounds around.

Hearing the increasing sound of footsteps, she said: “Is that Thiet? I can’t find a VND50,000 [US$2.17] banknote. I must have lost it.”

The foster daughter dropped her hat and pulled out a roll of money wrapped inside four layers of used plastic, with rubber covers on the outside.

Nguyen Thi Coi’s blindness stops her from doing daily housework, so Phan Thi Thiet adopted her as mother to help her out. Photo: B. D / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi Coi’s blindness stops her from doing daily housework, so Phan Thi Thiet adopted her as mother to help her out. Photo: B. D / Tuoi Tre

“You put it in this pile by mistake. Here it is,” she said.

It was near the evening, but the 70-square-meter house was still burning with heat.

Thiet has not been selling fish in the local market for days. She has spent time cleaning the house and waiting on her mother.

Blind as she is, the old woman keeps everything nice and neat.

The floor is shiningly clean. The broom is placed tidily in the front yard. The clothes are finely folded.

In the kitchen, all the dishes are properly washed and arranged on the shelves.

Two small closed pots were resting on the kitchen board. Inside were some fried egg and some vegetable soup with shrimp cooked earlier in the afternoon.

Thiet took with her some fresh fish from the sea and placed them in the fridge.

She also ran a thorough check of all the dishes and foods in the kitchen before heading home.

“I have to come here every day to check on the food and help with cleaning up. I can’t rest assured if I let her do it all by herself,” Thiet said.

“She’s blind and clumsy. She might have an accident or get caught in a fire.”

“I feel happy to have her. Everyone else is happy too.”

A happy mother

Coi has been considered a common mother to all the people in the seaside village.

Her father was dismissed from the military and passed away from malaria in his hometown.

Coi, in that same year, was born a blind girl. She was raised by a single mother who passed away 10 years ago.

Now, there is only one member left in the lonely house.

The foster daughter has brought much warmth to the lonely house of the old woman. Photo: B. D / Tuoi Tre
The foster daughter has brought much warmth to the lonely house of the old woman. Photo: B. D / Tuoi Tre

Thiet and her family were living in a nearby commune a few years back when her children were still in school and her husband was on regular business trips.

But five years ago, when her children got married, she and husband sold their piece of land and moved to Hoa Binh Commune.

They saw that Coi was blind and childless and decided to call her their mother.

“My husband agreed at my idea immediately. We had the discussion the night before, and the very next day, he bought a new TV set and came to fix her bed and furniture,” said Thiet.

“Coi had no idea why my husband was so caring.”

Thiet has four children, who have been on sea journeys with her husband for years.

At the age of 62, her husband still lives with the waves and hardly ever makes it back home.

But every time he does, he is eager to see Coi and to do maintenance work around the house.

“I decided to call her my mother because I felt much love for her. She is no relation, but she’s kind-hearted,” Thiet said.

“She’s old, like my own parents. If there’s anything I can help her with when she’s still alive, I will just do it, because she does not have many years left to live.”

The story of Thiet and her husband taking Coi into their custody moved the authorities and their neighbors.

The Binh Minh Commune’s Women Society once planned to host an adoption ceremony, but Thiet rejected the idea as she felt it was not necessary.

Ever since Thiet came around, Coi’s house has been warmer.

From dawn till dusk, Thiet is like a “Cinderella” who takes care of all the food preparation and house cleaning.

Blindness prevents Coi from doing her daily chores.

Fortunately, the neighborhood and the local authorities have joined hands to assist her.

Sometimes, the old woman gets a free can of raw rice, and sometimes a bag of fresh marine fish.

Coi still needs regular hospital visits due to her breast cancer and diabetes.

“Last November, she got a snake bite in the kitchen and I was not aware of that,” Thiet said.

“I noticed her scratch her leg for two days and her thighs got swellings and blisters.”

“She only told me it was a snake bite when I asked her about the wound.”

“We immediately called an ambulance. The doctor said that if it had been delayed for a few hours, the legs would not have stood a chance of recovery.”

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