Basketball camp ended last Friday for the summer so my attention has turned completely to preparing for my mission trip to Vietnam which begins in eleven days or on July 8 if you want me to be specific. Completely was probably a poor choice of words two sentences back because I still have odds and ends to take care of that have nothing to do with thirty hour flights to Asia; stuff like picking up my clothes from the cleaners who coincidentally happen to be Vietnamese. There were also several car related items to tend to. The first is a twice annual free rotation of my tires at Discount Tires. (Free in that I have a contract with them!) There was one other vehicle issue to address. About a month ago. my driver side door lock got jammed up and would not allow my key to be inserted. My colleague, Jose Ramirez, who knows everything car related, told me there was no easy fix and to take it to the dealer which in this case is the nice folks at Russell and Smith Honda. That's where I found myself this past Wednesday at 7 AM, hoping to be first in line for the service department. I wasn't and the gentleman who waited on me told me to expect to be there for three to four hours. I had not anticipated that much of a time span so I did not bring my laptop, book, legal pad to work on ideas, etc. I did have my phone but if you know me......................... I settled in for the duration.
I saw her walk up to the Russell And Smith guy working at the desk right in front of me. Her husband was distracted and the lady told the employee her husband was hard of hearing. The couple came to sit in the three seat mini-waiting area where I was. As she ended up sitting by me, I asked if she would like me to move so she could sit by her husband. She laughed and informed me that they had been married for fifty-five years and he had picked up the Houston Chronicle so we began talking. And we talked until my car was ready, which incredibly was before 10 AM- the age of miracles is not in the past.
I found out their car, one in the Honda hatch back series, was leaking, a potential nightmare in Houston this summer. She told me she was seventy-seven and her husband, a retired contractor, was eighty six. She still works full time at the VA as a pharmacist and she laughed as she explained how computers have made her life easier. She talked about her kids and grand kids- one just graduated from high school in Seattle and has been accepted to Cal Tech! They love to travel to national parks and encouraged me to go to Utah and see what nature has carved out of the stone. They met at a wedding in Houston where she was born- he came from his home in NYC where he had spent his life. The rest is history.
Her name was Lee but then it might be Li- I just spelled it phonetically. Her parents had moved here from China to make a better life. She spoke a little bit of Chinese; her dearly beloved had more of a vocabulary as her in-laws had sent him back to China for school for several years. Her kids and grand kids, to her regret, are not conversant in the language of their great grandparents. I could somewhat relate. My great grandparents were immigrants and my grandmother spoke Danish until she was five. It wasn't passed on, to my dad's chagrin, and is lost to the Hawleys/Petersens at least to my knowledge. But what really got to me was when she talked about her mom. When she was little, living here in Houston, they never ate meat. They only ate vegetables and fruit and the like. It wasn't a religious edict- they just could not afford it. The moment I most recall, though, had to do with why they probably ate as they did. Lee/Li told me that her grandparents had died of starvation back in China. In all of my life, I had never had anyone tell me that before. It explains maybe almost everything in her life; her perspective on the world from her parents' viewpoint, her feelings concerning wealth, her love for the US. It made me think that journey her parents made was the same one my great grandparents made- to stake out a better life for their descendants they would never meet. I watched a documentary on Neil Diamond last week on YouTube- my chief source of entertainment these days- and was reminded of the immigrant struggle when he spoke of his roots and when they played his favorite song of mine, They're Coming To America from The Jazz Singer. The Bible is full of stories of men and women of faith who moved to make a better life for the future generations, even if it was forced or they did not realize it at the time. Abraham and Sarah, Ruth, Rahab, Moses- the list is long. My parents made decisions based on their kids, the first one being a move from Brooklyn to Nebraska so we could live in a more small town atmosphere. Moves my relatives made, with the Lord's guidance, brought me onto the scene and still make a difference even after their passings.
When my car was fixed, in less than three hours, my new friend and I said our good-byes and wished each other the best. My bill, $246!!!, could have been much worse according to Jose, but now I don't have to crawl in the passenger side. I left wishing we could have kept talking and I left wishing I could speak Danish. And I left thanking God for those who came before me who I would not recognize from faded photographs but who made tough choices at tough times. And I praise God they did.
To watch and listen to Neil Diamond sing Coming To America, please copy and past the link below:
Applicable quote of the day:
Have you ever watched someone become American? Last week, at a national citizenship conference I organize, thirty immigrants from 17 countries swore an oath and became citizens of the United States. It was a stirring experience for the hundreds of people in the room.
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