I recall that some years back I wrote one of my first e-letters when a typhoon hit Hong Kong suddenly and almost unannounced. I found myself having an extra day unexpectedly and I spent some of the day writing a letter to my friends. In the months following that incident, some ardent readers would ask me whether they could expect a letter from me every time a typhoon hit us. That was a rather nice reaction and I had enjoyed it. In like fashion, it now seems that I tend to write more when I am traveling, and some friends have actually made this point to me; if only in a tongue in cheek sort of manner.
Well, here I am in Los Angeles again, after some 18 months. Next Friday will be my daughter Stephanie’s Commencement. I would fly from here with my son Lawrence for the occasion. It would be the first time the three of us would be together since December 2004 when the three of us spent a few days in Phuket and narrowly escaped the tsunami which struck the resort after we left.
My son picked me up at the airport last night. We had not met each other since May 2006. Lawrence had intended to leave Hong Kong for three weeks to visit his friends in LA and to do some quiet thinking by himself. It is a rather long story why he is still there after more than a year. Suffice it to say that it has nothing to do with the father and son relationship.
I had thought about our meeting before the plane landed. I had picked him up at airports and had taken him to airports on many occasions, but it was probably the first time he picked me up and drove me home. He apologized for the modest condition of his car, but reassured me that he had spent time to tidy it and to make it more presentable. Well, I was glad to see him in the first place, and I never expected him to have the means to run a flashy car anyway. Well, father and son have yet to find time to discuss many things; and I would like to believe that both are looking forward to the trip tomorrow to meet the third and remaining member of the family.
Parenting has never been easy; and having to do it alone must be more than doubly difficult. I have never been able to find out, for example, how the children have been coping with the loss of their mother. It cannot be that we had no time. It is more likely that we cannot find time for each other.
Such could be a principal woe of the times – the inability to align our priorities and objectives with those who are dear and near to us, or more specifically, those dearest and nearest. It would be futile and cross purpose to lay or apportion blames; and there are no easy solutions.
Back to the present, which ought to be the only thing that matters, I woke up in Los Angeles to a beautiful morning with bright sunshine and clear blue sky. There was not a piece of cloud in sight and I saw no smog. The air was clean and fresh. Could this be Los Angeles; or was it simply the mind?
I looked for my son after my morning routine. It was shortly after 8am, but he had already gone to work. That was quite a pleasant change too, I thought to myself.
My son now occupies the room vacated by my father-in-law. He had shifted the furniture a bit to make out space which he makes full use of, for slightly used clothes that need not be laundered immediately and for papers and documents that are apparently important, but not urgent.
As I began to unpack and set up my workstation, I had yet another pleasant surprise. My laptop picked up very strong signals from the wireless network connection in the house and I had my emails downloaded in no time. My in-laws must have installed a new network since my visit 18 months ago.
The emails downloaded include responses from an email I sent out just before I boarded the flight to LA. They were rather pleasant ones; and I could not help asking myself why so many pleasant things could happen to me as soon as I left home.
But then things were not that unpleasant at home after all, apart from a few funerals too many and apart from too many meetings and too much work.
On funerals, I recall what a wise old man said to me when I was very young. I actually didn’t know how old he was, but he looked old to me at the time. He said, “Go to many funerals and live life,” or something to that effect. When we were young, we attended funerals of our elders, such as retired teachers, grand parents and old uncles. As we grew older, we attended funerals of people in the generation immediately ahead of ours and even of ours, including our friends, classmates and close relatives. As we become yet even older, we would attend more funerals of friends and of people in the younger generation. I don’t know which is harder or hardest, except that – as in an old saying – death is inevitable.
Many religions, and Buddhism and Christianity in particular, have taught us to prepare for such inevitability. They are all useful teachings; and I agree with Erich Fromm that man must have a religion.
I hope to write to you again after my meeting with my daughter. Until then, I wish you well.