Last week, I was sitting in a half empty waiting room while my father was having his hearing tested. I had finished filling all the information and HIPAA forms when I glanced up and saw a pleasant-looking elderly gentleman smiling directly at me. He greeted me and complimented me for attending to my Dad’s needs. I thanked him graciously but that was not the end of it. He proceeded to tell me he was there because his wife had a series of appointments too. Before I knew it, he had practically told me his lifestory.
He was born and raised in the United States of hard-working Portuguese immigrant parents. He had been traveling to Asia quite frequently on behalf of his company back in the days, when he met his wife. She was working as ground staff for Pan Am in Hong Kong. It was love at first sight, he said, wistfully.
They had settled in San Carlos after they were married, where they had a son. She had gone back to Hong Kong over the years to visit her family. He had gone with her a couple of times but he never really cared to travel long distances. He remembers being “bumped off” several flights during the time of the Japanese crowned prince’s wedding. Flights were heavily booked at that time and his wife’s airline employee discount proved to be a liability. He remembers that a glass of orange juice in Tokyo was US$8.00 at that time. He wondered if things have changed since then. He had not been back.
He talked about his son, his two grandsons, how he and his wife helped to raise the two boys. Their son and his ex-wife went through a messy divorce when the boys were 3 and 5 years of age. They had married straight from college. Too young, he surmised. Now the boys are 19 and 21. His wife, particularly, has made it her mission to raise them the proper way, he said. They lived about a block away from them and they often took the boys in after school until their son would come home from work.
He lamented that their neighborhood was changing. The older folks have moved on to various retirement communities and new families were buying the homes around them. There is one community in particular that he thought was interesting. It’s an active senior’s community in Walnut Creek, where people had the choice of living in condos, townhomes, or even free-standing homes. The community boasted of a variety of outdoor activities such as golf, tennis, lawn bowling, swimming, and even QiGong and Yoga. It was tempting, he said. They have visited friends who have moved there. But it was a 55 mile drive one way and it was quite the trek.
I asked him if they would consider moving. He replied that it would be difficult for his wife to leave the kids behind. She had grown quite attached to them. If they moved, it would take 110 miles both ways for the family to get together at any time. They thought that the distance would discourage regular visits. They could not bear the thought.
In a short span of 15 minutes, I got to hear his take on the debt ceiling crisis, how today’s politicians are nothing but self-promoting jerks, how Republicans are too much of ideologues to care about truly saving the economy and doing what’s right for the American people, and how Obama’s re-election prospects were at great risk, and with it the chances for the United States to finally have a decent universal health care system, as other first world countries have enjoyed for many years. He shook his head repeatedly at how he used to be so proud to be an American. Not anymore, he said.
And then, as if on cue, his wife came out of an examining room and hurriedly implored him to get up from his chair so they could proceed to their next appointment, nary a glance in our direction. He smiled at me and winked. And just like that, he walked cheerfully behind her. Somehow, I thought, yes, he would follow her wherever she went, to the ends of the earth even.