Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's natterings

At the Nissan service center yesterday:

--Punahou grad, living in the East Village, talking to her dad and a friend they've run into.  Her friends who didn't succeed in making new friends "all ended up back at UH."

--All the employees are listed on the wall, by name and photograph.  One of them is Cambodian.  I've asked to meet him before, but he wasn't at work that day.  This time someone fetches him from the service bay.  I tell him my son is from Cambodia, ask if he knows Hongly.  He says yes, and how old is your son.  I say 12 and gesture above my head to show how tall my son's become.  He's busy, works for Nissan and on a farm.  Smiles, shakes my hand.  The guy behind the computer smiles at me.  I say, "ask him his story; they all have incredible stories."  "They do?"

--Pale little boy with young mother, eating breakfast off a paper platter.  Uses both hands.  Says "mama" twice in every blurred sentence.  He's two years old, still wears diapers.  He likes me, keeps making eye contact.  I start talking to him.  He comes closer.  He hugs me.  His mother says he had to be taught affection because he was so inward.  Heart surgery as a baby.  The boy with the beautiful Biblical name raised his green shirt and showed me a scar running from top to bottom of his chest and belly.  He came and hugged me again.  And again.  And again.

--Waiting for my daughter at soccer, talking to another mom about bad calls in her daughter's last game.  The defender went into the net, not the ball.  A dad sits next to me on the bench; he's military, talks to me sometimes about economics, what to do when he retires.  Once he said war is really awful.  Once the girls sent him off to "the Middle East."  He came back a year ago, was it?  "Nice to be back," he says, but he's not been away this time.  "Life, Susan, is very difficult," he says, turning to me.  Something about aches and pains in middle age, except it isn't.  He's been praying.  I suggest meditation, letting all those thoughts go.  He finds his daughter, thanks me for talking, asks for a hug.  I give him one, tell him to take care of himself.  Don't sleep much.  Find him on-line, with a daughter whose name is his daughter's but with a different wife.  It's him, it has to be him.  But then it isn't.  Same face, same daughter's name, same profession, different guy.  That man's wife is looking for a gravesite, and she has three kids.  The other two don't have his kids' names.  Red herring.  He needs more than meditation.  I need to tell him more, suggest "help."  He was in the wars.  His ghosts are on the bench with us.  His more specific than mine, but.


My third sabbatical is now over.  Next week I start teaching: English 411, Poetry Workshop, and English 713 (as) Documentary Poetry.  Next week the institution has me again in its clutches.  If sabbaticals are an aide to memory, then the first contains that of meeting my husband, the second the adoption of our daughter, and the third the death of my mother. The personal markers click outward to baseball memories (2004, 2011 were big years for the Cardinals) and national ones (2004's sad election).  The space between #1 and #2 included our son's adoption, his coming into language and gentleness; the space between #2 and #3 was that of my mother's dementia, as well as our daughter's coming into her second language, and her love of soccer.  So many rulers.  Only when they melt do they add up.

No comments: