Sunday, May 16, 2010

704 Hi, Mom

704 Hi, Mom

(NORTHEASTERN TAIWAN) -- The trip out on a Sunday late morning is like driving in Los Angeles in several ways. First, there's the traffic. Like any major city, Sunday drivers are not the professionals who make a commute every weekday, know where they're going and how to go there and drive like Ben Hogan on the golf course, straight and true. These are the amblers, unsure of where they're going and unfamiliar with the roads.

And these roads, the roads leading to a large cemetery are much the same as the alleyways leading from central LA to Laurel Canyon. They twist. They get narrower as you go along. We get there in an hour's time and then walk down some winding steps to get to Mom, Mrs. Wang. Angela's mother.

Mrs. W has been gone for about 12 years and she is buried in the Muslim section of a huge and sprawling mountainside cemetery carved out of rock and trees and heaven knows what-all else.

Her son, brother Tien Chi, is there, along with his two sons. There's Angela, who's real name is Ying Chi, and her son Terry. There's Mrs. Wang's brother, Ishaq Kung, whose Chinese name is Chi Chi. A lot of Chis in that family. Chi Chi admits to being 80. Two of the grandsons light cigarettes and place them on the tomb. Mrs. Wang smoked. This is a tribute.

I hope she'll understand that her daughter, raised Muslim, is married to a Jew and that if there is a future, this is what it has to look like.

In turn, we each get on our knees and bow three times. Uncle says it is not necessary for Americans to do that. So what?

Mrs. Wang and I have a lot to talk about. But I am overcome by the moment, by the emotion, by the tears of my wife, by the willingness of my stepson to do the bowing thing, reluctantly at first, but then with enthusiasm and apparent love. The other grandsons have no such reluctance. They bow with gusto. So, we don't talk. Maybe another time. Or not.

But Angela introduces me to her mother. And to several other relatives who are buried there. And I don't have the heart to tell her that I know I'm familiar to them as she is to my long-gone relatives.They all turn their backs and I leave three pebbles on the tombstone, one for Angela, one for Terry, one for myself. A Jewish tradition. It says. basically, "hi, mom."


--Law & Order, RIP. No, that's not yet another spinoff, it's a wish for the best TV program ever about New York as it fades into the sunset after 20 years, 14,000 acting assignments with only one major error -- casting Fred Thompson as an NYC District Attorney. But make no mistake about it: this program captured the real New York unlike any that came before it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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