Saturday, July 18, 2015

This day!

Now today, July 18, 2015, is one of my birthdays that I never celebrate on this date. On this day, July 18, 80 years ago in 1935, I was born. That day was also 18th day of the 6th month on lunar calendar that day. So in keeping with general Chinese people's customary practice, my parents had been celebrate my birthday one the 18th day of the 6th month in lunar calendar for all the time I was home. The date of July 18th, was mostly ignored or forgotten. Anyway today I noticed and remembered to at least to myself that today I am 80 years old for certain now!

What does a person supposed to think and feel on his own birthday? I have no idea.

I guess first and foremost I would like to thank my dear Mom and Dad, both happily in heaven, for give me this life, brought me up, provided me with the best possible opportunity for education and everything else that I mostly took for granted.  My mind goes back to the early 1950's when I was just starting senior high school, everyone seemed to have a bicycle, I want one too. Despite the severe difficulty of family economics because Dad did not have a regular income at the time, he did managed to get me a bicycle for my personal use! Another time I remember I accompanied Dad to the Bank for some family banking, on the way home I vividly remembered Dad told me that we have great difficulties, but if I should wish to go abroad for higher education, he and Mom will try hard to fulfill my dream. Well now the rest is history, Mom and Dad had fulfilled my dream that led to my life up to now! Thank you so very, very much, Mom and Dad. I owe my whole life, for better or worse, to your loving care.  If I have ever done any thing to make you happy or proud, that's because you have prepared all things well!

Of course, nothing is possible without the help the kind mercy of Almighty God to allow and made everything possible.  I thank the good Lord for everything and dedicate my next 80 years or however length of time He allows to His mercy and love, Deo Gratias!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Old age

What is old age? I don't think anyone can confidently give an answer. I still remember vividly a conversation, circa 1990s, I had with Father Kung, my old pastor of Pei-tou Catholic Church in the 1950's. Father Kung was alluding something about being old, he was in his eighties then. I told him that he was not old at all. Then he asked me what should be called in his age group if not old. We discussed and came to an agreement that he was in the ripen mature age instead of old age! I think I am entering to the ripen mature age bracket now.

Of course I had observed first hand my parents went through this stage of their life. They took it for a stride and generally taken it for granted that's just part of life. They were both much healthier than I am now as I remembered. That may be just my opinion. Last Christmas season when Tina and her whole family came to visit us, she once commented to me that I am in "ridiculously" good health! I was happy to hear that, of course.

Now old age is not something tangible, may be just a frame of mind. Like they say "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!" In reality, however, it's something one just have to face it, accept it, and live with it!

Oh, well, Que sera sera, whatever will be will be!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

One of my 9th grade reading assignment -- 朱自清的 "背影"

朱自清is a famous Chinese writer in the earlier years of the Republic of China. Some of his proses articles were included in the junior middle school curriculum on Chinese literature readings. It was a required reading in the fall semester of 3rd year junior middle school in the ChingTao Municipal Middle School when I attend there in 1948. Actually I had read it on my own before that. It was a rather moving article describing his last time together with his father when the father was seeing the son going away at the train station as he was to go to school in Peiping. Very simple description, very real, just what had happening but extremely moving. I remember after we read it, the teacher assigned us to write a composition about a similar experience of our own. That was the time Mom and I were in ChingTao, but my Dad was still working in the provincial city of ChiNan that had been surrounded by commie thugs at the time.  I was writing about the time when Dad took us on a Jeep to the airport for the flight to ChingTao. He sat on the passenger front seat, I sat in the back  looking directly at his back. I don't remember what exactly what did I wrote, but there were some real emotions in  there too.  I wish I could have saved that writing -- only it was deeply buried in the crowded memory along with others.  But I am bring up 朱自清的 "背影" today for another reason.  In his article at the end he mentioned his father 's letter talking about his fading health in which he particularly telling his son that his "大去之期" is not too far away.  Chinese of course are always avoid talking directly about death, they use all kinds of creative terms to imply it. This 大去之期 is one of the nice terms. I have not seen it used elsewhere. This one always implanted into my memory.  Now that I am getting to be in the stage of thinking about those things, that special expression always popping up in the back of my mind.  I think a good direct translation into English could be "the time of the big exit"!  By the way the article can be found online in simplified Chinese here: <> . Other than it's the pitiful simplified Chinese, it is 朱自清的 "背影" that generations of Chinese had been read, I for one always feel some connection to 朱自清 the famous writer in my youth.  I don't think he has ever expected that his simple article remembering his own father can be immortal, but as much as I am inevitably getting closer to the stage of life that "big exit" is lurking in the background, the article just reasserted itself on my mind after 67 years, I don't think I am getting closer to the 大去之期 yet. Two weeks ago when Tina, Mike and CJ and Anna came back for Thanksgiving holiday, Tine made a statement that we are in "ridiculously" good health, which is certainly true. And the Good Lord has not given me any signal yet. Doesn't matter.  I am just making myself be prepared!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For the record

The following is a note I prepared that I intended to send it to Cousin Kuoben (but never did): [It was posted in another blog, but I thought it may be more appropriate here!]

I came across your Face Book site this morning and particularly interested in reading the article you posted about your memory of my mother: 二姨與我 .  I learned many things there which I did not know before, especially the early courtship of my parents.  I guess understandably my Mom never shared any of those with me.  Aunt Sanyih had told me some. I always know my Mom likes Chinese opera, but I did not realize that it helped my Dad’s efforts in courting her ;-). 

I do wish to point out some facts that may not clear or inaccurate.  It was in Chingtao when my Mom went to Haiyang and brought our lau-Nion (maternal grandmother) out from her native village -- as I understand she was still taking care of her own 99-year old mother at the time.  From Chingtao we went to Shanghai to reunite with my Dad before the four of us coming to Taiwan/Taichung/Peitou together.  The fact is that Lau-Nion had *never* been to our ChiNan home!  Lau-Nion spent her last dozen years of her life with my Mom and our family from Chingtao to Shanghai to Taichung to Peitou, through part of my jumior high, all my high school and college years.  She fell and hit her head and passed away untimely at age 84, while I was away from home serving my ROTC basic training after graduation from TaiDa (NTU).

In the last years of my Mom’s life, Sanyih had wanted to visit my Mom from LA, my Mom always said no to her because Mom thinks Sanyih’s foremost duty is to take care of Sanyihfu without interruption.  When my Mom fell into coma, Sanyih decided she had to take the trip. I joined with her on that trip. Sadly Sanyih spent about one week in Taipei, my Mom never did regain consciousness notwithstanding Sanyih went to the hospital every day talking to my Mom.  But that week was memorable for me because that week I was able to spend all the time with Sanyih and she taught me many things about my maternal family history which I know very little about.  Sanyih is more than an Aunt to me.  She was the one that first took me to enroll in school, the same school in Hsi-An where cousins Lihsing and George attended.  When I was a freshman attending TaiDa, my parents were still in Taichung, so I go “home” every weekend to Sanyih’s house in Taipei, she treated me just the same as cousins Lihsing and George.  During that week when Sanyih and I were both in Taiwan, Sanyih told me many things I did not know, about her litigation with her uncles, and she also told me about my Mom was taking care of you when you were very young that I did not know either.  I was particularly intrigued to learn that a few generations back in her family there were someone holding important positions for the imperial Ching dynasty in Peiping.  Sanyih always  likes to talk, I wished that I could have a recorder then.  I urged her that she should write it down some of the things she told me, but she jokingly said telling them to me is enough. Sanyih and my Mom are close sisters two years apart in age, but they are clearly different in their thinking and point of view in life. Being an only son I was close to my Mom, somehow I was surprised that many things she did not bothered to let me know.

Sanyih also told me about my parents’ wedding.  That was in ChiNan where Sanyih had already married and cousin Lihsing was born.  My Mom and Dad were deeply in love, but my Dad was still married to his first wife at the time.  It was Sanyih and Sanyihfu jointly told my Dad in no uncertain terms that he had to clearing up that situation before anything can be considered. So my Dad did go back to Peiping, duly dissolved his first, family arranged marriage with my grandfather’s approval and then returned to formally married my Mom in ChiNan in a large wedding.  Being the local police chief, he must have known many people. I remember seeing their wedding picture in our ChiNan home. I have no recollection of the details except that was taken outdoor in front a large building with a whole lot of people on the picture.  That was the good old days of early 1934, one year before my birth!

By the way when my Dad was serving with the nationalist government guerrilla force during the war, they were supposedly fighting the Japanese forces, but they did very little of that. Instead they spent most of their time preoccupied in fighting the commies. As a matter of fact, the middle school I attended in ChiNan was established to commemorate the Commander-in-chief of that guerrilla force who was at one time being surrounded by the commies with no friendly force that can come rescue him in time, rather than waiting on being captured by the commie thugs, he killed himself with a single bullet. 

I don't know if you remember the day you came to ChiNan, I was the one in the yard and readily opened the front door to welcome you in.  No one had told me anything your coming so I was pleasantly surprised.  But I always remembered the thrill of welcoming a new cousin into the family!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bob Pitera, my first friend in US

I have known a number of friends named Bob over the years. Here I wish specifically to talk about may be the first Bob I have ever know, Bob Pitera.  Bob, his full name is Charlie Robert Pitera,  is actually the first U.S. friend I met outside Chinese students circle when I was attending Virginia Tech in the early 1960's.  Now to look back he was actually the one that got me my first engineering summer job that basically got me started and unwittingly being assimilated into the regular America life.

I met Bob through God! That's not an over statement.

When in early 1960 I was starting to be settled in at Blacksburg as a new VPI graduate student, which of course is also my new life in USA.  One of the first things I was searching for and found was the local St. Mary's Catholic Church which happened to be quite close to the front of VPI's main entrance, not far from the the apartment I shared with my cousin Lee-hsing. I just started to conveniently attending the daily mass at St. Mary in those early days. As the young Father Sadie usually celebrated the daily mass in the morning by himself, I simply walked up to be the altar server.  Those were the days before the Vatican II, the Latin Mass was the same everywhere in the world, so I go into a Catholic Church and immediately feel at home.  That also served to alleviate much of my homesickness in those early days of my life in US. Anyway, I don't quite remember if there were others in the congregation, but Bob was also there daily and that's how we met and became friends especially when we found out that we were both in the Civil Engineering department, he was a sophomore at the time.

Bob was not an ordinary college sophomore per se, VPI had many ROTC Cadets, but Bob had already served his military duty. He was working as a field surveyor for a consulting engineer before deciding to come to VPI to get an engineering degree.  As summer vacation time approaches, Bob asked me one morning what was my planning for the summer. Since I did not have an active plan yet on what to do for the summer, Bob kindly offered to ask his employer the consulting engineering firm in Arlington, Va. to see if they can give me a summer job and they readily did.  So effortlessly, thanks to Bob's help, my first summer in US became a gainfully productive one in my chosen field. I went to Arlington with Bob on his 1955 green Chevy Impala and shared an apartment with him there.  I quickly adjusted into the basic working life just outside of Washington DC while many of my other Chinese friends sweat their summer in east coast resort areas doing odds and ends labor works to earn their tuitions.

The company, Lester V. Johnson's Associates, is a very small company with one Architect, one chief engineer, two engineers and a draftsman.  I worked for the Chief Engineer doing calculations on a desk calculation machine he assigned to me. Yes, that was before the computer era, but my civil engineering training was made in full use. That was a fun summer.  I started following Bob and his circle of friends, then slowly I found some of friends from Taiwan in DC area.  On the weekends one of my personal favorite place to visit is the Library of Congress, a bus ride away. Bob belonged a local club that usually having parties for the members.  I attended some of them.  My main difficulty in those days was that I was basically a foreigner, still outside of American society, when they telling and laughing at some jokes, many of them political, I was totally lost -- even when Bob tried hard to explain them to me. On some of the weekends Bob took me to visit different catholic churches in the DC area, that was heavenly!

That was how I spent my first two summers while attending V.P.I. working for my Master's degree.  Then I graduated and received a teaching assistantship to Cornell.  On my move to Cornell in Ithaca, New York, I joined Bob for a brief visit to his family in Utica, New York. I was able to meet his parents and grand parent. That was so wonderful.   Bob's dad, Tony, was such a nice father who loves his son deeply, he told me he saved up his vacation time every year only to use them when Bob comes  home. 

After that visit, he went back to Virginia and I went to Ithaca, we only maintained sparse communications and went on with our own separate lives. In the late 1960's I had a TDY trip to Washington, I looked up his number on the phone book and called. He came to picked me up and took me to his home, met his wife, and had a wonderful evening of reunion with him. Little did I know that was the last time we got together.  For all the years afterwards, I did not have another TDY to DC.  I vaguely learned that he had started his own company. Not much other details.

To my deep sadness I just learned on the internet that he passed away last year.  Bob, my life long friend even without much communication, is now happily in heaven.

Bob, thank you for your kindness and friendship, rest in peace, in heaven now pray for me!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Remembering Benno

It's another day downed since Benno left us in this world early yesterday morning, another day we can no longer see his bright smile and hear his cheerful voice. I still can not accept that's happening!

It was that early Monday morning phone call from Rita yesterday -- we just talked to her a few hours earlier on Sunday afternoon when she told us Benno's in Honolulu hospital with very high fever and she told us she'll call us again with good news.  I was most certainly not expecting a call from her so soon, my heart immediately sunk deeper with apprehension as she broke the unwanted terrible news to us!  It's unreal, how can that be possible, God, it is not, it can't be, happening!  But it was in Rita's tearful yet calm voice telling us Benno has left us! Just after he seemed gotten better overnight when he woke up asking for a glass of water. The hospital indicated that they have tried everything possible, but never did able to reduce the fever nor finding out what exactly was the cause of his ~ 105F fever that snatched Benno away from us.

Benno has left us! How can that be happening. All his bright smile, all his cheerful voice, now only exist in our memory.  It is unreal, why should it be happening?

I am staring at the last sentence of the last email he sent me in January:
Everything here is good. 
That's the kind of greetings Benno gives since he moved to Hilo. He really likes it there. Five years ago in June of 2009 when I attended the yearly OMAE conference held in Honolulu that year, I took a side trip to visit him that weekend at the end of conference.  Mena was away that weekend, so he spent the whole weekend show me around Hilo, the place of his home the place he chose for his retirement. He talked like a native, told me all the geographical and historical backgrounds of Hilo.  The hotel I stayed overlooks the Hilo Bay, Benno told me that was once Hawaiian King Kamehameha's navy base. He's also quite familiar with the past tsunami hits on Hilo and  pointed out to me all the now flourishing areas that was hard hit during the previous major tsunamis. His house is fairly close to the rocky ocean coast -- but inland enough that most average tsunamis don't come up that far.  The house, he basically built himself from scratch, has a very large back yard and a man-made pond.  He showed me his irrigation system around the pond he put in himself, they are not at all trivial -- some needs special design.  I was trained as a civil engineer, but Benno has all the practical hands-on experience and practical applications in his own back yard. Rita recently visited him in March, Benno was in the process of building a large greenhouse in his yard, I can visualize his enthusiasm in doing it.  When I was there 5 years ago he was planting and growing lotus in his pond, he has more varieties than the Hilo Tropical Garden he and I visited. He had done a good amount of research on growing lotus, gathered information and specimen from all around the world. I was impressed.

When he dropped me at the Hilo airport for my departure trip that Sunday, I was fully expected that I am going to visit him again -- never ever can believe that turned out to be my last visit in his life time.

What had happened is so unreal! He did not feeling well, Mena told him to see doctor. The local doctor suggested to go to Honolulu hospital. So they flew to Honolulu, checked into the hospital on Thursday, three days later, Benno left us. Totally unbelievable! It's a nightmare and I am still in it!

I love Benno like a brother, but he is my brother-in-law.  I don't remember exactly how have we met. It was in the mid-1950's in Peitou Catholic Church where our pastor Father Joseph Kung organized a church youth group. Benno was the leader of the group. Among the church activities, Benno was in the choir, I was an altar server. We were there during every Sunday mass and other functions and we were both belong to the pastoral Legion of Mary, meeting weekly for Rosary. Our homes were not far from each other and we quickly become good friend, I was a Junior in college , he was a junior in high school.  My frequent yakking about college life impresses him.  I also belonged to a Sodality group in college and invited him to join, somehow Father Kung vetoed the idea.  Because that will be too much activities for him.  Anyway that was how our friendship started.  I was purposely stayed away from his younger sisters when I was in Taiwan. Not until I came to US and later Teresa also came to US, I went to visit her and then proposed to her. Benno was never in the loop!  For all the years I am part of the Wang family, I continued to think of myself as Benno's friend rather his brother-in-law.  Perhaps Benno's daughter Frances has the right idea. Once she introduced me to her 6 year old son as "Your Kung-kung's good friend!"

I think because of Benno's influence both of his parents had duly baptized into catholicism.  Now may be a little untimely, but he has just joined his beloved parents in heaven, along with brother-in-law Stuart, Father Kung and my parents are also there welcoming him. While we are mourning him here on earth, I think he must be busily and may not be unhappily adjusting into his new life in heaven.

Allow me to use mostly the same line I bid farewell to Stuart for my farewell to Benno:

We are all terribly missing your cheerful voice and bright smiling face.
Not a consolation, but I know we’ll meet again -- --
in the world ever shall be without end.
So Remembering  until we meet again,
Dear Benno, my best friend,
God speed on your new journey and rest in peace!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I am a Catholic convert

I have been a Catholic for practically most of my life. Actually I became a Catholic convert on June 29, 1950  just a few days before my 15th birthday, it was the summer after I finished my first year in Senior Middle School, equivalent to the 10th grade in US system, while I was attending Provincial Taichung First Middle School.

That was about a year after we came to Taiwan from the mainland escaping the Chinese Commie thugs. We settled in the City of  Taichung in the middle region of Taiwan.  One of my Mom's best friend, we called Aunt Yu, who lived nearby was first introduced to Catholicism and she invited my Mom to start learning Catechism with her together.  They became very enthusiasm themselves and also eagerly introduced their love ones to the catechism.  Mom just told me about this young priest named Father Cheng originally from my ancestral Hopei Province that I should meet which I did and also started taking catechism lessons from him.  I was blessed by not having any difficulty accepting the faith teachings in the catechism and Catholicism, so I was baptised by him at the end of the catechism lessons and duly become a Catholic convert ever since!

I still remember that day when I was baptised along a few other catechism classmates by Father Cheng.  He celebrated Mass for us immediately after our baptism in the Taichung cathedral and we all received our first communion that day. That week the Taichung diocese had just welcome in a newly appointed diocesan bishop from US, we also had the opportunity of meeting the new bishop.

All that was over 64 years ago! I can't help wholeheartedly thank God for all the grace and blessings He has given me, mostly I don't deserve. For a number of years I had drifted away become non-practicing, but He did brought me back.  Since I have never having problem with faith, I have never lost faith what so ever. God always closely look after me.  The first time I was in hospital overnight preparing for a surgical operation the next morning, while I was thinking that I really need to have a confession, a young priest appeard at the door.  Because in the forms I filled I indicated that I am a catholic, he noticed it and decided to pay me a visit. I was overjoyed and thankfully immediate asked for a confesson.  God's mercy is always with me!