The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “immigrant”

Fields of Dreams

Originally published on Mar 20, 2015

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

I am republishing this one somewhat out of order.  I thought it was appropriate to read now,  given the recent outrageous  round-ups by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here in the USA.   They were targeting parents when they went to pick up their children from school.  They are rounding up people in raids all over the country. We are in frightening times.   

 

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms, like we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I think I might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to night school and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he wasn’t, but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. Never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

_______

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Fields of Dreams

Originally published on Mar 20, 2015

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms as we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I  might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to school in the evenings and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he was not — I loved them both their same — but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. I never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

 

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 

There For Each Other…Again

(Sorry, readers.  this month I accidentally published twice in one day two times!  I messed up the schedule! My bad! I’m republishing this on its correct day  to get things back on track.

I am coming to the end of the original posts (another month or so) and once I do,  I will be taking a hiatus in order to put the entire blog…original and new posts…into book form.

I think this will be a good format for easy reading, and will allow readers to bookmark and  reread the stories that most resonate for them. I think book form is also more intimate, immediate, and personal, which I why I am anxious to translate it into this format.  Even I, who already  knows these stories so well, would enjoy reading a few before bed each night as kind of a meditation. I think about several of these narrators often, and certainly I’ve learned so much from them,  Ipo in particular who has made me understand the human experience with much greater and deeper perspective.

I hope you will all order a copy for yourselves and for anyone you think will find meaning in them.  I expect to have the book ready in time for the holidays, so start thinking about who on your gift list would appreciate their very own copy!

–Adrienne

 

 

Where: Somewhere along the beach in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. When: August 2012. What: Three young men enjoying the sunset together. Camera info: Contax G1, 28mm Biogon, Kodak Portra 400.


 Maj

I was born into a family who lived on the outside.  We were not part of the main culture.  We did not follow their customs or traditions. We did not celebrate their holidays.  What was perfectly normal for us was an oddity to our neighbors.  Our family tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.  We made a special effort to be friendly, polite, law-abiding.  My brother and I were encouraged, cajoled, pressured,  to do well in school.   We did not know too many others like us except for extended family,  and they did not live very close. 

I was the only one like me in my class throughout my lower school years but late into secondary school,  I met a few other boys about my age. Had we met in a place where everyone was like us,  we probably wouldn’t have chosen each other.  Personality-wise,  we were nothing alike,  but by this shared odd circumstance,  being three of a kind in a sea of others, we became bonded.   

These boys remained my dear friends all through my life,  even after we discovered larger communities of our people, and tapped into its business network.  Ever after we didn’t need each other anymore.  Despite our differences,  we remained close. 

We forgave each other sins that would rend other relationships asunder.  We trusted each other with secrets nobody else in the world knew, not even our wives.  We were brothers.  It was understood that if something should happen to one of us, the others would take care of his family.   We were responsible for and to each other.  We shared a storied history.

We didn’t discuss or analyze the nature of our friendship.  We all understood it the same way.  There was nothing to discuss. We knew what had to be done.  We knew what had to be said.  And we knew when to do and say nothing.  

I sometimes I forgot how much they meant to me.  Sometimes,  I took them for  granted.  Sometimes I needed time away from one or the other one  because he exasperated me so.   Sometimes,  there was anger, and it seemed as if the friendship might be over, but none of us felt quite whole without the others, and so somebody would apologize. They would make the effort to reconcile.  They would recognize their own fault in it. They would take responsibility for it.  And in this way,  we grew as men.   

It was only after they were both gone that I truly understood how important they’d been to  my life.  I didn’t survive them by very long.  We were all old men when we died. But that short while of living without them was spent in the contemplation of their friendship, and its importance to all of us.   How blessed I felt to have known these simple men.

Now we are together again and always will be, in some form or another.

——————

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

photo credit: Simon Garnier    http://www.simongarnier.org/three-friends/

 

Fields of Dreams

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms, like we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I think I might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to night school and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he wasn’t, but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. Never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

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