My Extended Family
You Can See Her Painting.

It is interesting how serendipitous events occur as we journey down our yellow brick roads of life. Two years ago, my Myanmar family went to Set Set Yo, which was a part of our family tour. Set Set Yo is a small village. Moh Moh and Ko Ko bought notepads and pencils for several dozens of children. They are devout Buddhists and reach out to help less fortunate people than they are. Their concern for those children wasn’t something that they mentioned to me. I was just the way that Buddhists function.

While they were giving out their gifts to the children, I just wandered around taking pictures of some of the children. I gave my camera to either Ti Ti or Moh Moh’s brother and picked up a small child who wasn’t even one year old. The child wanted Moh Moh and Ko Ko’s notebooks from one of the young children. At the beginning of the video, I held a little boy who was a year or a little older. She wanted one of Moh Moh and Ko Ko’s notebooks that they gave to the older children.

However, I don’t recall what happened next. I just walked around holding the child. Two things occurred simultaneously, I held the child up in front of me, and the person turned my camera to the photo mode and took this picture.

For a few seconds, the little one and I looked into each other’s eyes. We attempted to grasp that moment in time. I have written many articles about what I called the little one. I asked Moh Moh to translate the little one into Myanmar. I named the little one, who was a little girl, A Ngal Lay.

A Ngal Lay wasn’t even a year old, and I was three-quarters of a century old. Two human beings tried to process what was happening between us. When people happen to meet each other for the first time, there is a reason. They went to the same college or happened to have a mutual friend. Our chance meeting was parallel to my first meeting with Ti Ti. Moh Moh had to stop at their home to pick up my itinerary after leaving Inle Lake. I happened to be there during winter break, and Ti Ti was home on winter break.

The difference was that Ti Ti was nine and wanted to play some games with me. However, A Ngal Lay wasn’t even a toddler and couldn’t speak. Nonetheless, I was some old guy from American, and a small child in Myanmar was trying to grasp what had occurred in those few moments. I’ll never forget that moment, but A Ngal Lay won’t remember it. Talk about a vexing dilemma.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at Set Set Yo, and then we continued on our family tour. My family and I enjoyed our time together. It was the best and happiest month of my life. Despite my sheer joy, there was the encounter with A Ngal Lay. It wasn’t so much that I wanted her to remember me. It was that there was something about her that captivated me. Look at her eyes as she looks at me. I had hoped to be back in Myanmar during winter in a month from now. However, the coronavirus and the coup stopped that dream in its tracks. I have no idea when the military dictatorship and civil war will end, but I know my clock is ticking. It haunts me.

I want to reunite with my family and be present to see Ti Ti graduate from college. However, we do video chats and email each other. That isn’t paradise, but it is the best that I can do. But there is A Ngal Lay. Haunting is merely a nice way of describing what churns in my stomach. I want her to remember some old guy who saw something unique about her. Then it happened; I had an idea. It, too, isn’t paradise, but it is all that I have.

Than is one of the best artists in the world and a close friend of mine. We first met when he was a tour guide for me in Myanmar. He has done a half dozen paintings for me in the last couple of years. I sent him the photo of A Ngal Lay and me. In return, he showed me the way he developed his painting.

I replied that I was delighted beyond words. At the end of Than’s reply, he wrote, “I think from this painting we all can be see tender, loving, kindness and happiness between Grandpa and Child. I’ m happy with it. Thank you very much again PaPa Al for let me paint this picture.”

This photo sits on my desk.

Since the coup, it isn’t safe to mail anything or deliver it by hand. However, Than gave his painting to A Ngal Lay’s aunt in September. She waited until it was safer to deliver it personally. Last week Moh Moh received this picture and a note from A Ngal Lay.

This is A Ngal Lay’s message to me. My translation is pretty close to what she wrote.

Hi Great Grand PaPa Al. When we met a couple of years ago, we had fun together. I remember you talking to me. I think that you are a very young and handsome American. I remember the video that someone did of me getting one of the notebooks that Moh Moh and Ko Ko gave to my friends. I like Ti Ti, Snow, and Fatty. It is funny that Fatty calls you Bo Bo Gyi. I just call you Great Grand PaPa Al. In a couple of months, on 3.1.22, I’ll be 3 years. How old are you? I want you to stop for another visit soon. We can chat with each other. If your grandchildren could return with you, we could all have a lot of fun laughing and giggling. I wasn’t able to talk when we first met, but we will have a nice long chat when you return. Maybe, you can flip me like you did with some of my friends. Thank you again. I can’t wait until we see each other again. In the meantime, I remember you.

Moh Moh’s translation is a bit different than mine. I’ll have to check with A Ngal Lay regarding whether Moh Moh or I are more fluent in Myanmar.

How are you? and we were well received your early Christmas gift. Thanks you very much for that. I shall turn 3 years old in coming 3. 1. 2022. My nickname is Poe Poe.

A Ngal Lay, I love you, and we will have a long chat together soon, I hope. Take care.


This is Than’s address.