Grasping Reality
While My Clock Is Ticking

In my twilight years, I realize that I can’t change the world. I understand that truth intellectually, but it is difficult to accept emotionally. Add to that honest statement, I can hear my clock ticking. So, what’s it all about, Alfie?

This essay addressed my haunting about the tension between changing everything in the world and limiting that drive. I struggle living in the world as it is. That polarity bothers me. I reluctantly admit that I am not Archimedes, who wrote, “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” I am facing that truth with the limited amount of time that I still have in this world, realizing that I can’t move the world.

However, my family in Myanmar is within my reach. They are trying to obtain a Diversity Visa for their family. While they wait, Ti Ti, their oldest child, will be coming to America this summer to go to college. All that remains for her to do is be interviewed by a consulate person at our embassy in Bangkok to acquire her student visa.

While I can’t predict Ti Ti’s future, I can engage in helping to create it. Education is the single most essential avenue to assist her in creating her future. It will be interesting to watch Ti Ti begin her collegiate journey down the essay brick road of life in America. Watching her explore, think, question, and respond will be fun for her PaPa Al.

While Ti Ti and the rest of humankind need to live in the moment, we have to start planning and working toward the future. Additionally, we need to understand that we are on a journey without a clear view of what the future holds.

The future

George Burns cautioned us, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to be spending the rest of my life.” However, that is difficult to do. Enter Steve Jobs. When he wrestled with that problem, he invented the Mac and stated the following.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Instead of sitting around wondering and worrying, act. I’m acting. One of my goals is to outlive George Burns, who lived a couple of months beyond his 100th birthday. We were both born on January 20th but in different centuries. I have two decades and ten months to best George Burns.

I’ve done the dance with death twice. I can’t predict the future or even what tomorrow holds. Yet, I believe in dreaming dreams. Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” The last sentence of Bobby’s quote is me.

I promised Ti Ti that she would go to college on my dime. That was five years ago. Today, she is in her second year at Gusto University in Yangon. This month, I promised that she would go to college on my dime in America in the fall.

Two reasons motivated me. The first is that Ti Ti is gifted, and the second is she has a purpose in her life. It is the same purpose that she gave me for going to Gusto. She wants to make her country a better place. That is what will drive her educationally in America. It is her mantra.

This photo was taken before I met Ti Ti. She has taken on the mantle of St. Francis, who protected those in need, whether humans or animals. The snake was a python that lived near their home. I was told that her two younger sisters, Fatty, and Snow, were wondering if they should pet the python or not. Ti Ti is showing them by example.

This is the first photo of Ti Ti and me. She wanted me to have fun playing Scrabble together on one of my visits.

Ti Ti was my tour guide several years later as she explained the writings on a Buddhist shrine.

This is a picture of the two of us at an honors assembly where she won first place in math for the entire State of Shan.

This video is of Ti Ti at Set Set Yo teaching children a guessing game.

Ti Ti has been gifted and caring for her entire life. I can’t predict her future, but I am sure that her mantra of using her giftedness to assist others will remain the same. In several months, she will begin her journey down the yellow brick road of life as a student in America.

This closing paragraph is for Ti Ti. Your PaPa Al wrote this essay as a tribute to you and an explanation of what drives me. I process no crystal ball, but I am determined and driven because of what I see in you. Ti Ti, you provided me with the most important reason for my being in this world. You and your family are a part of my family. One other item, less you forget, your PaPa Al loves you.