My Time for Doting
“My Granddaughter, Ti Ti, is the Greatest….”

There are two advantages of being old as the hills. First, I am still alive. The second advantage is tied to the first advantage…I can dote over my granddaughter here in the States and my granddaughters in Myanmar.

Ti Ti is the oldest of my three granddaughters who live near Taunggyi, Myanmar. She is on her way to a university as soon as the schools reopen due to being closed because of COVID-19. The Myanmar government shutdown the entire country after a couple of people in Yangon were confirmed with the coronavirus. A handful of months later, the couple of confirmed cases in in Myanmar spiked to 394 with 6 deaths throughout that country. Myanmar is a developing country with a population of 54 million people. America’s population is about 6 times larger than Myanmar, and we have over 5.5 million confirmed cases and 172,500 deaths. For an interesting COVID-19 website, go to CSSE at Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths per million in the States is 532, and it is 0.1 in Myanmar.

The government in Myanmar acted quickly in response to the coronavirus, but America didn’t. America makes up 4.4% of the world’s population and has 25% of the both the world’s confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19. Trump has made America number one in the world in both confirmed cases and death. Nice going Donald the Dumb.

Nevertheless, this essay is about Ti Ti. She has labeled hundreds upon hundreds of pictures that I have taken on my last two of my three trips to Myanmar. We have also written poems about our relationship. In addition, I recently got an email from Ti Ti, when she wasn’t studying. This was her question, “Papa Al, do you know the difference between the stars and you? It's the stars are in the sky, and you are in my heart.”

My retort to that loving statement was “As for the difference between PaPa Al and the stars, I thought that it was that I twinkle when I think of you, which accounts for all the twinkling stars in the nighttime sky. I took this picture of the stars that I see at night in Crown Point, IN.”

I first met Ti Ti nearly seven years ago. Moh Moh, her mother, was my tour guide near Inle Lake. Moh Moh had to stop at her home to pick up my itinerary after I left the area around Inle Lake. Ti Ti was home on winter break. When we walked into their living room, a 9-year-old greeted me with this statement, “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?”

Ti Ti did say that she wanted to play some games with me, but she also wanted test her ability to beat some old man from America. We played Scrabble, and she was successful. It was then that I realized how smart she was. After she announced her victory, I stuck my finger in her face and uttered, “Young lady, don’t you ever forget this. You beat me in my game in my language in your country. Don’t you ever forget that.”

During winter break last year, I returned to Myanmar. What I saw in Ti Ti six years prior was seen again. I went to an honors reception for high school students in Shan State. Ti Ti won first place in a state-wide math contest. While Ti Ti’s parents and siblings were proud of her, I certainly was also.

I realize that many of my readers in America can’t translate Myanmar into English. Allow me to try a partial translation of the words on the red stage curtain behind us. It says, “Let all the world know that these are Shan State scholars.” The next line is translated roughly, “However, special recognition to PaPa Al’s granddaughter, Ti Ti. She is the greatest among all the other greats not only in Shan State but in Myanmar and the rest of all Southeast Asia. May they all be honored by all the world as they go onto universities and continue their educational journey down their yellow brick roads of life.” Okay, that is only a rough translation, but it is pretty close.

Ti Ti received a certificate for being best in math in Shan State, which is nice. However, she also received a cash award of 550,000,000,000,000 kyats.

If you go to Honors Service, you will see several dozen photos that I took at the awards ceremony.

I was able to get a hold of judges evaluation of her math abilities in the Shan State math contest. While I can translate most of it, it has to do with math, which isn’t a forté of mine. Essentially, it just says Ti Ti is great. However, I already knew that.

On a more serious note, I think a great deal of Ti Ti for all sorts of reasons, two of which are her IQ and physical beauty. Now, I contend that she got her smarts and good looks from my side of the family, but I don’t want to offend either of her parents. Surely, they contributed some to having a beautiful genius.

Another attribute that I possess is what the ancient Chinese saw in the older generation. The older Chinese were venerated due to their wisdom. This wisdom wasn’t inherited by way of their DNA. The older generation acquired their wisdom from many missteps, failures, and mistakes. The ancient Chinese became wise by addressing those problems.

Remember, dream dreams that never were…and then act. Bobby Kennedy would be proud of me.So, as happy as Ti Ti is with her success in academia, she needs to realize that being venerated like the ancient Chinese venerated the older generation will occur when she addresses some mistake or some other problem. It goes back to the phrase, no pain no gain.

As I look back on the seven decades of my journey down the yellow brick road of life, I realize that some of what I considered curses or misfortunes often turned into blessings. There is only one caveat to that truism. I needed to address whatever the various problems were. Interestingly, I also know that we don’t have to look for pain in life. Whatever the problem might be, it will find us. Seize the issue, deal with it, and you will be rewarded.