Ti Ti and I
A Most Haunting Relationship

After I completed graduate school in the late 60s, I began my worldwide odyssey of travel sites. In the past half-century, I have traveled all over the globe. My home is full of photos and things from where I have visited. I love to see things whether buildings or landscapes. However, what I love the most is seeing and meeting other people in distant lands.

Three year ago, I went to Burma/Myanmar and spent a month traveling in the tourist triangle. Of all the parts of the world that I have visited, Southeast Asia is the area that attracts me the most. However, the one most intriguing country in that area, and the world in general, is Burma. I have a lengthy list of reasons for my fascination, which includes my desire to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is often called the Lady. While I wasn’t able to achieve that goal yet, I am still working on it. I absolutely hope that by year’s end that I will be able to talk with the Lady.

Another draw to Burma is one of my guides, Moh Moh. She is conscientious, well-informed, friendly, and caring. Moh Moh is also a loving mother of three children. She took me to the day care center where her two-young preschoolers attended.

These are Snow and Fatty.

This is Moh Moh and her preschoolers.

After our visit at the day care center, we went to her home where I met Ko Ko, her husband, and their 9-year old daughter, Ti Ti.

When I came into their home, I was greeted with a happy child’s statement, “Hi, my name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play Scrabble?”

This is Ti Ti.

We played Scrabble for an hour...and what an hour it was. Here was a 9-year old Burmese girl playing Scrabble with me in English. In addition to Burmese, Ti Ti is fluent in both Chinese and English.

Apparently, I’m having trouble coming up with a word.

What do you notice about Ti Ti and her entire family? They are always smiling. The first time a met Ti Ti, she was smiling. I guess that is one of the reasons that I was attracted to her. However, it was far more than her smile. Trust me.

I danced with dance nearly a decade ago. Those two dances, a traumatic brain injury and prostate cancer, were unpleasant dances. However, in the ensuing years since doing those dances, it woke me up to living.

Dancing with death does have its benefits. Nonetheless, ultimately, I realize that I won’t be able to lead death on life’s dance floor forever. The clock is ticking on my tenure in this life. Therefore, I try to live as much as I can in the ever-increasing limited time remaining for me. That explains my interest in people, especially young ones. They have the joy of exploring. They live to know about the strange things that they see and experience.

That explains why I am enamored by the young’s excitement about life...because I realize that my time is limited, very limited. I want to do what I can for those that will replace me and my generation. That is why I see Ti Ti as one of my grandchildren. I want to reinforce her excitement about life.

Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Young children are dreamers. That drive to dream must be nurtured before they grow too old to care.

Since my month in Myanmar, Moh Moh and I write often. Ti Ti also will send me an email. A couple weeks ago, Ti Ti wrote me about of poem that she was writing about us. I responded by telling her that I would also write one. Less than a week later, I received this poem from Ti Ti who is now a 12-year old. My granddaughter calls me, PaPa Al.

Poem to PaPa Al

All humans need friends and surrounding.
There will be many people around you,
Among them there is only one, best friend.
Good friends will always stand beside you
And receive victory the whole life with you.

I know that there is nothing more powerful than friendship.
Days and weeks have been going very fast
And seasons have changed
But our friendship will not change.
Leaves are falling down
And also the rain but our attachment lasts.

Years were change and four years
Have gone very fast, and I still
Thought that we just met yesterday.
So, I thought that our friendship is
One of the strongest attachment.

This was my email reply to my Ti Ti’s poem.

Ti Ti,

I just got back from a long walk around the lake with Ginger. At the end of the lake, there are no homes. So, I take off her leash and let her run. It is a thing of sheer beauty. She is free and full of energy....

Ginger is 8-months old and enjoys life. At my age, I enjoy seeing her excitement. I mean that. Therefore, you can only imagine how I felt when I met you. You too were and still are full of life. Maintain that and never lose it.

When we got home from our walk, I fed her. Then I went to my computer and discovered your poem in an email. I am still crying because of the joy you bring me. In addition, you are a very talented writer...in English no less!

My poem is almost done. Then I need to write an article about us, which will go to my website in August.

Ti Ti, take care. I love you and am proud of you and your writing skills.

PaPa Al

The following is my completed poem to Ti Ti.

A Tribute to a Young Lady

I call you my granddaughter
Which you are but why?
I went to Burma to visit the Lady
And what did I discover?
I discovered a beautiful young lady who smiles.

Your mother stopped to pick something up
And you were home on vacation.
We walked into your living room
To be greeted with a smiling face that said,
“My name is Ti Ti.”

For an hour or so we played Scrabble.
At the end of the game, I thanked you for the fun.
You replied, “Let me add up the score.”
I sat waiting a few minutes.
Then you said in sheer delight, “I won!”

My retort came quickly
As my finger waved in your face.
“Ti Ti don’t you ever forget that victory.
You won in my game and in my language.” I was more excited than you in your winning.

Why was I more excited than you?
Ti Ti, I’m an old man
Who has done the dance with death twice.
In my twilight years, your generation
Is the hope for Burma and the world.

The world isn’t what it should be
But you can make it better and will.
Your mother and father are loving and caring.
Your younger sisters are cute and charming.
You and your family can help Burma like the Lady has done.

You can’t understand my excitement
And won’t until you are my age.
In the meantime, you are filled with energy and hope.
I’m proud of you, Ti Ti.
You are my granddaughter and a beautiful young lady.

Ti Ti, I am haunted by the two of us. In my twilight years, I realize that I am not immortal. I knew that when I was the age of your sisters...at one level. Nevertheless, dance with death, and it can change one for the better. Sometime, go to the Last Lecture. That single lecture by Randy Pausch changed me like my trip to Burma. I am different than I was before. However, now I realize it. It has motivated me to live, and you have helped me.

There are three things that truly motivate and drive me now in my life. I want to accomplish each before I run out of time in this world. One is to settle Ginger down. She is a hyperactive Irish Setter puppy. Another driving force is to interview the Lady. However, the last is to return to Myanmar and visit a young lady by the name of Ti Ti.

Ti Ti today

Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy

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Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

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On Seeing the Light

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The Last Lecture

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Dancing with Death

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My Hauntings

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The Hand May Be a Little Child's

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An old man and his grandson

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Best of Times

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Connecting The Dots

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Thus Ginger Spoke

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