Ti Ti
A Reason for Being

Allow me to get all my cards out on the table and face up. I have talked about dancing with death on the dancefloor of my life. I have mentioned ad nauseum how transformative those two dances were for me. Essentially, that is true. However, my two dances, traumatic brain injury and metastasized prostate cancer, occurred in 2008.

Nevertheless, I didn’t realize either dance when I danced with death. In fact, several years passed without it dawning on me just how transformative either dance was. Things had changed in my life, but I wasn’t privy to seeing and recognizing the changes within me; they were merely some changes. Then I had dinner in Chicago with someone who I didn’t know, but we had a mutual friend who told us to get together. He asked me to tell him about myself, which I did for most of the meal. At the end of the dinner, he asked if I had seen the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I hadn’t.

The next morning, a link to Pausch’s Last Lecture was in my email. Watching the Last Lecture resulted in understanding my dances for the first time since doing them. Additionally, it also resulted in nearly 200-essays about doing the dances. I’m a different person due to that 1:16:26 lecture. Trust me.

I have watched the Last Lecture dozens and dozens of times. Each time that I watch that video, I learn more and more about me. It has caused me to be far more engaged in life. I watched Pausch’s lecture a couple of weeks ago. What resonated within me this time were two points that he made. He emphasized the importance of achieving your dreams and helping others to do the same. This helped me to understand my relationship to my granddaughter in Burma, Ti Ti. I recently posted an essay about Ti Ti and me writing poems about our meeting each other nearly four years ago.

This is Ti Ti four years ago.

This is Ti Ti today.

This was Ti Ti’s poem—

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.

When Ti Ti saw my essay containing our poems on my website, she emailed me this comment.

Hello PaPa Al,

I am so happy to see your article including my poem and yours. I think we feel very warm with each other. Actually I am dreaming a lot to be a famous inventor. It will be great when it happen. I will listen your advice to be young lady. Take care yourself and thanks you so much from my heart.

your loving

Grandaughter TiTi

Man, when I read that email, Pausch’s comment stressing the importance of achieving your dreams and helping others to do the same rang in my ears. Ti Ti, who is around 12, is dreaming about being a famous inventor. I have no doubt that she will achieve her dreams.

This was the first stanza of my 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.

It is haunting to me how seemingly unimportant events in my life become monumental and life-changing. Ti Ti is an example. Moh Moh, her mother, was my tour guide in the Inle Lake area of Burma/Myanmar. Moh Moh had to stop at her home and pick up some documents for the next leg of my trip. She would merely run in and pick up the papers and off we would go to our next destination. In passing, Moh Moh said that her oldest daughter was home for some holiday and that I could meet her.

That was the plan. We got there and Ti Ti greeted me with a smile and asked whether I wanted to play some games with her. We sat in their living room playing Scrabble for an hour. I left that day with memories of my newest grandchild. I wrote an essay about why playing Scrabble with Ti Ti meant so much to me. It is partly my age, having danced with death, and my reflections in this twilight time for me.

To be honest, it is more than that. Having done a couple dances with death, I know something about life that most of my readers know only intellectually. I know that I have a very finite amount of time remaining. I also know that I can’t change the world. However, I know that I can help another generation work to change the world in which they live. That is a drive within me.

While I am still trying to contact Aung San Suu Kyi, the Lady, I realize that interviewing her benefits me far more than helping her bring democracy to Burma. Even though I have a couple of ideas that I would be willing to do to assist her in changing Burma, essentially, I’m not a player on the global stage.

The Lady

However, there is a young lady, Ti Ti. I will do all that I can for her and her family. I have written about the euphoric moments in my life. Dealing with my granddaughter in Burma is surely one of them.

Today, I received an email from Moh Moh, which contained a picture of Ti Ti. She recently received an award at her school. The writing on the banner behind her is in Burmese. I think it says, “This award is given to Ti Ti, who is Al Campbell’s granddaughter. Ti Ti is a smart, intelligent, beautiful, charming, and happy young lady. She will be a famous inventor soon. Let’s hear it for Ti Ti, a great young Lady.”

To be honest with you, my Burmese isn’t very good. I was in country for only a month four years ago, but I think that is what the banner reads.

Ti Ti, I’m proud of you. It won’t be long before I will see you and your family. I can’t wait.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

On Seeing the Light

On Seeing theLight

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The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

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Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

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