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Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Tale of Two Tales

I guess you would call them tales of paradox, or paradoxical tales, these two stories that entered my life yesterday. Each, in their way, illustrated the potential absurdity of our emotions. I am sure you have encountered this before - things that warm your heart, moments of true happiness that make you cry, and then things that are just awful, horrible, but make you want to laugh.

The first occurred at school. Wednesday is show and tell day. The kids bring in toys and tell us who gave them the toy, when and why, and about how it works. Yesterday, though, and because of a sweet idea from my co-teacher, the children came in prepared to say something about the school year. They could talk about things they liked to do, kids they liked to play with, or they could say thank you to anyone they wanted.

The first girl to go is one of the quietest girls in class, and I was surprised to see her hand go up. She went to her school bag and took out a piece of paper that she had written a small speech on. She came up and read it, saying thank you to my co-teacher for teaching her the last two years. Then one of the most confident girls went. Dear Class, she began, Thank you T. Cindy, thank you Teacher Alan, and thank you classmates. Thank you for teaching me English and thank you for playing with me every day. I will always remember you and love you, Laura. She had actually writted all of the out (and spelled everything right - remember, this girl is 6). As she read this, and looked around at everyone, I started to get a bit moist-eyed.

Next was a boy who never stops surprising me with the way his mind works. When other kids say they want to go to Disney, he says he wants to go to South Korea and France. Yesterday, we talked about where we find water in the house. Other kids were drawing pictures of the refrigerator and kitchen and bathtub. He drew a picture of himself shooting a water gun at his brother who was sitting on the toilet and taking a dump. Anyway, he took out his piece of paper and began to read. Last year, I was in the Giraffe Class. When we went to the park, I always held T. Cindy's hand. Now I hold my friend's hands. Last year, I could not write. Now I can write really good, and T.Cindy and T. Alan are very happy. Thank you. He didn't spell all the words right, but who cares. What amazed me was that he recognized in himself the jump in maturity, the progress he has made from last year to this, and he framed it in the context of being ready to move on to bigger things.

Other kids came up. Some could not read because they were trying to hold back tears. One cried. Others didn't know what to say, so they mentioned someone they liked to play with. Some just said thank you. The little girl I mentioned in yesterday's post, the one who has a it of a crush on me, came to school in a lovely white dress. When we asked her why, she said, because I don't want to go bye-bye. I don't want T. Alan to go bye-bye. I want to come to school here every day next year and next year and next year...

And I realized as this was going on that these kids - most of them really do have an amazing level of awareness, a true realization that their lives are about to change. They don't want to let go.

Before our show and tell time yesterday, I had a little discussion with one of my co-teachers - the same one who mentioned I've been slacking on my blog. We were talking about some of the things that I wrote about yesterday.

You know, he said, we are maybe the biggest male influence on their lives, outside their father.

Its scary, isn't it? A huge responsibility.

At least you see it as a responsibility, he said (and I should mention he really does as well - we have some great teachers at me school, considering that most of us have no training).

While we were talking, four of my girls were holding on to my legs, and another was hugging my left arm. The other teacher laughed.

They don't want to let go, I said. Meaning both in an immediate sense and in terms of leaving preschool.

Why would they, he asked. They are going to be numbers next year. They will never again get this much attention in school.

Perhaps this conversation was with me as the children stood in front of our class attempting to express things in English that would be hard to express even in their native Chinese. Listening to them, and as I was filled with pride and happiness, tears sprung to my eyes.

Now for the other story, recounted over dinner with one of Natalia's friends from Argentina (also Taiwanese, working as a doctor in Taipei).

The last time the doctor came back from Argentina (a few months ago) he brought his Scottish Terrier with him. The dog is ten years old, and the doctor missed the dog enough that he went through the process of having him checked and quarantined and brought overseas. Shortly thereafter, the dog was lost.

The doctor sent emails to everyone he knew, and asked the recipients to forward the mails to anyone they knew. He posted pictures at gas stations and on telephone polls, but he received no response.

A good deal of time went by, and the doctor had just about given up hope. This is not a good place to lose a dog. One day, though, he answered the phone and a woman said she thought she had his dog. She had found it on the street and taken it into her home. Upon seeing a flyer at the gas station she gave him a call and returned the dog.

Sadly, this is not the end of the story. Have you seen the movie A Series of Unfortunate Events (or is it An Unfortunate Series of Events?) Whatever it is...right now I would say, I wish I could stop writing now. I wish I could tell you that doctor and dog are living happily together, playing in the park, revelling in their reunion. But, facts will not allow for that. Facts make me keep writing, propel me to go deeper into the story.

As we were eating dinner last night, the doctor answered his phone. He spoke for awhile with his dad. It was after this call that he began talking about his dog, and it is here that I will continue the story.

About a week ago, the dog was out on the balcony of the doctor's family's second floor apartment. This is where he usually stays during the day. On the balcony, the doctor, said, is a small open space, a square about this big (here he help up his hands and showed us). The dog is bigger than that square, he said. We never thought he would be able to squeeze through it.

But it did. And it fell.

Is it OK? I asked. Did he break a leg?

Worse, the doctor said. It did something to its spine. It can't move its back legs now. It is a parapalegic dog. The first few days he could not urinate or defecate on its own, so it had a catheter. We took it out so it would not get a urinary tract infection. That's what my dad just called about.

Does it have to wear a halo around its neck? I asked.

No, it has a lumbar brace, though.

So what does it do?

It moves its front paws. It can eat and bark, but it can't run or wag its tail.

As he was going on about this, Natalia began laughing. It was the helpless sort of laughter that comes when you hear a tale of such absurdity, a tale that paints such unexpected images, that no matter how sad it is, no matter how much it emotionally affects the teller of the tale, you just have to laugh. I was doing my best to stifle my own.

As Natalia was laughing, the doctor's phone rang again. He spoke briefly and then hung up the phone. That was my sister, he said. She wanted to tell me about the catheter, too.

Natalia started laughing again. I did, too.

Why do you think it jumped off the balcony? she asked. Maybe it was better treated at the other house?

That is not possible, the doctor said. Though I had been thinking the same thing, I realized that was probably not the best suggestion to make to a caring and loving pet owner.

I am sorry, doctor friend, about your dog's terrible misfortune, and the great pain it has caused you, really! I am sorry, too, that I will no doubt recount this tale again, framing it in a tragic light solely for the purpose of getting a laugh.


Anonymous Natalia said...

I'm sorry, I'm a horrible person, but while I was reading this, couldn't stop laughing...

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:53 AM  

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