Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An Old Truck Can Capture Your Heart

Vehicles and houses are funny things. They are just material and supposedly only commodities -to be bought and sold. But somehow that's not the total of what they are. A car, or a truck, and also a house, are more than just "things". They somehow hold memories. And that's what makes them special.

I said goodbye to my 1968 Ford truck today. It hasn't ran for years and just sat next to my barn slowly decaying. And yet it gave me comfort, every time I passed and glanced it's way.

I bought it sometime in the late 1980s or early 90s. It was already a classic. I loved describing the 4-barrel carburetor, the big V8 engine, the duel-exhaust headers and the power this beast had as it leapt into action roaring with just a slight tap of the gas. It drank gas like air and always turned an eye coming down the street.

I gave it to my teenage son, to safely grant him power and protection I thought, as he drove through his High School days. Next, my daughter of course drove it through her High School days to the envy of every young male there. Their tales are told repeatedly, with laughter and fond memories of the mishaps and adventures driving this old truck.

This truck drove us from Houston to Austin loaded with dogs, family and grandparents, faithfully, though not without doubts, making the journey successfully back in the mid 2000s.

I've replaced the engine, rebuilt the brake system, gave it a new carburetor (after poking a hole in it clumsily) and gave it a new $2000 paint job at one time. Ariel learned mechanics and independence turning wrenches, getting greasy, and repairing one part at a time, learning the ability to keep yourself sustained and moving.

I've scrubbed and polished it, started it repeatedly just to drive it around the block -stretching its metal bones- and worked on every part of this machine myself to give it life.

Eventually though, it grew tired, cranky, and rusty. I ignored it for other things in life, and it slowly sank into retirement for the spiders, birds, and squirrels to nest under its hood. Now finally, someone else thinks it worthy of attention. Today it has to be hauled up on a specialty wheeled flatbed with a winch to be hauled down the road to places unknown.

Thank you my old '68 Ford truck. You've been a friend. May your memories live on for years to come. I know I will always consider our time spent together more than just ordinary. It was a fun. It was special.

We don't own our animals. We host them.

Freckled Dwarf Monitors a long way from
their native home in Australia I hosted for a while
I have decided it is not accurate nor useful to think that we own our pets. Just like we don't own our children nor our parents nor our friends, animals under our care are individual creatures beyond ownership.

Viewing them as objects owned, blinds us to their unique place in the universe separate from us and masks much of the joy we have the opportunity to receive by simply recognizing them for who they are.
Indonesian Jungle Carpet Pythons
I hosted into the world from eggs with their parents' help

We don't own animals. If we're lucky, we get to host a few of them. And that's better for all of us.

Phoebe Dove - a friend for 14 years
named after my Great Great Grandmother

Mowgli - hosted by Alena Sanders in Czech Republic

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Hero Has Fallen

A hero for human freedom died yesterday while under imprisonment for speaking out against the state. His name is forbidden to be spoken in China and his life and death hidden and forbidden to be revealed to the 1.4 Billion people that Liu Xiaobo fought to bring freedom to.
Liu Xiaobo was in New York at the time Tiananmen Square peaceful protests broke out for freedom in 1989. He went to those demonstrations before the government crack down and is considered to be 1 of the 4 of main Chinese intellectuals who spoke out for the Chinese people's freedoms. He saved and negotiated for the escape of many students before the government slaughtering began at Tiananmen Square.
He has been in prison for the last 8 years for speaking out against the state. His body is kept within China to control any outside observances of his grave site. The 1.4 billion people within China do not know what this man has done or said on their behalf - nor do they know of his death. His entire life will be hidden from their history and cultural consciousness.
Liu Xiaobo's struggle for freedoms was not just for China, but for the future of all men who he warns can easily also lose their human dignities and rights by an oppressive government if men do not speak out and fight for their freedoms.
I didn't know much of Liu Xiaob, but my heart sags knowing that great men like this arise now and then - though their bodies are captured and beaten - and their memories are wiped.
May freedom ring.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Babies Die and Life Goes On

A friend from work had a tragedy beyond words, where in recovery for weeks in a hospital he still was not told the fate of his children for fear of his inability to recover. Finally he was told his two child had died in the car crash. Here is his story a year later in an email to friends, along with my story back to him. Shed a tear and thank God for the preciousness of life. 

From: N.
Sent: [date omitted]
To: [A select few]
Subject: A new year... a new life... a new beginning

I believe every individual has that event in their life which result in a life altering sequence of changes where you see a consequent shift in the very fundamental characteristics that define you. An year ago, [date omitted] to be exact, while travelling to Hyderabad in my car I met with an accident that involved my wife and both my kids. The doctor said it was a miracle that I and my wife survived but we lost our kids. My daughter K. was five and my son I. was two. Experience, they say is the best teacher in life but in my case this turned out to be a very harsh lesson. After what seemed like an eternity, we slowly started accepting reality. Over the next few months we endured several things that we never thought we could but somehow managed to bring some order to this chaos, put this behind us and move on. Physical recovery also picked up pace and now we are able to manage things on our own.

Not sure if I should call it misfortune or just fate, but it did take our kids away from us, denied us the blissful delight of watching them laugh, cry, play, run around falling and getting up, get sick and be nursed back to health, it essentially snatched away the joys of parenthood from us. It took us time and effort to come out of this state of mind and a few months ago we started thinking of rebuilding our family all over again. Giving thought in this direction and after weighing several options we finally decided on adoption. Out of all this darkness and gloom that we had endured so far, this was our opportunity to show the same love and affection of a parent to a child who does not have it today. I will not deny that at this point of time we were both yearning to get another chance to have a kid, to protect as a father and to nurture as a mother. We went through the application process, interviews and finally all our efforts came to fruition last week. A baby girl ( 5 months old) was up for adoption and we were called for a visit. It was love at first sight. A week later we welcomed her into our home, our family and our lives.

Throughout this ordeal I discovered many things which I believe in our daily busy lives we either ignore or take for granted. The preciousness of life, moments you cherish with your loved ones, warmth of friendly company and I can go on... Among these, the rallying support from all of my family, friends and colleagues was the chief catalyst for our recovery and the guiding strength for us to move on and think of rebuilding our family. Right from the scores of folks who came all the way to Hyderabad and visited me in the hospital time and again, donated blood, took up my responsibilities at work and managed things through this year, the burden of getting our lives back on track was greatly reduced. The support and well wishes from my colleagues was a big help and showed me that this is truly my extended family.

We did lose our kids and with them a part of our lives as well but their memories are with us to remember and cherish forever. I wouldn’t want to think of this new bundle of joy as a ray of hope but rather a second chance that brings happiness back in our lives. For everyone who has done so much for me so far, for the love and care that has been bestowed on my family, words fall acutely short in my expression of appreciation and gratitude. I hope I will get an opportunity someday to do the same for you.

Please welcome our baby girl… K. junior... 


From: Mitch Sanders
Sent: [date omitted]
To: N.
Subject: A new year... a new life... a new beginning

Dear N.,

She is darling beyond expression. She will bring much joy to you and your wife I’m sure. God bless you Narendra and thank you for sharing such a powerful story. Good to see you coming out of the darkness that death casts you into.

Just so you know my story a bit also. We had a darling baby girl 8 months old. The last I saw her alive I laid her down in her crib and went out with a friend leaving her in care of wife and friends at house. I came back a couple of hours later to a home with my wife in the front yard screaming and our baby laying on the ground. I tried to give her mouth to mouth, but from the hollowness of her chest I could tell she was dead. Ambulance came and stuff like that, burial etc.

My daughter today
I only tell my story to honor yours. In some ways you never get over the loss of a child. Life does go on though. We had a daughter about 2 years later who has grown up to be a zany fun loving delight. The gap of the loss of my first daughter (Aysley Wynn was her name) will always remain, but the cycle of sorrow and joy is much of what makes life. My love and heart to you always. Thanks again for the bravery of writing such a letter and sending it out and to include me. I am honored. 

“Better is sorrow than laughter, For by the sadness of the face the heart becometh better.” 
-King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 7:3, circa 931 BC