Realizing the New Normal
What’s All About, Alfie?

I have a couple of idiosyncrasies. One of my eccentricities is that if I tell someone that I will do something for them, it will be done on time. I can’t think of when I promised a person something and didn’t deliver on it, usually long before I said I would. That being said, I can think of plenty of times when I needed help from others, but my needs weren’t numero uno for those people. Nevertheless, this is a splendid example of my desire to help others on their yellow brick road of life.

This happened last week. I wrote to Moh Moh, the mother of my three granddaughters in Myanmar. This is a recent photo of them.

One of the items in my email was when was Ti Ti’s tuition needed to be paid for Gusto University. Ti Ti is my oldest granddaughter in Myanmar. I love Ti Ti along with her two younger sisters. I discovered them on my first trip to Myanmar nine years ago during winter break from teaching.

Ti Ti and I have a unique relationship. She was nine when we first met, but her two younger sisters were four and two back then. Therefore, they weren’t able to remember the time we shared together. Nevertheless, Ti Ti does.

Being first born, Ti Ti was very competitive. She wanted to beat me at Scrabble when we first met, which she did. Additionally, she is the brightest child that I had ever met. I’ve often mused over my belief that she got much of her IQ and good looks from my side of the family.

Another reason for our special relationship is that she reminds me of when I was her age. My parents moved from Pennsauken, NJ to Mt. Lebanon, PA, so their three boys got the best education possible before college. While my parent’s desire was loving, it meant that we moved from a nice community where I was an above-average student to the golden ghetto of Mt. Lebanon. Mt. Lebanon made me feel both dumb and poor. Man, that motivated me. I don’t want my children or grandchildren to feel like I felt.

I soon realized that Ti Ti was following in my footsteps, especially educationally. That wasn’t acceptable. I didn’t like remembering how I felt seven decades ago. As a result, Ti Ti and I made a deal, part of which was that I’d cover her college costs.

Our arrangement benefited me more than Ti Ti. Trust me. I didn’t want to be sitting in my home in America knowing that she had doubts about her intellectual abilities. I hated that feeling years ago. Ti Ti will face many problems in life, but I can help eliminate the educational one.

Therefore, I recently asked Moh Moh about when the tuition was due for Ti Ti’s second year. Moh Moh replied that Gusto hadn’t sent them any information yet. It wasn’t more than a day before Moh Moh emailed me that Ti Ti had just gotten her tuition for this coming academic year.

I replied to Moh Moh that the first thing that I would do on Monday morning at 9 am, when my bank opened, would be to have my bank send a wire transfer to them for Ti Ti’s tuition. I was there at 9 am.

However, six hours prior, around 3 am, Ginger wanted to go out to go potty. Half asleep, I took her outside and came back inside. It was then that I realized that Ginger had vomited and had a dozen places where she had had diarrhea before she woke me up. Additionally, there was blood in her stool. I took her to the emergency room of Ginger’s vet. The vet said that she’ll be okay.  I went home, cleaned up the mess, took a shower, and went to the bank. 

I discussed how to best transfer funds for Ti Ti’s tuition with the person in charge of the wire transfers. Recently, there were problems and delays transferring funds due to the military’s coup. I mentioned to my banker that I would like to attach Gusto’s bill to the wire transfer. I thought that would expedite the arrival of the money for Ti Ti’s tuition. While that was a good idea, wire transfers were merely numbers and had no means of attaching a document. The person at the bank spoke with the main office several times. They both concluded that it would be better to transfer funds as I have for several years.

There I was trying to get Ti Ti’s tuition to Gusto. I finally decided that since I have a paper trail of previous wire transfers, I would continue doing what I had done in the past.

I came home and found Ginger was still bleeding even without going out to go potty.  So, I took her down to Purdue Veterinary Hospital, the 4th time in two years, and arrived around 11 am. Dr. Haginoya, who had helped treat Ginger at the end of July, outlined what he wanted to find out about Ginger’s medical issues. After about six hours, he returned and gave me his diagnosis along with some additional meds. I returned home around 7 pm.  

So, what was my takeaway from that very long and vexing day? I really had no choice. I care about my family in Myanmar, including making sure that Ti Ti got her education. Also, I care about helping Ginger face her issues with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It’s a no-brainer. I must deal with life and face reality head-on.

While I would rather have control over everything in my life, I don’t. It is a fool’s errand to believe that I do or could. What fascinated me about last Monday was that I felt both a catharsis and liberated at the end of the day. While I can’t control everything in my life, I can control how I live my life. That is an exhilarating feeling. It is the new normal for me.

It is just the way things happen.

Randy Pausch said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” As I adjusted to the new normal, I thought about a movie I saw in the 60s. Alfie also wanted to figure out the new normal for himself.