Saturday, December 12, 2009

Beware of the Bus

At work, we like to joke around about not pushing anyone under the bus. It's a phrase that has become uncomfortably common among the work environment but alas, still brings a snicker to my face everytime I hear it. Truth be told, we avoid situations where someone might actually get thrown under the bus because it's a selfish sacrifice for one's own safety or well being and nobody wants to be the person pushing someone under or being thrown under.

I often think of this phrase when I'm taking the bus, which has been my normal mode of transportation for the majority of the week. It helps to take my mind off the fact that it is indeed a bit ghetto, that all my important belongings are tucked away safely in my backpack which I refuse to take off throughout the 25 minute ride.

At first, I attempted to read on the bus - quickly realized how motion sick I get and instead observe those around me. For me, the bus is a luxury because it alleviates me from the congested crawl to work on the 10. But for many, it is the only mode of transportation available. For the most part, the demographics are Chinese and Hispanic while the bus drivers are mostly the latter. The reason I noticed this is because often times, when someone gets on the bus who doesn't speak English, it is easy for him or her to communicate with Spanish since the bus driver most often speaks the language. Unfortunately, I can't help but ponder that for the little Chinese grandmas or grandpas who get on the bus, there is not this same luxury. I can help out if the situation arises but thus far it has not and until then, I sit tightly in the front (also cuz I'm too chicken to walk towards the crowded back).

Lately, I have been brought back to the memories of my own wai-puo (grandmother on my mum's side) who passed away in December 2005. She used to take the bus a lot from Monterey Park to Arcadia, mostly to visit us and because she did not want to always be a burden to my parents after wai-gong (grandpops) passed away. Often, we would also go to Monterey Park to visit her, but once she moved to Arcadia with us, she longed for the companionship of her friends and her days spent playing mah-jong. So.. she took the bus to visit her cronies! Just like me (except I go for work since LA parking prices are a nightmare)! But... as she grew older, her memory often slipped. She forgot that grandpa had passed away and yelled at my mom for joking about such a matter. She forgot that I had grown up, saw my little cousin who was 3 at the time and called her by my name. She forgot recent things, but held on tightly to the past memories. And one day.. she forgot where to get off from the bus.

This was pre-cell phone world we live in today. All we knew was Wai-Puo was not at her bus stop, had not returned home, and was nowhere to be found. The entire family freaked out, split up into troopes to scour the greater LA and all the potential bus stops she could have ended up at. We asked all the bus drivers if they saw an old Chinese lady who seemed lost. We eventually located her and she was a good hour away in some city I had never heard of.

I sit on the bus often and think about Wai-Puo and how scared she must have been that day. How lost she must have felt, not able to understand anything everyone was saying to her, just wandering around, hoping her family would find her, knowing that they love her and would not be relentless in locating her. I wonder if anyone offered a kind smile to her, if anyone tried to ask her where she was going, if anyone noticed. Then... I think back to the stories wai-puo and my mom both told me of her past. her right ring finger was crooked because it was shot by a gun when she was only a toddler (even when she was almost not completely there in the family photos we took a year before in which she instinctively tucked that had under), how she had escaped to Taiwan as a refugee with three kids since her first husband had gambled off all their money and didn't live to endure, how she would cook meals of grandeur for all the people in the village, how wai-gong, a handsome and educated engineer would fall in love with her despite her three kids and how she would raise her five kids despite being dirt poor, how she had no fear when killing a chicken on the farm for dinner.... I think about the counseling she gave my mom, aunts and uncles, how she would have been in this situation.. and I realize..she was probably really scared on the inside but on the outside, courageous and determined.

So everytime I'm on the bus.. I think of wai-puo. I think of the strength she had, the faith she had, and the understanding she had when she was lost and am reminded of the same strength I must have when I might feel lost, alone or scared and remember that Heavenly Father is watching after me and that I am never lost, never alone, and never should I fear for faith and fear do not coexist.... if only I could remember that in everything that I do.

Wai-puo didn't live to see my join the Church, didn't live to hear the gospel, didn't live to see any of her grandkids get married or have kids. But wai-puo has been waiting on the other side of the veil and recently, I was able to perform her baptism. As I prepared the name files for wai-gong and wai-puo, I felt a flood of warmth overcome me, a sense of approval from both my grandparents and a sincere thank you for the work I was about to do and I knew, 100%, that was them telling me thank you, guai hai zi

Wai-puo and wai-gong are proud of me. This much I know.

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