Good People Gone
Mr. Ho, Mrs. Kong and Mrs. Chen are gone now. All that is left of the Tai Chi group that I joined in '95 is a handful of people. It was a loosely organized group that practiced Yang style and esoteric Wu Shu forms.
We'd meet in the parking lot of the Buddhist temple on Yale Street in Chinatown every morning at 7 a.m. Rain or shine. Mr. Ho was a tall stringbean of a man who was either smiling or nodding. After we'd finish, he'd yell out: "YUM CHA!" Tea time. Then we'd all march to the nearest dim sum hangout. Mr. Ho would always throw food on our plates if we weren't eating fast enough. To make sure we all got enough.
Mr. Ho contracted lung cancer in '03 but beat it into remission after surgery and a diet of fresh juices.
He passed away two years ago. "Too far for the old people to drive for the funeral so they had a memorial service in Chinatown."
Mrs. Chen was an adorable sprite with diamond earrings and Mary Jane Tai Chi slippers. She "disappeared," said Alice. She never liked to be around people when she was sick. Mrs. Kong passed away of a bad heart, after taking care of the four grandchildren while her children worked. "Now they have a shrine that they pray to in her memory, believing that she looks after them from the Other Side."
Every morning still Mr. Kong and the "other" Mr. Ho dine on dim sum in Chinatown. Sometimes joined by old friends who no longer do much Tai Chi.
For me, re-entering Chinatown is like going back into a pleasant dream. The pungent smells, cracked sidewalks, pushing people in front of the vegetable stands...all settle into my pores like welcome rain.
"They say it can't be five years since you left," Wendy the Hong Kong woman tells me. "It seems like you were only gone a short while.
There are stories to tell. But out of respect, I will save those for myself. The history doesn't matter really. To sit with all of them while tea is poured, the roast pork speared with eager chopsticks...to see their smiling acceptance at my presence.
More soothing than a massage.
The woman in the foreground is Mrs. Lau, 92 years old. Ten children. Vietnamese. Still takes classes in English, candy making, Tai Chi. She's in better shape than I am.