Thursday, November 1, 2012

Encountering Loneliness

After a toddler tantrum fiasco at the local libray, I took the screaming child to a nearby park within a nice suburban neighborhood for the first time...  and thought of a recent post of Jennifer Fulwiler's off of her blog at NCRegister which talked about how women were reluctant to stay at home because of social isolation..
The neighborhood and park seemed deserted!  There was the occasional lawnservice truck that drove by and maybe one woman walking, but that was it. I was kind of disappointed that there weren't other small kids to be seen.

Then there was an old Asian man who was walking around... he just sat down on the bench in front of where my daughter, my friend, and I were. I didn't turn around (because I thought that this was mildly creepy) but I knew he was staring! He got up a few minutes later, and said a loud "NI HAO" (meaning "hello" in Chinese) at me as he walked by..and went to the other side of the park.

Well, we ended up at the other side of the park eventually, and the man came up to me and started talking (since now he knew I understood Chinese since I responded to his "NI HAO" earlier).  After some basic demographics questions, he exclaimed, "I AM SO LONELY HERE!!!," he had been here for about 5 months living with his adult children (in their 40s) - he himself is 76, and his adult children do not have children here.  He doesn't speak English and doesn't have a car.  Nobody is around the neighborhood.  He begged to hold my toddler..  He asked about the meaning of Halloween (funny.. I just listened to a blurb about it on Catholic radio) -and I told him about today being All Saints.  Its too bad that he is leaving the country (maybe for good) on Sunday -otherwise I would have invited him to church...  There are a lot of Chinese people there his age who speak and understand Chinese much better than me. (In the middle of our conversation, he asked.. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ANYTHING I AM SAYING? ;-))  I did extricate myself from the conversation since it was time to feed the baby, and he kept exclaiming that he was so glad that he met me :).  Funny, I did kind of feel a grandpa-ish connection with him -I'm glad I met him too!  He is now in my prayers. 

I felt so bad for him.  I wonder if this is how most immigrants/visitors who don't speak the language feel when they come visit for extended periods of time.  I wonder if this is how my parents generation or grandparents feel.  I should call my grandmother more often... (even if I don't understand the conversation).

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