On These Pages Are The Stories Of Our Family We Go Together ! Welcome To The World As Viewed Through Our Eyes
Lynette .......... Caedmon .......... Libby .......... Tom

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How We Met (What HE Said)





Finding the love of your life...




It has taken much self persuasion to finally decide to actually create a website/blog, but in thinking about leaving a legacy of who we are for future generations... I, Tom have undertaken to just begin. I am writing while I have a week off for vacation while Lynette (now in her last few weeks of pregnancy with L-girl) and Caedmon are taking their afternoon naps.

Was there a time I wish to remember without Lynette? Yes there was, but not without too many memories I truly wish to recall or admit to. In finding a starting point I would choose the events of September 11, 2001 which were still fresh in the lives of every American. It was a significant date for me, not so much so because of the dawning of a new age of terrorism, but because my baptism the Sunday after the attacks was overshadowed by it. Our country’s long standing image as the #1 superpower on the planet was being challenged and as a nation we knew our lives would be forever changed. It was a time of much reflection upon choices made in life and roads not taken. I had missed out on being baptized as a rebellious teenager, but God had continued to reach out to me patiently through the years. From here we fast-forward to one year later... to the autumn of 2002, I was 34 at the time. I cannot begin to tell the story of how I met Lynette without telling the story of who I was. For only through conjuring up my past could I look forward to my future.

Tom, that’s me. I was born in Taiwan and given a Chinese name 張 逸 平 (張 - stretch, extend, expand... 逸 - flee, escape, break loose... 平 - flat, level, even, peaceful). This “foreign” name I quickly gave up when I decided to omit it from official documents when I became a naturalized citizen. My parents gave me the freedom to choose to deny the name they gave me, but forewarned me that I might someday have regrets. My parents met during college in Taiwan and were teachers prior to emigrating to the US in the early 1970’s. They tell me that my paternal great-grandfather was the first Christian in my family and everyone in our family subsequent to him was a believer. He was clock/watch repairman in his town, they say. I never knew either of my grandfathers for they were both deceased prior to my birth. My dad arrived first in the US and worked in the Empire State building until he could provide and send for the rest of us. He earned a business degree in his spare time and in my youth, pursued several different jobs in NYC from starting an import/export business, owning and running a stationary store and later a butcher shop, being a restaurant manager, to ultimately owning and maintaining a small motel in Waterloo, South Carolina with his sisters. My mom was a seamstress in her American life until she retired in 2007.

My childhood life had been one of great rebellion against my ethnicity and family. Though my parents brought my siblings & I up in a safe Christian home where our needs & wants were provided for, somehow I always felt dissatisfied and strived for my own life apart. I hated being Asian... never quite fitting into the American world, being taunted by others because of race. It was in Taiwanese church that I felt “normal”, but then there there were subtle status distinctions that even a child could sense as the children of doctors seemed to be socially on a higher level than I. There I actually felt “special” due to my athleticism (in softball & table tennis church tournaments) and charisma. The other kids looked to me as a leader in many ways. However, I wanted MY American dream - of being blonde, blue eyed, tall... the all-American boy. I was raised with my siblings (fraternal twins 3 years younger than me) in an extended family consisting of my parents, my paternal grandmother, 3 of my dad’s sisters , and also my cousin of similar age to me ( whose parents at the time lived in Taiwan). We were provided for at the expense of the blood and sweat of all the adults in the household. Selflessly, they tried to give us lives that they could only dream of when we turned our television set on or looked at our neighbors and saw how American children should live. Somewhere along the way, I lost my childhood innocence and realized that I didn’t quite fit in into this image.

New York City in the outskirts of Harlem (by Riverside Church/Park & Grant’s Tomb) was where my memories mostly began. It was where I attended 1st - 3rd grades, and later when my family moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, I began 4th grade and so forth till I left home for college & beyond. My youth held times of the fun & excitement. We went on family vacations in the summertime all piled up like sardines 10 persons in the family car, played in the local parks, went to Burger King for birthday celebrations where my birthday treat would be to order 2 Whoppers, fries, and an apple pie to eat, and for a few years we even had a pet chimpanzee named George!. However, it was the racism I felt that led me to want to be NOT ME. I have a memory of my brother & sister and I having just coming down a hill on a new skateboard my dad had given us when a group of African-American kids on bicycles rode up, taunted us, and snatched the skateboard from us and rode off. Another memory of the Caucasian bully around the block chasing me on his bicycle and yelling racial slurs at me when I rode my bicycle around the block. I always had to look around when I was riding and never felt truly safe riding around the block in those days. I recall another memory of another African-American kid putting a gun to my side as I left for home at the end of a junior high school-day. I would add to this list the countless faces of those who uttered racial slurs at me as I passed by them in daily life. These experiences carved deep impressions into the psyche of a young boy producing a warped perception of self & family (as if walking through a house of mirrors at a carnival and seeing distorted versions of myself) thereby hindering my ability to truly understand neither myself, nor my family’s sacrifices. I wished so much to be a different person in a different family. I never looked back much once I finally broke free of those oh so awkward early teenage years as I left for college. I never appreciated how much we the children were provided for and cared for, never recognizing how blessed by God I was to have been part of my family. At the time, I could not understand that I could not possibly have been spared from those growing pains faced early in life. The experiences could not have been controlled by my parents, nor could they have protected me from them. They were more a sign of the cruelty of children, the times we lived in, and growing up in the tough streets of New York City in the early 70’s and 80’s.

The next 17 years from college - to medical school - to residency - to finally starting my career as an anesthesiologist were full of selfishness. My mom used to tell me that the harder you work with your head when you are young, the less you will have to work with your hands when you are old. Education and a career in medicine eased many of the prejudices I perceived earlier in life. However, I existed only for myself and lived as if I were my own family. Losing the weekly influence of the church of my youth, I was much the prodigal son... essentially living as if I had renounced my family, experiencing the many vices of the world, taking and not giving, striving after success in the eyes of the world and achieving it... outwardly I had made it. It was by all accounts another successful American immigrant story. However, inwardly as a child of God, I was lost.

The next chapter of my life, which I did not see coming, occurred one fateful evening in the autumn of 2002. I was in my apartment, when I happened across a radio program. I wasn’t even one for listening to Christian radio, but the young couple on the “Focus on the Family” program seemed so genuinely happy and sincere as they were talking with Dr. James Dobson about how they had met. “eHarmony”, a unique web-based service created by Dr. Neil Warren Clark, sought to match couples with an ultimate goal of creating unions that would last in this modern era of marriages of convenience. Despite the early stigma of internet based matchmaking, they spoke of how it was not unlike any other venue of meeting someone in the real world... and ultimately, isn’t it God who is in control? Through the website, Lynette & I emailed in great depth over a long weekend. Our emails progressed over the next few weeks and we began talking on the telephone, eventually I asked her if I could visit her in Pennsylvania. I ended up driving all the way from TX to PA (approximately 1200 miles, 21 hours non-stop in my 1994 Jeep Wrangler)! I arrived in the early hours of the morning, checked into a hotel, and had only a few hours to sleep before we were to meet at a local coffee shop, La Bella Bean. Lynette thought I was quite bold, as I kissed her on our first meeting - I think I told her that it just felt right. I had a present to give her as a token of our first meeting. It was a teddy bear dressed in Western apparel. Later that evening we went to a performance of the traveling Broadway production “42nd Street”, and afterwards for coffee to plan our next day. I picked her up bright and early before dawn and we went hiking for the day. It was a wonderful weekend to finally get to meet the person behind the words. Initially it was a bit awkward because even though we felt like we knew much of one another, we had to begin the relationship all over from the start when we actually met in person. After I returned back to Texas after another grueling drive, our correspondences continued and our relationship blossomed. Approximately 4 months from the date we first met, on Valentines Day, we traveled to Seattle, Washington to visit my very close friends Tom & Maureen. I had already concocted a scheme of including them in a surprise marriage proposal. I had already mailed the engagement ring in advance to their safe keeping, but Tom was the only one to know the details of how the proposal would unfold. We went out to dinner at an Asian-fusian trendy restaurant, but before the ladies could fully savor and enjoy their meals which were just served, we had to leave because our horse & carriage had pulled up outside the restaurant to their shock & surprise! The champagne served in the carriage lessened the disappointment of having to rush through our meals. It also cheerfully warmed us as we departed into the nippy winter night. The city lights seemed to sparkle extra bright as we wound our way through the streets, hearing the clipitty-clop of the horse’s trot. When we arrived at our destination, the Seattle Space needle, Tom and Maureen got off the carriage first and as Lynette turned to also get off, I assumed the classic position, “struck a pose”, and offered her the token of my affection and asked the question that would lead us onwards towards the rest of our lives. Lynette said after the fact that the minor pause in her acceptance reply of “YES!” was due to the champagne making her thoughts merry and how she was so startled by the blinding, dazzling diamond! As the excitement began to subside, I surprised her again by letting her know that that same day I had arranged for my parents to fly in to Pennsylvania to meet with hers for the very first time and they had already been getting acquainted over dinner that very same evening! It was a night to remember. We were married in Pittsburgh 8 months later, in the autumn of 2003 (exactly one year from the day we first met) and jetted off to honeymoon in the exciting cosmopolitan city of London, UK and then to relax and take it slow on the island of Madeira, Portugal. From there, as they say... the rest is history or shall I say more correctly, OURstory.

2 comments:

  1. How fun as a fellow eHarmony person to read your full story. I have known Lynette for several years but never really heard it. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How nice to get to know the man who captured Lynette's heart!

    ReplyDelete

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