Saturday, May 22, 2010

Being 60 (week 3 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Last week I talked about how Ma wasn't too thrilled about coming to America.

Well, she wasn't the only pissed-off parent I had.

According to Pop, his 3 older brothers had filled his head with tales of streets paved with gold.  His brothers had immigrated years earlier.  Regularly Pop received letters about how the sky was the limit in America.  Brothers wouldn't lie, right?  

Pop had quit school at 12 and gotten a job as a plumber's assistant.  By the time he was 25 he was married, had a child and owned his own home.  As the remaining son, Pop was all set to inherit Grandpa's farm.   

Pop said his brothers made it sound like he'd regret it if he stayed in Malta.  One brother owned a grocery store.  It was doing so much business that two brothers had formed a partnership to run it, while the other brother had his own taxi fleet.  Pop wasn't trained for anything and didn't have a driver's licence, but, in America, who knew what he could do?

So, he packed what was packable and set sail.  After he arrived he found out the grocery store was a deli about the size of a living room.  Both brothers worked it because it had to be open nearly all the time.  And the fleet consisted of 2 taxis.  

Pop worked 2 years in the deli.  He hated dealing with strangers.  During that time we shared a 2 bedroom apartment with Pop's brother, his wife and their 2 children.  A year after we arrived, Ma's brother joined us.  God knows why.  

Then Pop got a job working the night shift as a plumber's assistant in Lily Tulip.  We moved from Corona so he could walk to work.  The house in College Point had a mortgage, so Ma worked the day shift doing quality control.  She had to count the cups in randomly selected boxes to make sure there were the right number of paper cups in the box.   

I always wondered what my parents would have been like as people and as parents if they had stayed in Malta.  There wouldn't have been the stress of both having to work.  They wouldn't have been in a strange country where the only people who talked their language were relatives who had talked them into leaving everything. 

Pop had lost his sense of trust.  He never could believe me when I told him we had farmers and hot summers in Manitoba.  He'd been lied to before.  He packed a heavy coat when they visited in July.  We had to drive them by the farms so they could see the fields and animals.

I think my parents would have been different.

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