I think I speak for most when I say that ever since I could remember, I thought I’d become some sort of superhero when I got older. You know, like if some really ugly looking insect bit me and I’d become one of them but like a human-sized one. Or if I got attacked by some beastly animal while I walked back home from school and through the woods, I’d lay there dead with my body torn to pieces while the power within me brings me back to life. That was what I thought.
One day, I’d be in the same league as the Ninja Turtles or Spiderman or even the Green Lantern with some ring-pop looking jewel on my finger or something like that. I thought maybe, just maybe, even if I didn’t become one, I’d still be a hero and save the day, somehow, someway. Maybe I’d shoulder block the speeding truck that’s about to hit the old lady that is stuck in the middle of the road, or I’d do a choke-hold like a sleeper on some thugs that just robbed someone, or heck, pull an Ip Man and fight off enemy after enemy for the sake of saving our culture.
But you know what? It didn’t happen. And probably ain’t happening.
My childhood dream came to a screeching halt one day.
Screw the bad guys, screw saving all these people who I didn’t know just to be the “Hero”, super or not. I couldn’t even save the one I love the most.
As the world had its attention on Libya and its fight against the government and their senile-mental patient-looking dictator, Japan was hit with an ungodly earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Then its nuclear power plants were found to have been damaged so severely that it became the third crisis that has the nation crippled. The world stopped for a moment and immediately scrambled to aid them.
Now let me rewind to the day before.
My mom was in town for 7 weeks prior to visit my sister and I and the odd relatives and friends. I hadn’t seen her in a while and spent a great deal of time with her. Anyway, it was her last night in town and we went out to dinner for her farewell. Earlier in the day, my sister visited a popular Japanese bakery and picked up a loaf of bread for my mom to take with her on her trip home. We all had a nice meal and took some pictures and stuff. But my phone for whatever reason, crapped out on me and didn’t turn back on. Didn’t think much of it, just that it was bullshit since I just got my iPhone mere months before this fateful evening.
So after dinner and dessert in Soho, and a big long hug, we parted ways.
Flash forward to the next day.
I had to go get my phone fixed so in order for my girlfriend, May, to get a hold of me throughout the day, she lent her phone to me to use. I kept getting a push notification on the phone about a devastating earthquake in Japan. Thought little of it and closed the note.
That morning, my mom was on a flight back to Toronto, and being the bad son that I am, was unaware that her flight was actually connecting in Tokyo.
So as I walked down a street in Mong Kok waiting for my phone to be fixed, I receive a phone call. It was my sister.
She told me that my mom’s flight was scheduled to land at 2:45pm (HKT) in Tokyo. Earthquake was at 2:40pm. Unable to contain her worries and having already spent time on the phone with the airline and whoever she could get a hold of without getting any information about what happened, we shared a quivering silence over the phone.
After consoling each other with simple words and short sentences, we knew no matter what was said at this point could not curb our emotions, we hung up and desperately waited for a response from the airline.
First in. The airport was shut down.
I stood in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t contain myself. All that was running through my head was that my mother was alone, in Japan, on a plane or something, with the biggest natural disaster in years happening beside where she was. She was just making strides in getting over her anxiety and depression and now this? I looked around as people scurried to my left and right but not so much in panic of what had just happened in Japan, rather it was just the bustling of the Hong Kong culture.
I couldn’t imagine the chaos that was happening around my mother.
And my thoughts? One word: Useless.
Where the hell were my “super powers” I’ve been hoping for since I was a kid? I wanted to fly into Japan and take my mother out of there. Carry her home, save her life, save the day. Yeah, sure, I’m not sure I’d be cut out to be a superhero if I can’t even think that I’d save the rest of Japan before saving my mother. You know, the ultimate sacrifice that superheroes make like seen in all those movies. Heck, Spiderman was good enough with his web slinging that he was able to hold on to both his love and the kids in the tram. But really? In every real life situation where a choice needs to be made, when the emotions are riding higher than the CN Tower, can you really lose your humanistic side and worry about the sake of everyone else and risk losing what’s near and dear to your heart? Superhero or not, Peter Parker would give anything up to have stopped the douche that he let go and ended up killing his beloved uncle. To have that on your conscience is not easy.
I didn’t think a day like this would ever happen. I wouldn’t need to use my “super powers” to save the world…if I had any, of course. But seriously, even if I did, I’d be the first to tell you, I would save my mother first, and I don’t care for the backlash.
Well, whatever the case, I don’t have any powers or even the faintest idea how my mother was doing or the extent of the devastation happening mere flying-hours away.
Helpless. Powerless. Useless. Those were the only things within my grasp at that time. I wanted to be there with my mom. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be alright, even if it wasn’t. I wanted to protect her. To get her on the first flight out of there. Line-up for her for food. Talk to her to calm her down.
But what did I do? Nothing.
Second thing in, her flight landed safely.
An hour later, my girlfriend rushed out of work and came to my side. I got my phone back and forwarded my calls to her phone because there was something else wrong with it, at her urging nonetheless.
About twenty minutes later, she gets a call on her phone. It’s my mom!
I rip the phone away (okay, not literally but for dramatic effect, I will say I ripped it away) from her grasp and put it to my ear. I waited to hear her voice.
She very quickly told me what her situation was. She was stuck in the airplane, nobody was working in the airport, they were running out of food, and aftershocks were rocking the plane every now and then. Being the nice woman that she always is, she hung up swiftly so that others could use the phone to call their loved ones.
And just as quickly as she hung up, tears swelled my eyes and I couldn’t help but to let it go.
After crying like a baby without a nipple to suck on, I called my brother and sister to give them the update. It was relieving for all of us to know that she landed safely BUT still anxious to find a way to get her the hell out of there.
After 20+ hours sleeping on the floors and chairs in the airport, watching all of her fellow passengers on the same flight leave, and chatting with us over the phone, my mother was running low on food and medicine. She was physically and mentally exhausted as anyone can imagine. She stayed strong, she insisted that our support was keeping her going as strong as she could be. But was that enough?
Luckily, the loaf of bread that my sister bought her kept her from starving as food was scarce, banks were closed, money was low, and lines were long. But now, she was running precariously low on medication. So she did what everyone does in desperation, beg.
She pleaded with the counter person and the manager about her condition, state, and situation.
At this point in time, I hadn’t heard from her in a while so I tried calling her cell phone of which was a crapshoot since it was not always connecting. But I did indeed get through. Thank God.
And talk about timing. I caught her as she was entering the tunnel to the airplane! Relieved and assured of my mom’s safety, I was the baby looking for his nipple again. But this was definitely more joyous than the first. And I didn’t care that I was standing in the middle of a busy intersection where everyone looked at me with a curious eye. My mom was going home. That’s all that mattered.
You know what else didn’t matter? That I didn’t have super powers and I wasn’t a superhero. Sure, I couldn’t save the day. I couldn’t help my mom get out of Japan. I questioned my usefulness on a number of occasions through this. But I did what I needed to do as a son, brother, and friend. I showed my support. I gave my support. And sometimes, just sometimes, I reckon that’s enough. As my mom assured me of it as well.
Sure, in hindsight, I wish I did do more. But when a world catastrophe as gigantic as this hits this close to home, it’s tough. And fortunate or not, I’ve never had to deal with something of this magnitude before so there’s no protocol that I innately proceed with. I would never wish this on anyone and I am sure that there are several people, families, and friends that went through something even more devastating because of this triple-crisis and my prayers are with them through their tragic times. But having said that, I thank God for making sure my mother wasn’t going to be just another number.
What happened was brutal. And those affected more greatly than it has for me and my family, I sincerely hope that they will have better days ahead. And they have my support. I just hope that it’s enough as well since it’s already been determined that I can’t save anyone and not a superhero…
Now, I can’t wait to go home and see my mom again. Big hugs and kisses. Maybe even a high five.
But the best part? Yeah, there is a “best” part to this.
Shortly after this fiasco and my mom’s safe arrival in Toronto, my brother and sister-in-law brought home a sweet, cute, and adorable baby girl. I can’t wait to meet my niece, Addison. She’s already brought so much joy to our family and has definitely helped my mother get past this whole thing a little easier.
Of all the roles that I’ve played in life, in films, and in my imagination, I am about to embark on a new one that I have never had any experience in. An uncle. Yeah, I know, Uncle Tom. Not a fan of people calling me Tom and am definitely not an “Uncle Tom”, especially not the ones that Jalen Rose so aptly described in his documentary BUT for my niece, anything. I think I’m ready. But we’ll see.
I’ll be home in July.
Thomas. Just normal. And human. And no qualms about it.
PSI know it's been almost a year since my last blog so I'll make sure I blog again soon to give you an update on the happenings of the past year!!
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"If dreaming is a sin, I'm going straight to hell..." - Thomas Lo Are you a Twit?? Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/breaking_rice ...Read more
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