Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friends on Planes

I never talk to anyone on the plane. I can make small talk with the best of them, but my focus isn't on making new friends when I fly because I'm usually asleep. That's why I thought it was interesting that I found myself talking to a woman on my flight from New York to Chicago Tuesday night.

My original flight was delayed, which would've caused me to miss my connection to South Bend, Indiana. Somehow I managed to squeeze on an earlier flight as a standby and sat next to a woman named Tamiko. Like me, she's half Japanese. Also like me, you wouldn't know it just by looking at her, although her name kind of gives it away. In the late fifties her American father was in Japan researching a book and hired her Tokyo-born mother as his interpreter. They fell in love, married, and had Tamiko.

But that's not the only fascinating story about her. Tamiko, who grew up Connecticut and works in New York, was on her way back to Memphis, where she has been living since last August. Her two-year-old son, Colin, has a brain tumor and is receiving treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I was impressed by Tamiko's strength and matter-of-fact manner in telling me how Colin was diagnosed, his three surgeries, his current blood clot, his progress and love of life. She didn't feel sorry for herself or for Colin; she's accepted the fact that her son has a brain tumor. She, her husband, and their older son are doing everything they can to live a normal life and help Colin live a normal life as well.

Of course, it's not a "normal" life, which is why I was so impressed. They uprooted themselves from their daily routines to move into Target House while Colin is treated. Meanwhile, Tamiko still has to work and finds herself occasionally flying to New York and Boston for conferences. I'm surprised that this chance meeting has caused me to think about Tamiko and Colin so much these last two days. I'm now following his progress through his website and his YouTube channel.

I firmly believe I was meant to meet Tamiko. Is it because of our connection to Japan? Probably not, but it sounds good. At any rate, one day I'll run into Tamiko again. She and her family will be out of Memphis, out of hospitals, and Colin will be cancer free. I wish them the best.


Jill said...

The few people that have managed to talk to me on planes have been incredibly interesting. I wonder sometimes if I'm missing other interesting people. Or if those few people, like Tamiko, were able to catch my interest because they had something to say that I needed to hear.

shrinecastle said...

Jill, I think it's the latter. Things happen for a reason, and people are brought together through seemingly random circumstances. A young guy was actually sitting in my seat, but he got up even though I could've switched seats with him. She and I have the same glasses, too, which I thought was wild.