Desi Brother parks the car along the curb and slides the handicap permit onto the rearview mirror. “Do you know that the State of Minnesota took away my driver’s license?” Dad asks incensed. “Uhm, Dad you cannot move your arms and legs like a healthy person. I don’t think you should be commanding a motorized vehicle,” I suggest gently. “How do they even know I can’t walk?” Dad asks. I guess Big Brother is always watching. My brother glances at me through the rear view mirror and then pops the trunk for Dad’s wheelchair.
Dad pushes open the passenger side front door. My brother comes along side the car and helps Dad into the wheelchair. Once we are inside the hospital Dad takes off down the hall – like he’s on the German Autobahn or something. “Where is he going in such a hurry?” I ask. “It is like he has ants in his pants,” I add. “You should talk, Miss-I-Walk-A-Million-Steps-In-One-Minute,” Desi Brother says. “You should be careful who you mock. Desi Niece has ants in her pants,” I quip.
We get to the office of the Director of the Hospital’s Foundation and are quickly escorted in. The Director is a very nice woman in her mid-50s. She shares with us that she has been with Foundation for years and her greatest joy comes from meeting with patients in rehab and their families.
“I came to this country with $7 in my pocket. When I arrived at the airport in Minneapolis, I had the number of my host family and I could not find the dash, so I stood there for several minutes until someone came to help me make the call,” Dad says when the Director asks him about coming to America. “What was that first winter like?” she asks. “Living in New Delhi, nothing can prepare you for such cold. Sure, Delhi in December is cold. But that is once the sun sets and you feel the concrete under your feet. My wool coat that I brought from India barely got me through the first winter. We used to live on Como Avenue and our architecture studio was on top of Brueggers there on Washington Avenue…” (This walk from Como to Washington Avenue is 1.7 miles one way. In the cold, wearing a thin coat – with the wind cutting through you – this is three months of misery in the snow).
The Director seems utterly fascinated with Dad’s story – which I can understand it is remarkable what he has endured and achieved. “So why did you chose Minnesota?” the Director asks. Okay. In my New York life – I constantly get a funny look when I tell folks I am from Minnesota and my parents are from India. The reaction is generally because Minnesota is very cold and has a tiny Indian population, especially when there are places like Chicago, New York and Houston to pick from. So I joke and say Dad got into the graduate programs in architecture at the University of Minnesota and Harvard. Except due to visas and the like he had to wait until January for Harvard and September for Minnesota. And impatient (like me) Dad could not be bothered for Harvard. Then I generally say, “Can you believe this? I could have gone to Harvard on NO MERIT of my own, just nepotism….”
“My wife had to have surgery. It was a complicated cardiac procedure. And back in the 1960s India did not have the technology. But America did. So we came. We had never heard of the Mayo Clinic, a friend of ours advised us to make an appointment and go there. The Mayo Clinic saved my life the day they saved my wife. We went on to have these two beautiful children. I built a business. So 40 years later two days after Christmas when this family of mine brought me to the hospital, when I laying in the ER and could not move my arms, legs, feet, hands – I thought that that was the end for me…but again, I was saved,” Dad says.
OH. MY. GOD.I am emotionally twisted and it is taking EVERYTHING I have not to start balling like a baby. It triggers these feelings of - I don’t want to live here, in Minnesota. I moved away for a reason. But now I am wondering if I should come back. Maybe my relationship with New York is like a marriage, and maybe the time to divorce the Big Apple and return to the Minne-Apple has arrived.