Dixie is scheduled to be going under the knife as I write this for a 7-hour (!!) surgery. After staying pretty calm by and by after getting over the initial few days of shock, I am starting to be a nervous wreck, not quite sure what to do with myself.

So what I decided to do is write a little bit about it and pull together some of the fantastic response I have gotten from the column. Opening this vein and laying it on the line in such a public forum was not altogether easy for me, so it is particularly gratifiying to see that it has reached out and touched at least a few people all around the world.

Honestly, writing it was not all that difficult emotionally but once it was done, looking at the page became difficult. The fact that I mentioned Doc Meyers then had a picture of Dixie and David Kann taken by George Lange made it all the more profound. (Sorry to those of you I just lost.)

Also extra bittersweet was an appearance by my good friend Tom Davis, pictured, clipping my hair Tom’s wife Cathy is in bad, bad shape in Portland right now, infused with cancer cells and fighting valiantly.

I took no small amount of comfort in the outpouring of support both from all of you, my friends and family, and from strangers all over the world. Additionally, I received nice notes from several old friends or family members who read the column and wrote me that way, including several who had not known my dad was sick. Thanks to all of you. Your support means a lot to me.

As I said, I received a lot of email about this column, not surprisingly, I guess. But the one that really touched me and brought tears to my eyes was this first one, about a previous column.

I will keep everyone posted as best I can. Feel free to call or email.

I read your current column – which I really enjoyed – and then went back and read some of the old columns I’d missed. The same accident that happened to your son happened to my sister 30 years ago, only she was riding on child-type rear seat on my father’s bike in a suburban neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio (and she did break her leg). Anyway, the only point of my email, other than to say I enjoy reading your columns, is this: I will never forget my father’s horror at the accident, an accident he no doubt felt responsible for. I can still see him in the bathroom of our childhood home holding my six or seven year-old sister over the sink, washing the blood off her leg, while she wailed in pain. My sister, of course, was fine. She got a cast that we scribbled on with magic marker. And I haven’t thought about that day in forever, and I bet she hasn’t either. But your column brought home how remarkably sharp my memory of what happened still is. I suspect your son’s memory of the day you wrote about will stay with him in ways you might not imagine. The “accident” and whatever pain he felt will fade, certainly. But I bet he will always remember how you reacted, and I bet that as he ages, he will increasingly appreciate how your reaction revealed just how much you loved him.

-Charles B. Clovis
Columbus, OH

Thanks for sharing what must be a very emotionally trying issue as an example of the difficulties of living abroad. My husband and I live in Dubai, and most of the time we don’t feel far away at all, given email, texting, IM and skype. (I still get cc’ed on Friday night happy hours!). It takes something somewhat serious happening to make you feel truly far away. I’ve been blessed to be relatively lucky in that regard so far, but when my best friend of 20 years called to let me know that her father had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the only thing I wanted to do was jump on a plane to Denver and be there in person.

I hope your father is doing well and continues to get better. Best,

Liz Riemersma

Dear Alan,

My name is Lois Shook Becker, your dad was my first boyfriend and I introduced your dad to your mom. Your aunt Doris and I were good friends in college and I also introduced her to Jack.

I had dinner with your aunt last night and Doris sent this article to me. I was so happy to receive it. Your Dad is a great guy, I knew his Mom and Dad very well and loved them, they gave him good values and I am so pleased to see that he has had a wonderful life with Suzy and has raised a supportive and interesting family.

Please put me on your e-mail list as I would like to know that your father continues to do well. Your writing is terrific and I loved reading your article. I hope you will be writing about the success of your Dad’s operation soon.

My best,

Hi Alan,

Guess my email about the murder in Nigeria was too sensitive to print. Anyway, funny how you always write about things that happened in my expat life.

My father (in Philadelphia) also had his Bladder removed while we were in Scotland. Was around the same time that my wife’s dad in Brunei was diagnosed with cancer as well and died soon afterwards. Ended up going to neither ‘patient’ but it made us re-evaluate my expat career. Was one of the reasons why I decided to quit some time ago. Came ‘home’ and was able to see my dad for another year. He lived a total of 5 yrs with his pouch, most of the time well except for the first few weeks. Note that I now have clients who have lived even longer and have had no further cancer symptoms! Guess my dad waited too long getting it diagnosed…

Hang in there and don’t worry about comments that you have to become more Chinese. A lot of folks don’t even have a clue what it is like to live as an expat, especially most Americans. Make the most of it while you can!

Guido Gaeffke
Philadelphia, PA

Great job on your column. I always read with interest your column as soon as you write it. My family is considering an assignment in Lagos, Nigeria. My father has heart problems and is in his late 60’s. Per your comment below….

>> It is a difficult situation but I have no guilt about living so far away, and I know my father understands. He was one of the biggest supporters of our move.

I’m wondering, before you took your assignment and were contemplating such a move; were you comfortable that you’d have no guilt re: this issue; or is it something you had to work through. If the latter, can you share your thoughts on how you arrived at where you are now? I have similar issues. The thought of a parent passing away while 2 days away by plane is a very uncomfortable feeling. Btw – my parents are both very supportive of this move, as is your dad re: your family’s move.

David Meinert, P.E.


Thanks for the kind words on my column.

Rebecca and I definitely discussed the possibility of being so fa away and having a family crisis, most likely with one of our fathers, we figured. Ultimately, we felt that we could not make a life decision like this based on fear. If your family is supportive, as a you say, then I don’t think guilt should enter into it. The simple logistics can be daunting.

Thus far, this illness while traumatic has not been terribly, terribly harder by virtue of being so far away. it’s not like it would be easy for my father to have bladder cancer were I home now. That said, it all depends on how things go this week. If there are any complications and this becomes an extended hospital stay or worse, the distance will likely be unbearable. I will cross that bridge when we come to it and can’t really even allow myself to contemplate the possibilities.

I hope that was helpful.

I will say that overall, living as expats has been a very positive experience for every member of our family.

Good luck with your decisions.

Alan Paul


Really heartfelt story. I wish you and your dad well. You’re a good

Dom Del Prete

That’s a pretty powerful story. I’m frankly struck with admiration for
your relationship with your father and the bald-headed way in which you and your friends offered him your moral support.

I experienced similar experiences living in St. Petersburg, Russia,
during the early economic & political upheavals between 1994 and 1998 – and remember well how the distance to home seem magnified whenever someone close to me experienced a major life event.

This experience is felt both ways, of course. I can only imagine the
reactions at home when my wife called to say that I was being operated on in a local hospital in St. Petersburg (too late to evacuate me to Finland) and that our pessimistic surgeon was telling her to “start lighting candles”. Things went better then expected, thankfully, although – even here – the unusual joys of expat life revealed themselves as I recovered in a local hospital ward surrounded by wealthy local gangsters. I also remember awaking in my intensive care unit to the live television coverage of the ceremonial burial, nearby, of the murdered last Tsar and his family, complete with the soundtrack of the somber tones of the Russian Orthodox memorial service for the dead.

Another typical expat experience!

Best regards,
Nick Rumin


Thanks for reading the column and taking the time to write and share your own experiences.

My father is a true character who has been very supportive not only to me and my siblings but to a wide web of friends and colleagues. Consequently, he has a a lot of support coming from a lot of people and places. He needs it all right now.

Thanks again.

Alan Paul

Another one from an old friend, this time of my brother David’s…

Spotted your article on the front page of the Journal and read it. Of course we are hoping for good things and I’ve expressed this to your dad.

All the best, jonathan.

PS, if I read correctly Dick is as Sloan Ketering. I’ll ask Dave for the details.

I am sorry to hear about the unfortunate situation your father is experiencing but am hopeful that he will fully recover.

I congratulate you on your decision to go to China in the first place. I’ve lived in China twice, once as a student in Beijing in 1990 and again as a professor at Xuzhou Normal University (in Jiangsu province) in 1996 where I taught Business Marketing. During that time my daughter was 3 months old (having been born in the U.S. just before leaving for China) and it was my wife’s first “Chinese” experience. But during our time in China I would like to point out that never did I feel scared, threatened, or in fear. The murder episode is an exception to the rule within China, especially in Beijing (you might hear of such stories in and around Guangzhou). We lived in a “foreign teachers compound” within the university walls with only other foreigners and our experience of China and its culture was quite fulfilling. I cycled every morning to the park where I “played” Tai Chi and “Push Hands”. I spent vacations going to strangers houses for dinner just because I met them on the train and we had great conversations. I went with one of my students to a Chinese cemetary when she and her parents went to give their blessings to their family members who had passed on. I did all these things while living in a “foreigners compound”, yet, still experienced China and its culture. What is experienced depends upon the person, not where they live.

Now, I work as a contractor (computer programmer) for the military and have lived in both Italy and Germany as well, and I feel I can say with great confidence that it is surely the person who determines their experience, and it is not dictated by the walls around them.

I wish you the best in China and your father best wishes in his recovery.

Terrill W Talley
USAFE MTF Intranet Development

P.S. The Backstreet Boys? You must have really been desperate for a live concert.


Thanks for reading the column and taking the time to write and also for the best wishes re: my dad, whose surgery is tomorrow.

In retrospect I was a little too defensive in my responses about the housing. In Beijing, the government did not allow expats to live elsewhere until fairly recently actually.

And yes, I was really desperate to see a concert. Unfortunately, i have to skip the Stones in Shanghai to go home to see my dad.

My prayers are with you and your family. My Dad had bladder cancer back in the 80’s and had the illealconduit. I was just happy he survived. My brother lives in Australia and when my Mom was dying last year he had to come back twice in two months, but he just had to be here and his wife and kids understood. When it comes to your parents, do what you have to for them and you can live the rest of your life with no regrets.
-pat Brady


Thanks for reading the column and taking the time to write. I really do appreciate the support for both my writing and my dad’s health, which has been pouring from around the world.

I share your philosophy about how to deal with your parents.

Thanks again.

I find your columns a very interesting read. As an Indian living here in Minneapolis MN, I can empathize with the cultural and to some extent language barriers that you are facing in China. And your current struggle with your Dad’s illness is a stark reminder of how some distances are always difficult to conquer even with email, Internet, web cams and other forms of technology.

To make matters worse for people like me, the visa process for the United States puts in some formidable barriers. For example, my wife and I are on what is called an H1-B visa which allows us to work for three years in the country and then renew it for a further three years. The initial visa took more than 8 months to get approved. But both of us are here now and have got our renewals done after the first three year period. However, to be able to travel outside the United States and then be able to re-enter it on our renewed visa, our only option is to go to India (and India alone), to the U.S. Embassy there and get the visa re-stamped on our passport even though we already have the first stamp. The typical wait time for getting an appointment with the embassy is 4 months. So if today, I were to receive a call like you did or God forbid, something worse, my only option would be to go to India, wait for four months for an appointment, and then return with the visa stamped on my passport to a likely unemployed status! The embassy web site states that you can get emergency appointments for a situation like that but does not give any further information on how to proceed. All this is for a visa and not for a permanent residency or citizenship, the requirements for which have far bigger hurdles to clear.

Considering my situation, I consider you lucky that money and the availability of your own time are the only barriers you face in being able to visit your ailing father. I wish him the speediest of recovery and hope that you are able to see him soon.

Waiting to read your next article,



Thanks for reading the column and taking the time to write and share our own experiences. I am rather ashamed at that Visa situation and certainly feel your individual pain. Thank you bringing it to my attention and for your thoughts.

-Alan Paul

Another old friend:

alan, hi: i turned to your column today, quite by chance, to read of
your father’s bout with bladder cancer. i pray that all will be well with him
and that his recuperation will be speedy and complete. never give up on

by chance my mom told me this morning (by phone) that our
cousins bernie and pauline michaels were taking her out to dinner tonight in sarasota. i remember
bernie speaking many times of his partnership and friendship with your

i identified with your description of the phone call with
your dad, when he explained the details of his illness. my father lost a five-year
battle against prostate cancer in 1989 and i remember many calls with him,
first when i was at the wsj, then writing a book and finally at the ny
times — sometimes at my desk, sometimes on the road and all while trying to balance the demands of a family and job against the desire to spend more time with
him. it’s not easy, of course. anyhow, please convey my best wishes to your family.
doron levin

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