I ran into Mr. Wu at the park. I used to avoid him, because he’d always tell me the same thing. “Three rules for a happy life. One, social interaction is most important.” I don’t remember the other two. Or maybe there were five. Anyway, it made me feel like he was just using me to check off his list for the day. Social interaction, done.
But Curry’s owner told me that Mr. Wu is ninety-something. A good 10 or 15 years older than I assumed, and still coming to the park every day with his dog. It’s a full mile around the park, and Mr. Wu walks it at least once. So I’ve begun seeking him out.
This morning, after leading off with the three or five things, he told me, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” He came to the US from China when he was 16. He was 18 in 1943, when the US began allowing foreign-born citizens into the armed forces. Mr. Wu joined the air force. He got a lot of flack from soldiers who called him a Jap.
After his training, he was first stationed somewhere in Europe. “The Southern soldiers treated me like a houseboy,” he said. “My sergeant told me, ‘Make my bed.’” The first day I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do it.’ The second day, he said, ‘Make my bed.”
“I said, ‘Sergeant, I made your bed yesterday because you asked me. But please, sir, don’t ask me again.’”
“He said, ‘You want to be transferred?’”
“I said, ‘Sure.’” So I end up in New Guinea, flying and back forth to the States on troop transport. That other unit ended up in Normandy. I came back alive. Like I said, I am the luckiest guy in the world.”