Home for a Visit
22 October 2010
We went home to the U.S. for several weeks.
The boat is in Turkey, and has been since August. We've drafted a couple of catch-up blogs, taking us from our last post, in Egypt, to the boat's current position, in Finike, Turkey, and we'll post those soon. We've been busy.
We've actually been home twice - the first time to comply with INS obligations with respect to Sima's Green Card, and the second time to attend a wedding of one of Sima's friends.
We also accomplished some other things while at home, including spending time with Paul's parents, and attending a baby shower. For Sima.
Yup, Sima is pregnant, due in the latter half of November. Our current intent is to see if the little tyke wants to come back to sea with us when we get back on the boat in, say, April.
Being home was mostly a joy. The entry the first time wasn't. We took flights separated by about four hours, and Sima, traveling by herself, was hassled by the Customs and Border Protection folks. They were not courteous.
Waiting for her at the airport, I learned that she had been sent to "secondary screening," and so went to the CBP window to find out about her status.
As with all first-time U.S. Permanent Residents, Sima had been provided with a temporary two-year probationary Green Card. At the end of two years, a letter was sent saying that the two-year probationary period was extended for another year, while USCIS reviewed and considered a supplementary application that we had submitted. While we were sailing, that supplementary application was approved, and a Permanent Green Card was sent to our home in the U.S.
As she entered the country at the airport, Sima had with her the temporary Green Card and one-year extension. Arriving home before her, however, I was able to get the new 10-year permanent Green Card at the house and had it ready at the airport as I waited for her flight, just in case someone wanted to see it.
When I learned (from a woman at the airline) that Sima was being detained, I went to the window, told them who I was, and that I had Sima's Permanent Card, if that mattered.
"Give it to me," said the officer.
Uhm. OK. "Could I find out why she's being detained?"
"She's not being 'detained.' We don't 'detain' anyone."
Right. Got it. "Could I find out her status?"
"No, you can't."
I see. OK. I'll just wait outside.
"She should have had this card already, "said the officer. "The issue [read- the reason that she is being retained] is probably that she's trying to get in to the country on an expired Green Card. This looks old to me," he said, holding the week-old card up to the light, as if some defect would thereby reveal itself.
"Well, no sir, I don't think that's correct. You see, her probationary period was extended for one year, and she has the official letter from USCIS on her person, which includes language that specifically allows her to travel, including this flight into the country."
Blank stare. Set jaw.
"Well, I'm going to wait outside. Would it be possible for someone to contact me if there is any sort of problem?"
I mean, there is just no reason for the surly behavior. I'm a U.S. citizen, for goodness sake. Sima is a Permanent Resident. It is important to protect the borders, of course, and even to be serious-minded about it. But there is no reason to treat people poorly.
Sima had an even bumpier ride. First she was stopped by the officer in the check-out line. "I don't see your extension letter on my computer." That was a bit misleading, as it does not appear that he would ever see such an extension letter on his computer.
Sima was asked to go to a nearby office, where she was interrogated by two officers after a wait of thirty minutes.
"Do you own property in the U.S.?"
"Do you rent?"
"Then you're not a resident here, are you?!"
"Well, actually, I am. I maintain a residence with the parents of my husband, in Lynn, pay taxes here, keep my finances in the U.S. and certainly don't have a permanent residence anywhere else."
"Oh, from Lynn!? Where did your husband's parents come from before Lynn?!"
[Now they've got her! They're probably from Vietnam or Cambodia or some Hispanic country, and not here legally themselves!]
"From Lynn. I'm pretty sure that they have been there all their lives, and certainly all their married lives."
[Actually, parts of my family have been in North America since before the American Revolution, and fought in that war and the War of 1812.]
There were some more such questions, and finally Sima was allowed to pass. Maybe the fact that she speaks completely unaccented English and was carrying a Harvard backpack played some role. Such interrogations must be especially difficult when one is not fluent in the language. There was an attempt to intimidate me, even, and our case is pretty clear cut.
We traveled together on our second trip home, and had only an initial screening, but the questions were similarly off-base.
"Do you reside permanently outside the country? It's OK, you can tell me."
But home we finally came, and spent some good time with Paul's family. Hours perusing genealogical documents with Paul's mom at the kitchen table. A nephew's soccer game. A visit to some work mates. A visit to Paul's cousin's new cheese shop near NYC. A wonderful wedding in DC.
My pop is getting older, and does not remember things quite as well as he used to. But he's still pretty sharp, and clever as ever, and a joy to spend time with.
Some friction has always existed between my Dad and me with respect to Dad's tendency to collect things. Is "hoard" too strong a word? In our basement, there are TVs and radios, some dating from the 60s (50s?) waiting to be restored. And lots of other things too. All of the Robertson boys have tried their hands at helping pop to clean up, perhaps none more earnestly than me, but dad's a tough nut to crack.
For many years, we had a motor boat in the yard. It was an old wooden boat, about 18 feet long, with a 35 horse power motor. We kept it for about 15 years, and I worked on it for a couple of summers in an effort to make it seaworthy. The task was too big for me, however, and the boat gradually rotted away in the driveway. Finally, Dad got rid of it when it was clearly beyond hope.
The engine, however, stayed put, taking up residence in the driveway with a couple of non-working lawnmowers, a snowblower, a cement mixer that hasn't been used in decades, and some other stuff. I had approached dad many times about getting rid of the motor, in particular, but pop wouldn't budge.
On this visit, like many, dad spent hours working in the front, side, and back yards. Fruits and vegetables abound in dad's garden, and, in season, we never want for tomatoes, rhubarb, squash, blueberries, cherries, peppers, and so on. And the yard does look good - neat and trimmed. But one must work around the collected things, and they'll not go before he does.
But who knows how many more visits I'll get with my dad? He's 87 now. And although he still works out for two hours a day, he doesn't travel quite as quickly over the same distance that he used to.
On the last day of our stay, as Sima and I finished packing our bags, Dad called me out to the driveway. "Could you help me move something?"
Sure I could. I put on a pair of gloves and followed him out to the yard. There he stood, over the boat engine, which had fallen over, with its stand, into the grass. "Help me pick that up, will ya?"
Of course. "What are we doing with it? Can we get rid of it?"
"No one will take it, will they?"
"I bet they will. Let's put it out, with a sign."
OK?! OK? Wow. I was having chills. Really.
I wheeled it out to the front of the house. "What about these four jerry cans? Get rid of them too," I asked?
"Sure," he said. He also let me wheel out one of the lawnmowers. This was a big day.
A pickup truck drove by. "Hey, are you tossing those things?"
"Nah, we're selling them, I said. "$20."
They threw the things on the back of the truck. I patted my dad on the back. He said, "you're something," referring to our quick profit.
I gave the money to him. "Nah, it's yours," he said.
"Let's split it," I suggested.