by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
November 15, 2001
NOVEMBER 15, 2001 -- "Our son, the doctor": I can say that now, albeit with a bit of a hitch in my step, because Dr. Eduardo Luna is my stepson by my lovely wife, Mireya. Just the same, I am so proud today I could bust.
After years of working very, very hard in jobs most Americans won't take, Mireya has succeeded in sending her son all the way through medical school in Arequipa, Peru. We just got word a few hours ago that he had passed his orals on the thesis he wrote to complete his studies and will graduate next Friday. He's out with his friends tonight, celebrating, and I'm taking Mireya and my stepdaughter, Cecilia, to do the same.
What am I so proud of? Well, first of all, I'm proud of my wife, whose back aches every night from sweeping and mopping and cooking and cleaning and making beds. Those are not her pursuits of choice, and in fact, until the Fujimori regime sent her Banco Popular into bankruptcy and she lost the pension 21 years had promised her, she was a bank manager at their largest branch in a city of one million people - the same one hit by an 8.4 earthquake this summer, just as Eduardo finished his one-year internship there.
Mireya was a widow left with two children under two when her first husband, an engineer who was preparing to move his family to Holland as chief engineer on a major project for a multinational oil company, got yellow fever while building a bridge in the jungle and died before he could get adequate treatment. Given that background it's no surprise his son was determined to be a doctor.
And I'm very proud of Eduardo, too. His studies hit a major obstacle after the earthquake, when his graduation had to be delayed. He also faced the difficulty of having his first thesis, which he'd been working on for almost two years, being suddenly rejected and having a new one was assigned. That meant brain-breaking months of intensive research on a new thesis in preparation for the orals he passed today. He took it in stride, putting his nose to the grindstone and getting it done in the time allowed.
I'm proud of myself, too, for having asked a woman I met on the train to marry me 15 minutes after we met, feeling absolutely certain that she was the person I'd awaited for the past 30 years. Today's celebration is just another validation of my solid instincts in that area. It was a large and scary act of faith to entirely revamp my life at the age of 53, after having been single for three decades.
Finally, I am proud of America. This remains the one place in the world where a person with grit and determination can come and achieve what Mireya has achieved without the least surrender of her dignity and solely by the hard work of her hands and back and the good presence of her mind and heart and an unending stream of prayer.
There were dozens of times when Mireya's indomitable spirit met enormous obstacles, and time and again her faith like a river eroded those mountains in her way and brought her closer top her dreams.
Today, her daughter, Cecilia, is with us, too, studing English six long hours every day while holding down a full-time job. I'm proud of her, as well, and I know that in the way she chooses, we will celebrate every bit as much for her one day.
Although my first wife also has a doctorate, in early childhood education and psychology and is a distinguished author in that field, I had no part in her work except to copy-edit the doctorate, which was a pleasure to do.
We had been divorced for some time when she finally was awarded the sheepskin, and we weren't together to celebrate, anyway. I think Mireya and I will be together for the rest of our lives. Our son, the doctor - I like that phrase - is the first professional since my uncle, New York State Supreme Court Justice William S. Shea, in the family tree. I called my Dad, who is 91 and living in Florida, as soon as I got the news.
"Nina!" he called out to my mother. "We have a doctor in the family!"
I kept crying, as I had been ever since I got the news. But they are tears of joy.
Tonight, on AR Food & Wine Editor Andrea Rademan's advice, we all went to a lovely new Vietnamese place near Beverly Hills, Michelia's, to dine in style on a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The food was unbelievably good, and so beatifully arranged on the plate that we marveled at each course. Sidney Poitier came to dinner and sat at the table next to ours all night.
When it was done, Cary Chu and Kimi Tang, the owners, said goodnight at the door. It was a magic night.
I am just so proud. Congratulations, Mireya, and Eduardo, my hat is off to you. Thank you for being my son.