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thick paw of a hand and said, “I’d like to say something:’ We sat back and waited for his lovely surprise. “Here Mum and I sit with our son, our daughter-in-law, our granddaughter, our grandson, and our granddaughter-in-law. We are well-fed and we are happy:’ He turned and smiled at his wife, but her gaze was lowered to the table, where her hands rested, clasping a napkin like it was a handkerchief. “We just took one of our last big trips, what with my leg and it getting more difficult to get around?’ Grandma nodded. “And we enjoyed this trip immensely, and enjoyed the time we were able to spend with our wonderful family that just keeps getting bigger and more wonderful.” Grandma smiled and looked at me. Grandpa stopped talking, but for dramatic effect, not because he was finished. This keen sense of timing in his speeches and his sermons is what long ago won him the utmost respect in his communitya man who stopped attending school early in order to work the farm; a man who had probably never watched a movie or read a novel, but could lead with his kindness and his booming voice. Finally, he looked up and spoke again, louder than before. “Now I want to tell you something!” he practically shouted. Some of us jumped, then, in a quieter voice he said, “Mum and I would like to pay for the meal.” We acted surprised and they seemed quite pleased. When the waitress came around to ask if we’d like some cobbler, I spoke loudly and shouted, “Now I want to tell you something!” to the old couple that sat across from me and my husband. “Scott and I would like to buy the cobbler.” “Oh, my goodness,” Grandma said, laughing. “That’s something.” We left after savoring the cobbler, but not before my father-in-law doubled back to place some actual bills on the table for the tipright next to the proud and tidy stack of coins left there by his father. When they left that next morning, I called my own father to tell him he had been rightit had been better than fine. It had actually been fun. “I knew it,” he said. “I’ve met them. They are wonderful people. When you’re dealing with wonderful people, things just end up going pretty well.” Kate Hill Cantrill is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers. Her work has appeared in various literary publications. at UT. White, continued from page 11 stalled or wrecked vehicle. They had a very organized lobby. They would negotiate with each other before deciding on which driver got the tow. We were paying more for the tows than in other big cities. And if you went into the city council chamber, it was filled with tow-truck operators who were protesting charging less and having more regulations and having background checks and having a centralized dispatch system. But out in the public they said “This is great.” In the same way, I knew that the issue of making pensions more secure and affordablenot just being an unpaid IOU to city employeeswas going to create fear. There were people, who, to get a headline, claimed that we were going to take away pensions that [workers] had already earned, which we were not. But the public, including a lot of city employees, understood that we need to bring the amount of money in the pension system up and we had to bring the benefits for the future down to make it better for people to work longer at the city and have a secure pension. The public knows, for example, on towing that there has to be a better way than to have eight tow trucks converge on a busy freeway. The public knows and the employees know that there is something wrong with a system where somebody can retire after 20 years, at say age 45, with 90 percent of the salary, plus annual inflation adjustment at the same time that people working for the city have not received any inflation adjustment for years. Some thing is wrong with that picture, so we brought up employee pay and we made it so that our valuable employees have to work a bit longer with the city to get their full pension benefit. It just makes common sense. TO: What would you like the political future of Bill White to be? BW: I’m going to stay on here at least another term as mayor to try and finish some of the work we’ve begun. I’ve always figuredit may be naivethat the best way to do politics is to deliver better services at a reasonable price so that’s what I focus on every day. It’s a great job being mayor of a great urban area. I like being able to see the results weekly and I’m happy with what I’m doing. TO: What has been your most enjoyable moment as mayor? BW: The greatest pleasure I’ve had as mayor was helping to preside over a ceremony about a month ago of 1,900 new Americans from 121 countries that are living and working here in Houston. One of those who received their citizenship that day was a person who couldn’t be at the ceremony. Her parents were there in her stead, a Ms. Esparza. She had lost her life serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. She was not the only person at these ceremonies who is serving in the military and appeared in a naturalization service. When the Esparzas came to pick up the citizenship of their daughter who died in service to the country, I asked the new Americans in the room to stand and recognize that family: There was a standing ovation for five minutes. There were a lot of wet eyes in that room when Mr. Esparza started showing his emotions. Among those wet eyes were mine. Anybody who attended that ceremony had to be optimistic about the future of our country. They are people who share the dream of an open society where people are judgedas is our goal herenot by who their daddy was or how long they have been here or what gender or ethnicity they are. If people work hard and play by the rules they are as much a Houstonian as anybody else. That, to me, is what is neat about this place. 12/17/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31