Funny how seemingly small, inconsequential events can lead to our unpacking of deeper issues. A comment I made to Junwen about our friend’s kid who bawled his head off when his grandparents left started me down a meandering path that led to my own waterworks…The child’s tears that surprised me found their way to my own cheeks.
“I’m still thinking about how Jimmy* was crying so hard when he had to say goodbye to his grandparents the other night. I mean, I grew up partly raised by my grandparents, too, but I don’t ever remember crying when we had to say goodbye…Did you?” I don’t know why it was so curious to me, but I was interested to hear Junwen’s memories.
“Well, I cried when we moved out of Ah Ma‘s house.”
“Oh. What were the reasons for your tears?” I wondered if he cried because he moved from a big house to a small apartment, or if it was because he missed Ah Ma.
“I cried because I missed her. I grew up in her house. But, I would still go and have sleepovers after we moved. You had sleepovers at your grandparents’ house too, right?”
“Yes! They were so much fun. We’d sleep on cots down in the basement. Grandpa slept down there, too, and he snored so loudly…”
“I can still remember so clearly what Ah Ma would cook for us…Did your grandma do most of the cooking?”
“Yeah, I guess…but…I mostly remember going out to eat with her and grandpa to special restaurants.”
This conversation flooded my mind with memories of going over to Grandpa and Grandma’s. I dawdled there for awhile, but as so often, such thoughts also reminded me of Grandma’s passing from lymphoma when I was around 12-13 years old. I’ve always carried some guilt with me for not being with her more during her sickness. It was bothering me, as we sat over the dinner table last night, that I couldn’t remember much about her illness at all. I got up from the table to fetch my diaries to see if I had written anything down to record my feelings and experiences.
I came back to the table and started paging through the puppy and kitty covered journal. I laughed at some of the passages—so much angst in a 12 year old’s life! Oh, here’s an entry about Grandma…Hmm, it’s just about her buying me contacts…but the date seems like it must be close…I was disappointed to page through the entire year of her illness and not find anything at all…It was mostly junior high drama, family drama, what I was doing in school…I looked up at Junwen. “You know, the only thing I clearly remember about Grandma’s illness is one visit to the hospital…I remember the whole family was in there, but she was in a lot of pain and was crying out. I couldn’t bear it so I ran outside of the room to cry. I remember my Auntie Anne followed me out and hugged me, sharing in my tears. She said something to me, I can’t remember, maybe about it being so hard.”
I did find one entry on December 29, 1998, that read as follows:
Grandma Gabes is really tired. The doctors are treating her for lymphoma, and she’s recovering from a fall that broke her backbone. She’s really tiring out [my aunt], but she’s lonely, I think. I’m going to her house sometime this week to “write her tax sheets out.” She is unable to write, but I think it’s just an excuse to get one of her granddaughters over. We’re praying. =)
I never did go do her taxes…In fact I don’t know that I actually went over at all after that. I felt so guilty, and still do, although realizing that I was only 12 at the time makes me feel like I should give myself a little bit of slack.
It was months after her passing that I finally recorded something about it. I found the entry and read it aloud to Junwen, surprising myself with the tears that started to fall.