Last Chance For Grandma

I’m on a plane some­where over the Pacific Ocean, in the mid­dle of this 16000km jour­ney. 18 hours of flight time, one lay­over in Chicago, and two meals.

My grand­mother in Hong Kong is dying. She’s been diag­nosed with colon can­cer, and started chemother­apy last week, slip­ping in and out of aware­ness due to the can­cer, the treat­ment, the med­ica­tions, or all three. So when my dad told me a few days ago that he was book­ing a ticket to fly out to see her, I had to take the oppor­tu­nity to go with him.

This is the woman to whom I mailed the first pay­cheque from my first job. The woman who gave me the jade neck­lace I never take off. The woman who came to Canada by her­self to find an edu­ca­tion for my dad, when the only English word she knew was “delay”. The woman who taught me how to hold chop­sticks prop­erly. The woman I’ve looked up to my entire life.

I don’t know how I’ll react when I see her, because I don’t know what con­di­tion she’s in. The details have been vague.

Awareness is a big thing. I want to be there. I want her to be aware. I want her to know how impor­tant she is to me.

The cir­cum­stances aren’t great, but I’m thank­ful to have this oppor­tu­nity to go. I’ll be able to bond with my dad. I’ll get a chance to see my uncles and aunts and cousins. I was going to go last year, but the trip was can­celed due to unfore­seen circumstances.

In a way, the tim­ing is right. I already have my pass­port. I was able to get more than three weeks off work. My col­i­tis has been diag­nosed, and I’m tak­ing med­ica­tion that will allow me to eat very well and not worry1. I have all the cam­era gear I need2. And I’ve been feel­ing so jaded with life lately, it’ll be good to get away, a lit­tle bit of much needed exile.

Before dri­ving to Toronto, I dropped Dolly off at Joel’s house3 The fish has a delayed feed­ing tablet. Extra pre­scrip­tions have been filled. The plants have been watered. Projects have been put on hold, both paid and unpaid, and plans have been can­celed. Even Naveed called me dur­ing the drive, and invited me to Rosella’s first birth­day party, but I’ll have to miss it. I don’t like to do things so last minute, but I have no choice.

This will be the first time I’ve ever gone when it wasn’t Christmas. It’ll be warmer, that’s for sure, and I’m going from a bru­tal Canadian win­ter to rel­a­tively trop­i­cal climes.

As a woman in her 80s4 with such a diag­no­sis on a dif­fer­ent con­ti­nent, it’ll prob­a­bly be the last chance for me to see her.

It feels like soon isn’t soon enough.

  1. I have yet to cal­cu­late the adjust­ment for the tim­ing of my med­ica­tions, since Hong Kong is 13 hours ahead, and the dosage for one of them is care­fully tapered over sev­eral weeks. []
  2. The last time I went to Hong Kong, I wasn’t into pho­tog­ra­phy yet, so I bor­rowed my dad’s cam­era and didn’t know how to use it. []
  3. He owes me a favour for tak­ing care of Sprocket for six weeks while he was in Australia last year. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see how she han­dles liv­ing in some­one else’s home, along with Sprocket and another dog. []
  4. No one really knows how old she is, because they didn’t keep birth records in Hong Kong for girls when she was born. I’m guess­ing some­where around late 80s. She just tells every­one that her birth­day is on Christmas to make it eas­ier. []


  1. i am so sorry man my heart and thoughts are with you

  2. *wipes tears*

    I am so sorry to learn about your Grandma’s con­di­tions, and trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel now.

    Take care, my friend.

  3. Dear Jeff,

    Be well, and I send you good vibes and prayers to you and your grand­mother. Take care.


  4. I’m glad you’re going to see her. It will be good for you and for her. <3!

  5. So very sorry about the cir­cum­stances; but it’s a won­der­ful thing for you to go. I hope you reach her in time for it to really count.

    About her birth­day.… Wow. Just plain Wow. Talk about inval­i­da­tion. And we thought we had it rough.

  6. I don’t know you — I some­times look at ur blog. I’m sorry to hear about ur grandma. My father passed away with the ill­ness about 8 years ago and I under­stand where you are com­ing from. It was the worst moment in my life and I wish peo­ple do not go through the same thing that I did see­ing some­one so close suf­fer­ing like that. It is nice to know that u r there for ur grandma through these dif­fi­cult times as these are the mem­o­ries of your grandma that will stay with you forever.

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