Posts tagged with "family"

Grandma's Story

I’ve been try­ing to get a bet­ter idea of grandma’s life, so I’ve been ask­ing her as many ques­tions as pos­si­ble in the last three weeks. Her mind tends to drift and she gets lost on sub­jects; lit­tle snip­pets from the rest of my fam­ily sort of fill in the blanks. I’ll add more if I can get any­thing else out of her.

Grandma was born in Hong Kong, but she fled to Chiu Chow dur­ing the Japanese inva­sion by climb­ing a moun­tain with her only son slung on her back. For some rea­son, she feels a lot of pride about Chiu Chow even though she wasn’t born in that city, and always points out peo­ple from there1. As a result, she can speak both Cantonese and the Chiu Chow dialect.

Continue read­ing “Grandma’s Story”…

  1. She says she rec­og­nizes them by their faces. []

Old Family Portrait

Old family portrait

I found this pic­ture at my uncle’s house. It is:

  1. Hilarious
  2. Hilarious
  3. Hilarious
  4. All of the above

How weird is it that I didn’t even rec­og­nize myself. And look at those glasses! They were my first pair, which prob­a­bly means I was around 14 or 15. Apparently, I was still wear­ing my cal­cu­la­tor watch at that age.

Comfort In Each Other

I’ve been get­ting to know one of my aunts.

Aside from annual hol­i­day par­ties where the fam­i­lies would gather, we never spoke. But then again, I never spoke with any of the “grown-ups“1, as they offered lit­tle of inter­est to some­one my age.

We’ve become sound­ing boards for each other. She tells me about how she’s approach­ing my grandmother’s treat­ments — the types of ther­apy, the med­ica­tions, deci­sions on when to go to see the doc­tor — and I tell her about my rela­tion­ships with my mom and dad.

I find it quite amaz­ing that she’s so aware of the influ­ence of Chinese cul­ture in her life. She seems to be adapt­ing to the gen­er­a­tion gap and cul­ture dif­fer­ences, or per­haps keep­ing them in mind, when it comes to treat­ing her own Canadian-born daugh­ter, which is far beyond what my par­ents were capa­ble of. Until I really started talk­ing with her, I believed that all Chinese par­ents were the same; too blind or too stub­born to under­stand how to raise first-generation Canadian children.

It amazes me how strong she is. She’s the one who makes sure my grand­mother eats, drinks, takes her pills, sleeps, and walks. The one who cleans up after grandma when she has to go, but can’t make it to the bath­room in time. She dropped every­thing — her hus­band, her daugh­ter, her real estate prac­tice — to be here indef­i­nitely, and has taken charge of all my grandmother’s care.

I tried to tell her that I admired her for every­thing she’s doing, but she wouldn’t let me con­tinue. She’s hav­ing a hard time keep­ing it together, and is afraid that grandma may see her cry­ing and real­ize how seri­ous her sick­ness is. I wish I could give her some relief, a hug even, or just 15 min­utes to let it all out. I guess there will be plenty of time for that soon enough.

For now, we have each other.

  1. The par­ties were a chance for adults to sing and talk, so the kids did their own thing. []

Our Own People

It’s been a relaxed exis­tence here. Aside from spend­ing time with my grandma when she’s awake, mak­ing sure she eats through­out the day, and the occa­sional visit to the hos­pi­tal, there’s no set sched­ule for any­thing. I’ve only been to this house a hand­ful of times in my life, but I feel remark­ably com­fort­able. There’s no for­mal need to sit at the din­ner table until every­one is fin­ished eat­ing. There’s no oblig­a­tion to talk to some­one. No one feels the need to enter­tain me. I can nap when I want. I can raid one of the three fridges when I wake up at night and can’t fall asleep. I can walk around in my paja­mas all day. I can dis­ap­pear for hours to write. Like we’re actu­ally fam­ily, even though I barely see these people.

My grandma tells me feel at home because we’re “our own peo­ple” as it’s said in Chinese. Even though I always under­stood the expres­sion, I’ve never really felt it until now.

Being Strong For My Grandmother

The can­cer has spread to her bones and sev­eral major organs now. We asked the doc­tor not to tell her, but we can’t do any­thing against his moral oblig­a­tion to inform the patient. Either way, she doesn’t know how seri­ous it is, whether it’s from shock and denial, or mem­ory loss.

But she’s awake, and aware, and feel­ing no pain, which is good enough for me. The most we can do now is to try to make the rest of her life as enjoy­able as possible.

She thinks she’s going to be fine. Keeps telling me that she’ll take me to a nearby park when she’s bet­ter. As much as it hurts me to know this won’t be pos­si­ble any­more, it’s reliev­ing to know she’s so obliv­i­ous. We don’t let our­selves cry around her, for fear that she may real­ize how bad it is.

Her face is more sal­low, her fin­gers and legs ema­ci­ated, but she still has her thick, black hair1. Aside from a dis­tended stom­ach, it’s hard to tell that she has such a grim prognosis.

But by far the hard­est part is hav­ing to cod­dle her like a child to take her med­ica­tion. Telling her she’s a good girl if she swal­lows her pills and reward­ing her with ice-cream. That we’re only strict because we care about her. It tears me in half when she gives such a painful look of dis­taste with every pill we hand her, 18 a day.

She used to be so strong. Now we have to be strong for her.

  1. I used to have even more”, she tells me. []