My grandpa randomly called me last week to chat and ask what I’m doing. Before I could even answer, he said “Let me guess, you’re curled up in bed, with a blanket over you, on your laptop.” Ha ha…he knows me so well.
He’s 84 now. He speaks Chinese, Vietnamese, French and English. He is self-sufficient and lives by himself. He calls credit card companies to manage bills on his own. He uses an iPad, Skypes and recently started Facebook-ing. He stays up late to watch movies. He survived a major medical scare back in 2011. He can’t eat sweets, but loves trying every cuisine, especially when I take him to fancy places. Like my parents, he supports every decision I make. He shares his wisdom and advice (even if I don’t ask for it) and his words end up being helpful during my moments of stress and uncertainty. We have deep talks sometimes – about life, his history in Vietnam, career, love, my grandma, and even death – I often end up silently crying. He would tell me to not be sad when he “goes,” that it’s a process of life. I would joke that he needs to stay until our wedding before he can be reunited with grandma (after all these years, he still keeps their couple photo in his wallet).
I’m so glad that he was able to visit me in Boise with my mom in mid-November. As he is aging, he is becoming more worrisome of his ability for long walks and travel. The days of his adventures all over the world are now “I remember when...” stories. It’s been awhile since has flown on a plane. For this trip, he insisted on requesting wheelchair assistance to try it out. Even getting in and out of the car is becoming a daunting and tiresome task. So the fact that he made it out here for me and David…that’s love. I will always admire his courage, strength, and determination, no matter how “old” he sees himself.
For a few days, I became their tour guide and showed them our lifestyle here. It was a blast – there were so many laughs and of course, a gazillion photos! My grandpa and I were
forced invited into my mom’s world of constant selfies and snaps: at the park, the Chinese buffet, the Brazillian steakhouse, the movie theater, and so on. My grandpa hilariously captioned some of the pictures we took too:
“Lonely Old Man”
….lol because the walk here was long for him
The look my grandpa and I gave each other while my mom took these pics…
It’s so fascinating to me that the roles have become reversed. Oh, how the times haves changed and are starting to come full circle. My grandparents and parents used to take me to parks to wander and play with ducks. Now I take them and watch their joy in discovering nature. My grandpa used to take me and my sister to watch the Veteran’s Day parade on our day off. This year on Veteran’s day, I took him to Idaho’s state capitol building and he proudly gave two thumbs up. My mom used to plan our family trips and take us out to eat at so many good restaurants. Now she’s the one who is in awe when I introduce her to new places. My mom still cooks for me and probably always will when she can; but seeing David cook for her and my grandpa inside our own home felt very “adult” and blissful. My grandpa kept raving about it and beamed with happiness, “This is better than eating out!”
Sometimes, I think how life would be different if I stayed in Los Angeles. After I left for college, I loved Southern California so much that I told myself I would never move back in with my parents. I was guilty for not calling them as much as they called me. I was “too busy” almost all the time. Honestly, the thought of living in San Jose again never occurred to me until I met David. Right from the beginning of our first encounter, he already popped the question: “So you’re family oriented?” One time during my visit back to San Jose, before we were boyfriend-girlfriend, I told him that my grandpa was very sick (at the time) and was sad thinking about what would happen. He held my hand and squeezed my palm…we sat there for some time in complete silence. It was indescribably comforting and I felt understood without having to elaborate. Looking back, he brought me much closer to my family in many ways I would have never expected. I can write a whole another piece about that, but the point here is that I’m grateful for the four extra years that I had to interact with my parents and grandpa because I moved back and chose to genuinely engage them in my life.
I’ve learned to treasure my time with family. Who knows what can happen tomorrow? Although I am once again far from them – this time in a state that is foreign to them and requires a plane ticket – we still feel connected. I hope that they see my efforts in giving them what they have given to me. The love, experiences and values they have instilled in me are priceless and immeasurable.
P.S. My grandpa is awesome and still got it.