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Archive for May, 2013

see ya later alligator

In February of this year, my grandma passed away. It wasn’t sudden or unexpected, I don’t know if that makes it better. I still didn’t feel prepared at all.

Last year, a few months before my sister texted me that something might be wrong with gramma’s lungs and I cried in the shinkansen (crying foreign girl = good way to avoid a ticket check), Noji and I had gone to California to celebrate our wedding with our family. There was no indication that anything was wrong with her then; 88 years old but she was as bright as ever, sharp, independent, mobile, and may have had too many margaritas the night prior to the party. In four months, when I saw her again, she was fully bedridden and in the wonderful care of my family and hospice. Still bright and sharp, but the shock was undeniable. I didn’t even know how to reconcile how so much could change in four months.

As a kid, my sister and I would spend Wednesdays at my gramma’s house. We’d watch TV and play on the classic Apple computer with the 10″ screen (loaded with a slot or card game for my gramma), climb under the coffee table which now seems too small for anyone to have fit into, eat cinnamon sugar toast and comb my uncle’s hair. As an adult, Christmases always included a trip to gramma’s for ham and scalloped potatoes and pink jell-o and other things that I didn’t necessarily eat but appreciated for their consistency. Noji is not exactly a thrilling conversationalist in English, but he’d always talk baseball with my gramma, who was a wiz with stats and a dedicated Giants fan. She had all the qualities I respect in a person: strong opinions, humor, and kindness. I think a bit trickled down to us.

In the last few years since I moved away, we would exchange letters and emails a few times a year and she would always let me know how much she enjoyed this blog– a word I never expected to hear from her lips (or pen). Mostly we’d just talk about the weather and how things were boring but good on our end, but it was a nice constant. I still keep them bundled under my bed. When I visited her in September of last year, I noticed a memo of our new address written in her beautiful, precise cursive. But she wasn’t able to write to us again.

It’s hard to have been so far away through all of this, and then harder to acknowledge how useless I would have been if I had been close enough to share any caregiving responsibility. Sad to ever think that when it was over, that she was in a better place or it was better that way– the injustice of the deterioration of a long illness, sure, everyone dies but if only all of us could die peacefully in our sleep! The unresolved emotions when I saw her last– at New Years, ever a slave to the Japanese work schedule– knowing that it was the last time I would see her, but being unable to say goodbye with finality, without insisting that I would see her again in May. But how can you do anything else?

Anyway, thinking of her, and my mom, and my gramma in Minnesota today. I wish sometimes time could slow down to reconcile the physical distance from my family, but I guess we make due.

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