Thanks, Lilly. It hurts, but sometimes it isn’t such a terrible thing to get a hard slap in the face.
The most jarring image that remains with me from that nightmare week is of my grandpa crying, and saying things like “Please don’t leave me.”
“You’re my happiness.”
His pain made the situation all the more real for me. At 21, I never before saw my grandpa in so much anguish. I couldn’t handle it. Every time he cried, the tears I’d held so carefully at bay would stream down my face.
I try not to relive those days, and since I live away from home it is easier for me to avoid it. Unlike my brother, my dad, my cousin, my aunt, and especially my grandpa, I am so far removed from anything Ma touched, other than myself, that I can move through Life relatively blissfully unaware.
Unfortunately, emotions have a way with catching up with me.
I wish I could talk to her. Sometimes I fear I’ll forget her voice, or the expressions she’d make if she was exasperated with one of us.
This past Tuesday, Sara asked me about some of my favorite memories of Ma. It’s a bit funny, but I remember most fondly the fights she’d pick, with either me, my brother and cousin, or even my grandpa.
Ma always tried to give us money, and my brother and I would always fight her. She knew we were simply putting up a front. The majority of the time, the both of us were broke. We just felt awful taking her Social Security money.
When it came to my grandpa, I eventually realized that as a couple, they were polar opposites. My grandpa has a more adventurous streak. It was he alone who came to the States to earn money for the rest of the family to move here. It’s my grandpa who goes to Vegas with his friends, who is going to the Philippines this summer with his friends. My grandma, although preferring to stay local, was also much more vocal than my grandpa. Ma loved parties, but mostly I think she loved to talk, and parties gave her the opportunity to talk the ears off of new people.
This caused a lot of arguments between them, which mostly consisted of my grandma yelling and my grandpa simply saying, “Hmmmph!” in a gruff manner.
I miss those arguments a lot too. Us kids always found them funny, but in hindsight it is still a mystery to me as to how they would ever solve their problems. We never were privy to that part.
I just wish I could talk to Ma again. I want to tell her how much I love her, how much I admire her for the unconditional love she had for all of us.
Mostly I want her to tell me she’s proud of me. Being my silly self, I worry that she may resent me. I am not exactly the same God-fearing, science-oriented little girl I once was.
I just want to hear her encouragement again. It always felt like she never really worried that I’d end up a pregnant crackwhore, or worse.
Most often, our conversations revolved around other family members. She was always harping on and on about my brother and my cousin, that I needed to make sure they both finished school. Now that she’s gone, it feels as if she was trying to prepare me, or strengthen my resolve in this caretaker role.
It’s a heavy legacy to uphold, and one that is difficult to manage from so many miles away. But she believed that I could help the both of them in ways no one else can.
I just have to keep believing that as well.
If only we could have one more conversation.