Monday, March 21, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
My late grandfather
Over the weekend, my mom and I visited Yamagata, where she grew up. The main purpose of the trip was to see her mom, my grandmother, in the hospital. From what we'd heard from my aunt, mom's sister, we thought grandma would be weak and groggy, probably not able to tell who we were, but when we got to her room, she smiled and grabbed my hand with strength that surprised me.
"Do you remember her?" my aunt asked, pointing at me. It'd been five years since I'd last seen grandma.
"Of course!" she said a bit indignantly. "But I didn't recognize her." She looked at me and gestured with her hand, "She was so little when I saw her last time!"
So she remembered me only as a little girl. She'd shrunken, and her hands were pale and bony. But her eyes had twinkle of a sane person, her words sharp and humorous.
For all we knew, my grandmother was dying. She is. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago, and the doctor told her family (she doesn't know) that she'd only have a few months. Since then, in our minds was always the question, How much longer will she last? When my mom and I planed this trip earlier this year, she asked my aunt, who told us visiting in February would be a bad idea because of the snow, "Will we still make it in time if we visit in March?"
Once when I was teaching English, my student and I started talking about adjectives about living and dying. As I explained the differences between dead and alive, and dying and living, a realization hit me, and I said, thrilled, "So when you're dying, you are actually living, too. Dead and alive don't happen at the same time, but dying and living do."
That's what I saw in the white, small corner of the hospital room. Dying people are living, not dead. My grandma, though her body might be decaying little by little and she might've been the closest to death among the four of us, was still there, living.
She ate a dorayaki (which is a type of Japanese sweets) we brought as a souvenir slowly. My aunt and my mom were engaged in a conversation about their relatives. Grandma glanced up at me a few times and lifted her eyebrows in a smile, which made me feel as if I was the little girl she remembered. It was a fuzzy, happy feeling. Embarrassed by the assumption I'd made about her dying, I held grandma's left hand in my hands as she spoke with my mom, for she'd told us that the left side of her body was always cold. The talk went on, and my arms grew numb, but I kept my hands in the praying position feeling her hand, frail like a baby bird, gaining warmth, slowly, but surely.