We took a road trip to the Bay Area earlier this week to visit family. My twin brother and his wife flew in from Korea and so we decided to drive up to all be together. My beloved grandmother isn’t doing well. She was diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year. I saw her a couple months ago when I was up for Helen and Chris’s wedding and she was doing fairly well. Slower and weaker, but still getting around and able to care for herself. She’d gone through two rounds of chemoembolization, recovered pretty well from the first and not so well with the second which left her with a blood infection and an emergency stay at the hospital. Now she’s developed Alzheimer’s (or maybe liver encephalopathy where toxins accumulate in the brain because the liver is too damaged to remove them from the blood and causes confusion?) and can no longer take care of herself.
She’s still very cognizant and only has bouts of confusion here and there. For example, she didn’t want Jeff to see her because she was embarrassed of how she looked, but wanted me to come with Ellie. Jeff came anyways and gave her hugs. When we went to go see her, Ellie didn’t want to give my Grandmother hugs or kisses which is strange because she’s usually pretty liberal with sharing her love. My Grandmother said in Korean to Ellie, “It’s ok. I know Grandma looks scary.” And it made me so sad. The following day though, Ellie warmed up to her and played with her and gave her hugs and kisses willingly. It made my day and made me proud of my daughter for showing her Great Grandma some love when she needed it. When my brother and his wife said goodbye to her before flying back to Korea, she told him that she would try to hold on until he came back to visit again. It’s really heartbreaking and I wish I could just drop everything to just be with her. I wish there was something I could do to help, but I can’t.
My Grandmother lived with us for a really long time and helped raise us while my Mom and Dad worked hard to support the family. I remember she’d pack my brother and I lunches in our metal Mickey Mouse lunch pails and give us a blanket to picnic in the backyard. She’d rub our tummies and sing silly songs if we had stomachaches. We always knew we could run to her room if we woke up scared in the middle of the night. She’d walk us to the bus stop every morning and along the way we’d search for four leaf clovers in the park. If we found any, she’d take them home and press them between the pages of her heavy books. When we returned from school, she’d be at the bus stop waiting for us. And on the walk back home we’d pick dried pods of seeds which had fallen from the trees. I remember taking care of sick baby birds in shoe boxes with her. Her sitting on the ground and divving up M&M’s for me and my brother. As twins we’d fight over everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. So if we got M&M’s this is how they’d be given out. One green one for Sarah, one green one for Simon. One red one for Sarah. One red one for Simon. And so on until the bag was empty. If there were two different colored M&M’s left over at the end, my Grandmother would have to eat them or else we’d fight over who got which color. I know, craziness. But she never lost her patience with us and was always so loving.
In high school sometimes my brother and I would miss curfew and would get locked out by my Dad. He’d put the chain lock on the door and go to bed. My Grandmother would wait up for us to get home and let us in. I once heard my Dad muttering to himself wondering how the heck we were getting inside the house. It was always our secret. Remember when brown lip liner and pale lipstick was all the rage? My Grandmother would tell me I looked like I had dead people lips. If my skirt was too short she’d tell me she could see my butt hole. Yes, my butt hole. It was hilarious. In college I had cut out a picture of Antonio Banderas and taped his face over my prom date’s face and kept it in a frame. The lighting, the size, the angle was perfect and it looked real. While home for the summer I took my Grandmother to the supermarket and while walking into the store she grabbed my hand and started lecturing me about the hazards of dating older men with long hair. I had no idea what she was talking about and just agreed with her for a bit. And when I finally realized what she was referring to, I told her it wasn’t real and showed her back at home what I had done. We had a good laugh about that.
I’m flying back up north next month for another wedding at a vineyard and am taking Ellie and Jeff again with me. I hope and pray that we get to see my Grandmother again.