Dan Kang

Dear Grandma

Dear Grandma,

It feels weird writing to you in English because I’ve only ever spoken to you in Korean all my life. I’ll try my best.

First off, I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for leaving you in the nursing center and going off to San Francisco in search of adventure and to work on my app. It was only a week ago that you looked healthy and well, and I was even under the impression that you’d stick around for quite a long time. Maybe even a year or two.

I’m sorry I had to be selfish in departing, but I want to explain myself. I felt completely demotivated, and staying with you for four hours a day was taking an emotional toll on me. There was nothing stopping me from being productive or getting some work done, but my heart wasn’t into it and the days blurred together in a way that I had trouble telling them apart. I felt that I had to leave. When I told you that I would be leaving for San Francisco at the end of the week, you asked me to stay for a month longer. At the time, I thought that doing so would mean staying for another month, and then another, and then another, to the point that I’d never be able to leave. I don’t know. What I do know is that i I had stayed, you’d probably still be alive right now. Most definitely.

Maybe you lost the will to live when Esther and I both left to go on a road trip to Seattle to pick up her stuff. While we were on the road eating ice cream sundaes from McDonald’s, you must’ve been lying there alone, missing us. After all, going from having 8 hours of companionship from the two of us to nothing must have broken your heart. I can imagine you staring at the door, hoping that one of us would walk in at any moment saying that we changed our minds and would stay with you forever. Maybe you stared in the same way that you did when I came late to the nursing center, when it was clear that all you had been thinking about was when I would arrive.

I’m sorry for often being late and making you wait. Visiting you at 1:30 in the afternoon should have been easy, but I would keep screwing it up with lunch plans and even waking up late. I’m sorry I wasn’t more thoughtful. I’m sorry for getting frustrated with you when I was there. You would constantly ask me to adjust your body or turn it this way and that, and after a while it made me cranky to have to get up all the time and help you. How ridiculous it is that I couldn’t bear a couple seconds of interruption so that you could lie on your bed with a bit less pain. I knew it then, but I couldn’t help how I felt. I felt like your personal slave even though I should have been doing everything gladly and with love. I’m sorry I don’t have a bigger heart.

I want to thank you for all the good times we had and for everything you did for me. My happiest moments of staying with you at the nursing center was when I would feed you and wipe the fallen mush off your face. And when you would grab my arm and thank me for being there. And when you would offer me your raspberry sorbet to eat because you couldn’t eat colds foods and yet the nursing center would send some with your dinner anyway.

And there the tears come. When Esther called me to tell me that you had passed, I was on the Caltrain sitting next to a new friend that I made named Adam. Since I first heard the news, I’ve been rationalizing your death to myself that there was nothing to be sad about since you were now out of your misery. When I saw you for the first time after coming back from my summer internship, I even wished that you would pass quickly because I could see that you were living in such constant pain. Staying with you from there on out every day must have been great for you because I saw you get plumper and healthier and in less visible pain. And after I took myself away, you fell apart in the matter of a single week.

I have good memories of you and bad ones too, but even the bad ones seem good now. Like when you ripped all my Pokemon cards in half when I was 6 or 7 because I would spend too much time with them. I remember sobbing in the room while I watched you destroy my beautiful collection. I taped my holographic Butterfree back up after that incident because it was a gift from a neighborhood friend. When I think back on that, it seems silly that I cared so much about pieces of cardstock but that’s what my young life revolved around then.

One of my most cherished memories was when you walked all the way to church to walk back with me when grandpa refused to drive to pick me up. You walked all the way over in the heat and on the way back, we stopped by a carnival at another church so that I can go on the big spinning ride where I would be stuck to the wall and be free of the law of gravity. And then you bought me a drumstick ice cream cone from the nearby 7 Eleven. It was really delicious.

Now that you’re gone, it pains me to know that I’ll never see your beady eyes or get to see you smile. You remained faithful to the every end, singing praise songs by yourself and praying that God would protect you from the afflictions that Satan was causing your body. I’m sure you would have continued your practice of copying the Bible into your many books if you were physically capable of doing so.

When I said goodbye to you, I think I knew deep inside that it would be the last time I would see you. Or maybe I only think that when I remember it in retrospect. I had planned to visit you every two months or so, check up on you and see that you were doing just fine. After all, you were doing so well and I didn’t think that my absence would cause such a dramatic change. Not dramatic enough that you’d be dead a week later.

Maybe if I were religious, I would better be able to cope with your loss. But I’m aware that we’ll most likely never see each other again and that we’ll never be able to communicate again. That our two souls which happened to meet on this earth will never again be so close. The only solace that I can find is that you no longer have to suffer.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ll be okay because not only have I been mentally preparing myself for this moment, I’ve already been through Mom’s loss. And I mostly have been okay. But this was way too sudden, way too soon. Way too unexpected.

I want to thank you for everything. For raising me with such love and patience. For making me into the person I am today. I’ll miss you.

Me and my grandma