On April 14th, I said goodbye to Grandma, or as I used to call her when I was little, Lola. After she passed away on March 10th, I went through a mix of emotions and I couldn’t seem to get a good handle on them. I always went back to feeling guilty and finding myself getting angry at everything little thing even if it had nothing to do with her death.
When I was planning our trip home for last November, I wanted to go to Moloka`i on top of being on O`ahu and Hawai`i. When it came down to practicality, we didn’t have enough time and I was afraid of Grandma getting frustrated with trying to cook for me without gluten or dairy. The last thing I wanted to do was make her frustrated doing something she loved to do, cook for her loved ones.
Grandma was my last living grandparent. Grandpa died a little over 3 years ago. That was the last time I saw Grandma. My maternal grandparents died 5 months apart in 2004. This was another difficult thing I was dealing with. You never think about what it’s like to lose that last grandparent until it happens. It’s more challenging to deal with when both sets of your grandparents had a lot to do with your upbringing and who you are today.
My father’s side of the family is large. Especially, when you add in the all the extended family, of whom the older ones also had a part in my upbringing and who I am. Everyone older than me is Auntie, Uncle, Grandma, or Grandpa. As a child, it was confusing. Two of my relatives I should be calling Auntie and Uncle are around my age. One is two years older and her brother is a year younger. I call their older brother, Uncle, and their older sisters, Auntie, but I have never been able to use those titles with them. It was just weird. Even my own cousins are confused. Because of the age difference between all of us, they sometimes call me Auntie. Even their parents will refer to me as Auntie. As kids, I told them they would figure it out as they got older. As adults, they do it just to mess with me. Most of the time. The titles go by generation. Anyone in my Dad’s generation – his cousins – are Auntie and Uncle. Anyone in my grandparent’s generations – their cousins – are Grandma and Grandpa.
If I wasn’t at Grandma and Grandpa’s while visiting Moloka`i growing up, I was at Grandma Vi’s or Grandma C’s. I spent about as much time at their homes as I did Grandma and Grandpa’s. Grandma Vi told me several times, “Even if no more Grandma Cintang, you still have me.” The first time she said that, I hugged her and replied, “You’ll always be my grandma.” That first time came after reminding myself that I still have grandparents even if they aren’t in my direct lineage. They were words I needed to hear out loud to make my thoughts feel real.
The day before Grandma’s funeral, when the rest of the family was arriving from the outer islands and the Mainland and congregating at the house, it hit me that someone other than Grandma was missing. The days and nights I had already been there were void of a liveliness that was always present before. Grandma Oming. She was the life of the parties. She always came to the preparations for the get togethers with a smile on her face and asking (in my younger days), “You remember me?” You could hear her laughing through the din of the parties and spot her with her shock of white hair in the crowd. I mentioned missed her to Auntie Al that night. The next day, Auntie Al did a small eulogy before Uncle G’s, that was touching and mentioned Grandma Oming. The floodgates opened and I was able to finally mourn that loss the way I should have last September.
The weekend I was home for Grandma’s funeral, I was supposed to be in Chicago for Nourished (a food blogger conference) and the Gluten-free & Allergy-free Expo. I wanted desperately to go and see my blogger friends again and finally meet some others in person, yet every time I prayed about going, I kept getting a “no” feeling. When Auntie Ai called me with the news, it was clear to me why. I was supposed to go home instead of Chicago. I was supposed to spend an enormous amount of time with my family. I was supposed to remember that I have more grandmothers still living.
Yes, Grandma Vi, you will forever be my grandmother. I thank you and all the other relatives for what you did to help Grandma when she was taking care of Lelang and Grandpa and after they both passed. I know it was what any of us would do for each other.
Love bonds us all together for life. Direct relation or not.