Dear Po Po*,

You were my first sleep-over buddy. We'd snuggle under your blanket dotted with little orange flowers, the one that smushed me in between you and the bedroom wall. Under that blanket you told me countless bedtime stories, spontaneous tales which as the night went on became interrupted with your halting melodic yawns - I don't think any of those stories ever got finished. "Good night" I'd say as I sensed your drowsiness; most of the time I was just pretending to be tired, going to bed early with you was a cool privilege I didn't yet know how to put into words. "Kiss kiss, good night" you responded in Chinese. I'd soon drift off to sleep enveloped in your scent, the one that I grew-up to recognize as "grandparents' smell!" The one I grinned happily about, the one I knew would keep me safe as I scurried in the darkest corners of your cluttered closet in the Baby Room during hide-and-seek. As long as I surrounded myself in that things would turn out okay, you'd always find me.
You helped me practice my Cantonese, patiently going over words and gently correcting me. Smiling as you laughed at my half-assed Chin-glish when I stuck English words awkwardly in the middle of Chinese sentences. I never felt any shame in not knowing something, I always felt freely able to ask you anything - hopping from one subject to the next: "what are mutual funds, and why do you invest in them?" "How do you make your chocolate chip cookies?" "Why is it called dim sum?" "How did you knit that?" 
For some 20 years you worked at the Boston Public Library, eagerly telling me "you can get any book you want, I can borrow it for you, renew it as many times as you need.." On the weekends you'd tell me about how you walk every day to work from your little house on Mission Hill (my first home mere minutes from Children's Hospital). You'd tell me about the vegetables and fruits you got every week from Haymarket Square, the prices of each and how much you'd saved. You'd talk to me about all of this and more as we sat snapping stems off the pile of string beans, the ones that you'd bought for $3.00 at Haymarket.

There wasn't anything that you didn't seem to know. Nowhere in Boston that you hadn't already been. Nothing that you didn't already attempt to try in this new foreign city that you immigrated to so long ago; a city whose sidewalks and public transportation you knew as well as the soft wrinkles in your hands.

Then one summer day, not so long ago, we were celebrating my younger brother's 19th birthday at your house. We were all gathered around that same glossy brown table, the one that is now cluttered with things that you have collected or found - and grandpa brought out your walker. I looked at you, the char siu bao half hanging out of my mouth: no this couldn't be! When did this happen? How? My silent questions begged to leap from my mouth, but I knew somehow that there wouldn't be a right answer for any of them. No answer good enough.
"Oh I don't need that yet, but it is there just in case, for the future. Traveling on the buses and subways with that is going to be so troublesome." You said in response to my silence.

At once I knew that you seemed somewhat ashamed of the walker. I recognized that tough-voice meant to brush off the adaptive equipment; saw what you saw in it: the hindrance to the life you've created and known for so long, perhaps even felt the slight fear you feel of needing it.
It is weird, Po Po. Here I am having been born with a disability, and fairly dependent on my wheelchair and my walker for so many years - those are things that I see as giving me the boost of independence, so that I may create the life that I know without any hindrances.
I will always be your granddaughter, the one who asks annoying questions and pips in with random comments - always asking you if you'd like to try this or that. And you will always be the independent, sharp, friendly, kind, and patient grandmother. I just hope you know that no matter how wrinkly, shaky, stuttery, and no matter how many heart medications or pieces of adaptive equipment you may need - nothing will ever change how I see you. I will help you see to that.

With great admiration & awe,

*Po Po in Cantonese means maternal grandmother

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2 Responses to Dear Po Po*,

  1. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful grandmother and a cherished relationship. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I appreciate the comment, thanks so much for stopping by! =)


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