Friday, August 7, 2009

Generational Burdens

A case of bait and switch.

My dad is someone who doesn't really say what's on his mind. I thought it was a little odd that my dad wanted to go all the way out to Reseda to get the spark plugs in my car changed, but I just went along with it. The job took a couple of hours because our Vietnamese mechanic had other jobs to do. We waited, playing ping-pong at a near-by table tennis studio. But soon enough, we were on our way. Afterward, my dad asked me if I wanted to visit my grandfather at the hospital... 'Oh, that's why.'

We arrived at the hospital, only to find out that my grandfather had already checked out and left. So we hopped back into the car, and drove to my grandparents' apartment.

Usually, visiting my grandparents is an unsettling affair. I can't speak or understand Fukienese (Taiwanese). And my grandparents know this, but still insist on speaking to me in Fukienese. They pay me compliments and ask me to visit them more often, to which I respond with a slight bow and an [okay]. On average, it takes about 30 minutes to watch my parents talk with them and leave. But when we arrived to see my grandfather, we were going to take as much time as we needed.

This is my grandfather and my dad. These days, my grandfather is getting old and hardly has any strength to walk around. In the background, the calligraphy of my late uncle.

For the first time, I saw my grandfather in his most frail state. At the same time, I had never seen him so candid. While my dad was massaging his weak joints as he laid resting, my grandfather started to reminiscence about life in Vietnam and when they first came to America in the early 80's. Those were happier times. Like many his age, my grandfather can often feel lonely, unimportant, and forgotten.

I quietly sat there, thinking about my responsibilities as a son and a grandson. Sons should take care of their parents.

Whenever I visit, my grandma offers me a cornucopia of Ritz crackers, fruits, soda, and water, to which I usually decline politely... This time, I'd never ate and fought back tears so much.

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