My time with Gung (公), maternal grandfather in Chinese, will always be like the picture above; stoic, asking if I’m hungry, laughing at my broken Chinese. Gung is 92 years old and the last couple months he has been in the hospital and rehabilitation center. His health has declined during this time and is weak and sometimes hallucinates. I just visited him last week after he had been away from home for over a month. I convinced myself it was because life has been busy. There was talk of organs starting to not work and no more the doctors could do. I didn’t know if I would visit him, I didn’t know if I wanted memories of him in this fragile state.
Grouchy Husband and I had a conversation about it, there were a lot of tears, he couldn’t understand. He has a stronger sense of obligation then I do. I usually do what what my heart feels, it’s the American in me.
Visiting Gung would never be because of obligation. I love my relationship with him. It’s your typical Asian loving relationship where “I love you” is never said, it’s expressed through food and money. He always bought my favorite fruit and had it washed and ready to eat when I would come visit. If there were pits in the grapes, he would peal and take the pits out. Gung use to be a chef for a rich family in Hong Kong and then a restaurant owner in Chinatown so he knew all my favorite foods and would cook them when I came to visit. He bought my siblings and I candy, Hawaiian Punch, and had ordered cable television so he could record Disney movies for us. Growing up and living 3 hours away, I would come visit for holidays and vacations. After college I found a job in NYC, lived in Chinatown in the building next door and would visit Gung and my grandmother all the time. I didn’t really have friends or go out until Grouchy Husband moved back to NY a couple years later, so my grandparents were my friends. Spending time with Gung was never an obligation.
I went to visit him in rehab because I thought he might like company. My mom has been visiting him each day and he tells her to go home. Gung was known to everyone besides his grandchildren as a mean and stubborn man. I never saw this. In my broken Chinese we chatted about how much Grouchy Husband sells his hot dogs for at the hot dog shop. He then told a story about the night before he was ringing the bell to get into the rehab, but no one came so he climbed up the wall and through the window. My Chinese is not good and wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly so I looked at my mom and she confirmed he was telling stories.
I am happy I went to visit and I think he was too. Seeing him and hearing the crazy story were hard reminders he is different but my mind is full of all of the time we spent together eating, eating (lots of eating), talking, walking, and the relationship that I love with my Gung.
The Dumpling Mama xo