I was talking on the phone with my father a couple nights ago and he asked me if I needed any money. My dad is the kind of parent who spoils all his children when they least expect it. Whenever I visit home, my dad would always check and make sure I have enough money in the bank because he knows I work for an AmeriCorps job and I don’t have very much income this year. During that phone call, I reassured him that I was okay and I didn’t need him to put any money into my account…but he still insisted that I texted my account number to him. In that moment I started thinking about a time when my Grandma (Pog) made sure that I had gas money before I drove back to Milwaukee. She was so frail at the time and she was laying on her reclined bed when I came in to hug her goodbye. She asked me to get her purse and then told my dad to come into the room to help her. Pog gave me $30 for gas as my dad and I were smiling at the fact that she was still able to correctly count her cash. That day I felt so grateful: for the fact that she is there every time I am able to visit home and that she cares so much for her grandkids.
I am my Grandma’s first granddaughter and she has raised me since my family arrived to the States in 1993. Pog didn’t speak very much English so when the house phone rang she answered with “koj yog leej twg os?” (literally translates to “who are you?”) and when it was a person speaking English, she would quickly hand the phone over to one of us and say “meekas xwb as” (meaning,”it’s a white person”). Haha.
If there’s one thing you need to know about my Grandma, it’s that she was utterly in love with all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and granddaughters-in law. All 34 of us. She got perms and kept her hair curly and short. She didn’t have her driver’s license but always manged to get to where she needed to be. My grandma loved doing word search puzzles and she loved her collection of photo albums. She’s the old lady that memorized everyone’s phone number by heart and could be found fast asleep during Hmong movies. She played kwv txhiaj on her portable tape player when she went on walks in the mornings to visit our neighbor, Pog Paj Txos. She lived in a way that made me feel like there was always something to do and people to see.
After my phone call with my dad, I realized that this would be our first Mother’s Day without her. My dad’s first Mother’s Day without his mom.
Although I can no longer provide gifts or a Chinese buffet dinner or photographs for my grandma to make her feel special on Mother’s Day, I can imagine that she is joyously eating and laughing and watching over her children and grandchildren from a beautiful palace throne that is decorated with flowers in a room that is always lit with warm sunshine. She is happy and that’s all I need.
Give precious attention to those who have raised you and the people who have surrounded you with love and support, especially during your lowest times in life. Spend time listening to them instead of being glued to your phone or feeling rushed to get out the door…because memories are nothing compared to physically being there with their scent and their breathing next to you. It’s way easier said than done, trust me. We are all imperfect but totally capable of showing love. And I’ll end this post with lyrics from one of my favorite new songs:
“I could live with your ghost if you say that’s the most that I’ll get.”