I’m envious of the people who have the good fortune of being able to live with their grandparents and grow up with that influence in their lives. I’ve only met my own grandparents a handful of times, my grandfathers I’ve seen twice, and my grandmothers three times.
My mom told me about how her parents were supposed to come live with us in Canada. They had all their papers and passports ready for them to immigrate here back when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, they decided last minute to stay in Sri Lanka because they didn’t want to be dependent on us and they were afraid to take the leap and fly across the world. When I think about the decision that they made to stay in Sri Lanka, I wonder how my life would have changed had they been a bigger part of my upbringing.
Out of my grandparents, only my maternal grandmother is still alive. She lives by herself in Jaffna and sometimes a housekeeper or friends and family would stop by to make sure she’s doing okay. She refuses to see a doctor, but we all know the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I remember when we went to visit her two summers ago, my sister and I would sit with her in the kitchen and she would cut up vegetables and tell us stories of how she migrated to Sri Lanka from Malaysia when she was a girl and how she raised my mom and her siblings. I remember her stories well, she would say them several times in one sitting because she didn’t remember that she already told us the story a few minutes ago. My sister and I would exchange a quick, sad glance and pretend we were hearing her stories for the first time with each telling, our reactions as genuine as we can make them the fifth time around.
In my eyes, my grandmother is a noble woman. She has back problems that causes her to walk hunched over, her body almost at a right angle because she can’t hold herself up straight. My most vivid memory of her from that trip was when I saw her stand up straight for the first time. She held a cane in front of her and slowly stretched out until she was standing at her full height. I was striken by how regal she looked, she was like a queen. I still see her as a queen, the queen of my family. I wish I could see her again, I know that I won’t have many more chances to before she leaves this world to join my grandfather in the next life.
When we left her house to continue our travels, my grandmother’s tears were heartbreaking. I still get emotional sometimes when I think about it. I think deep down she knew that she likely wouldn’t see us again. On some level she knows that she is sick, and when my grandfather passed away a few years ago, she was left to live on her own for the first time in decades. That mental strain is too much for someone who’s never been alone in her life. I wish I could bring my grandmother to Canada and show her all the luxuries that we have here, but her body can’t handle the strain and stress of travelling to a country thats so far and so cold.
People don’t know what they have until it’s gone. In the few moments that I’ve had with my grandparents I’ve noticed how their smiles are always so pure with the joy of seeing the family that they don’t get to see often, but always with a hint of sadness when they realize we have to leave. I adore their eyes, so crinkled with love and dewey with happiness. Their faces aged and wizened by the years under the sun, each wrinkle forming a map that portrays the long life they’ve lived and the trials and tribulations they’ve faced. Grandparents are truly the guardian angels of mankind, I only wish I got to know mine.