My dad just came in and asked me if I would like to accompany him to visit my grandparents in Taipei, Taiwan during the week of July 4. It will have been the first time in at least 10 years that I've gone to Taiwan. I of course said yes without hesitation even though I am not sure that my father and I will get along during the trip. But the reason I said yes so willfully has to do with my grandfather's situation.
This, I hesitate to say. He is not well. I will not say the unspeakable.
The grandfather/grandparents I speak of are the only ones I have, as far as I'm concerned. They're from my late mother's side of the family. My father's side--I never had the chance to meet them since they passed on already.
But because my mother passed away, my grandparents probably have little reason to linger around me. Their only ties to us were through my mother, who I myself never met. So to say the least--I don't really know much about my mother's side of the family (my grandparents). They only visit during the summers. They spend the rest of the time in Taiwan because that is where their medical expenses are covered. It gets harder each and every year for them to make their annual trip to the United States for the summer. For the past few years, each time they've expressed that they might not be able to take the trip. Yet, every time, they end up painstakingly arriving here. But this year, it really does seem doubtful.
Every time I tell myself that the next time I meet them, I'll ask them things and try to converse with them better in Mandarin, I can't bring myself to do it. I'm at a loss for words. My grasp of Mandarin is not enough (my home tongue follows that of my father's side--Cantonese).
And what's worse is that both my grandparents are very ill. My mother's side of the family has had hereditary heart problems. That was the reason she died at such an early age, and that is why my grandparents suffer so.
I don't want to think that it is too late for me to start to reach out to them more. It's not that I don't love them. I'm afraid. I can't articulate well enough.
I want to ask them the questions I've always kept in my heart. I want to ask them, what was my mother like? What did her voice sound like? Could I listen to a tape recording of her voice? What did my mom seem like as a teenager? As a young woman?
I want to ask them if they've ever blamed me for mother's passing.
I want to ask them what their favourite food is, what they think of life, what they were like as teenagers.
And beyond these infinite questions, I want to tell them things.
I want to tell them that I regret so many things, that I wish we could know them better.
I want to know their life story.
I want to take their portraits. Infinite portraits.
I want to tell them that it breaks my heart every time I see them cry when my family leaves after our visits.
I want to tell them that I love them very much even though we've only met a handful of times in all my fifteen, almost sixteen years of life.
But how can I do that when I don't even know how to speak eloquently with my grasp of Mandarin? How can I tell them these things when I've never asked them these sorts of questions before?