My sister wrote a really beautiful letter to my grandmother who just passed away. My favorite part:
I want to honor and cherish the legacy of smart-ass fart humor that you have instilled in me. I want to honor the way you wheel away from me, narrowly missing my feet, when we come visit you at The Home, because frankly, you are DONE with this conversation and want to see what’s happening in the dining room. It gives me some comfort to imagine that you are doing the same with this life. You’re done. No hard feelings. On to the next Thing.
Here is something to add to her feisty memory, albeit not in the same eloquent fashion as my sister, but something I jotted down while on the plane on the way to her funeral.
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She used to always tell me that she was going to haunt me when she died, and I was so horrified at the idea and would plead for her not to as she laughed in that loud, maniacal cackle she had. She’d close her eyes and tilt her head up to the sky and laugh, her false teeth on the verge of falling out. I’d just wince at the idea, and run away screaming as her laugh became more muffled and quiet the faster I ran.
I kept waking up in the middle of the night after her passing, hoping I would open my eyes and see her. Or even just feel her presence. Never would I have thought that I would actually want her to haunt me so badly. Ten year old me would be confused and incredulous.
I feel as though I need to write down every little thing about her, every mannerism, the way her veiny hands looked as she held something, or how she stirred a big pot of phở, or the way she would eat rice and talk with her mouth full, or the comforting scent of her always smelling like she just got out of the shower (with a tinge of tiger balm), or the way she would knit a bangin’ sweater with her glasses on the tip of her nose, or the sound of her laughing. I hope I never forget that.I miss her laugh so much. I miss the way she’d crinkle her nose a little bit when she found something especially funny. Sometimes I’d just want to hear her laugh, so I’d tickle her until she couldn’t breathe, and she’d curse at me in Vietnamese (“choi oi, du cha may!”) and tickle me twice as hard.
I’m so glad I inherited her dry, sassy sense of humor. Fart jokes up until the very end. That’s my lady. She went through this phase where she did tai chi every morning, and I’d run into the living room, with that morning orange-yellow glow that came in through our mosaic window by the front door. She’d be wearing her matching sweatshirt and sweatpant combo, either black or seafoam green (my personal favorite), and she’d be slowly moving her little body around, and would start laughing the moment I came out and made fun of her. She’d shoo me away, and wouldn’t let me back in her presence until she finished her tai chi sesh followed by making me breakfast.
I never realized how much of a mother she was to me until I moved out when I was 17. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers, and I had to take care of her for once. To this day I’m astounded at everything she did for me. She was my comfort and my solace. I slept in the same bed as her until I was twelve. She would protect me from my big ‘ol mean sister on long family road trips and let me sleep in her lap. She walked me to the bus stop every day, left a Flinstones vitamin next to my Barney cup on the edge of the counter every goddamn morning before school from kindergarten to 11th grade. She would leave candy in one of the kitchen drawers for me randomly, and I would check the drawers every day like clockwork. She didn’t even have a car! Or speak English! How was she able to obtain sweet sweet candy for me? I was terrified of getting out of bed every morning and would yell for her to watch me get out of bed so I wouldn’t be snatched by the Crypt Keeper on my way out the door. I would ask her to stand next to me while I brushed my teeth every night so nothing would grab at me through the mirror. She never once asked why I needed her presence for these mundane events. She would just do it.
And to that, I hope that she is still with me for my mundane events, and the exciting ones. I don’t know where she is, and I don’t have a belief of where she could or should be, but I hope that there is a part of her that knows that I want her around every now and then, and I hope she’s cackling at every dumb thing I do, including me writing this heartfelt dumb post and why aren’t I off doing something better with my time? Here’s to you, bà ngoại, thanks for teaching me the ways of being a funny thick-skinned, sassy cool bitch.