Monday, February 13, 2006

Next Time

11:31 am Saturday morning. I had been half awake for a couple of hours but unable to motivate myself out of bed. The phone vibrated on the night stand and the caller ID showed "Unknown". Probably my parents in Japan. I picked up, expecting to hear my mother's cheery voice but she sounded more subdued than usual. She told me the news. My grandmother, who had become seriously ill over the past week, passed away that evening (morning over here).

I shouldn't have been surprised. She was pushing 100 and had multiple health issues for the good part of the last decade. My parents had called earlier to let me know that she was admitted to the hospital and may not recover. But she had beaten the odds in the past, regaining health -relatively speaking- when the prognosis was bleak.

More importantly though, I wasn't ready for her to go. I wish I could say I visited her as often as as I could, but that wouldn't be true. I hadn't seen her in a few years, and with my annual trips to Japan being generally short and poorly planned, I didn't make the time. And that hurts more than anything. Things that are out of my control, they happen, I deal. Not making the choice to see her, that's harder to reconcile.

I didn't even consider the possibility that she wouldn't be around. When I paid my all-too-brief visits to her, she'd always say, "This might be the last time I see you." I'd just smile and dismiss the silly notion that she somehow wouldn't live forever. My grandmother had been part of my life from the day I was born. Why wouldn't there be a next time?

But there is no "next time". I didn't make it to the funeral, held today. The closest thing to a "next time" is when I visit her grave sometime this year.

It's hard to be too upset about her passing - she lived a full life and outlived her husband by almost 20 years. She raised 6 children during the most tumultuous years of the 21st Century. The youngest was my father, who was born in the middle of World War II, when bombs were raining down on Japanese cities. She has more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than I can count. The night she died, my parents and one of my uncles visited her - my parents received the call soon after they left the hospital. I don't think you could ask for much more - to live as long as she did, to pass away peacefully, surrounded by family.

I'm more bothered by what it means - that I haven't been a good grandson, that I now have one surviving grandparent, that I have minimal contact with my extended family, that my parents are getting older and I still find myself in a state of arrested development.

Saturday night, I thought about canceling my plans to go out, but ultimately went ahead. The worst thing for me would have been to be alone at home. And getting drunk might not be the most appropriate way to mourn, but I needed the alcohol and the company. I could deal with it more maturely later and I wasn't ready that night. I don't know if I'll ever be ready though.

Last night, I was talking to a friend over the phone and she kept asking me "Are you sure you're okay?" I asked, "Do I sound that upset?" She answered yes. Honestly, I thought I was doing fine. The whole thing hadn't sunk in yet and I wasn't quite sure how I felt.

It's starting to sink in now.

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