Today, I was meant to post photos of my last week in Thailand — my last few blissful days in Railay followed by my last few hectic ones in Bangkok. Perhaps even a teaser of my arrival here in Manilla.
That was before I got the news that my Grandma Elaine passed away while I was in transit.
Now, the photo above is the only one that seems appropriate to post. I last saw my Grandma in December, right before I left on this trip. She was the same ol’ Grandma as always, though she was complaining of a chest pain that we would soon discover was an advanced cancer. When we hugged goodbye, I told her I’d see her in May at my little sister’s graduation. Three months later — gone. It’s hard to accept how quickly life can fade away.
I teared up as my Dad told me the details of her final days. When he told me that since my grandmother was transferred to the hospital, my aunt had printed out my blog posts to read to her at her bedside, I broke into sobs. I admit my Grandma and I didn’t have the storybook granddaughter-grandmother relationship — she wasn’t the most maternal of women. She was more likely to tell you your earrings were tacky and your scrambled eggs tasted like garbage than she was to go in for a snuggle and ask how school was going. Her wild stories, her blunt delivery, her crazy antics and her no-nonsense attitude left me shaking my head and laughing more times than I can count.
But my blog had made her feel closer to me, and vise versa. Many readers here have noted her, shall we say, colorful comments here in the past. She often told me that reading my blog was the highlight of her day. As her memory started to slip in her last year, I was the only one of her four granddaughters to receive a Christmas gift — a fact I decided to take as irrefutable proof that I was the favorite. “She probably just happened to read Alex in Wanderland that morning,” Olivia said, rolling her eyes.
Grandma Elaine and her family, June 2011
It was a blessing she went quickly; at least she’s not suffering any longer; she is in a better place. These are the platitudes we tell each other. Yet left alone with my own thoughts, I have little but guilt. Readers, it hurts me to even type this — I did not call my Grandmother after we heard the diagnosis. I could give you a million excuses, some more valid than others — There was an impossible time difference, I had bad internet connections, I sent her a handmade card from Chiang Mai with little elephants on it instead, I wanted to wait until she got better. I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid she wouldn’t know who I was. I could give you all those excuses, but I have to live with knowing that while I waited anxiously for my father’s email updates, discussed them with those around me, and thought of her often, I did not pick up the phone and call my Grandmother when I knew that she was dying of cancer. Shame on me.
I would do anything to teleport myself home for a week — to give my aunts a shoulder to lean on, to give my dad the kind of hug a person should get when they lose a parent, to be with family in the moment when I’m reminded that nothing is more important than family.
Yet I’m half a world away. So, instead, this — this post is dedicated my unlikeliest of supporters, a true firecracker, and one of my favorite readers of all time.
February 2, 1926 – March 10, 2013