Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Today, at 5 am, my great-grandmother passed away.

We'd been expecting this for some time, she had cancer that had spread throughout her body. Diagnosed over a year ago, she'd been moved into a care facility.

My grandparents moved from Alberta to British Columbia, to be closer to my family. My great-grandmother remained in Alberta. Over the past year, my grandparents have gone back to visit Baba many times.

The last time I saw her, was over a year ago. In the summer. She seemed defeated, tired and worn out. It wasn't the way I wanted to remember her. So I always think of her with her ruddy cheeks and almost toothless smile. She loved to laugh, and even when her English started failing, she was still sharp as a tack. She'd laugh with us and tell us jokes in broken English or speak to Grandma in polish and then Grandma would translate.

My grandmother came to Canada from the Ukraine when she was 2 years old. My great-grandmother was a landed immigrant, and I am the oldest of the second generation born in Canada on our side of the family.

My great-grandmother taught me how to make perogies. Once we all made them together, all three of the great-granddaughters helping. It was around Christmas years ago. I think I might have still even been in high school. That was a good day.

My great-grandmother nurtured my love for tea with milk and sugar. When she lived a 14 hour drive away from us, and we go visit in the summer, when we got there she'd make me tea in porcelain cup with gold trim and the image of a couple preparing to dance on it. It was fine bone china, made in Japan. After she moved to Alberta, she gave me the cup and saucer. I haven't drank from it since I was a child, but I kept it out where I could see it.

When I went to live in Japan, in hopes of reconnecting with what I had felt during the month I visited there two years before, my great-grandmother gave me money. Money I didn't know she had, so that I could go and have one of the most important and life-altering experiences I've thus far.

Because she gave me the money, I could loan some of the money I'd saved to my friend so he could go and live in Japan. Her gift gave two people a chance to do some extraordinary, something that we needed to do.

She was an amazing woman, who left her home to go to a country and start anew when she didn't the language. That's courage you don't see everyday.

I think I'm going to try and put these emotions into fiction.


KT said...

Aw, shit, Chan. If you want me to ring you, or to talk or whatever just say and I will.


Rachel Vincent said...

C, I'm so sorry. But I'm happy for you that you have so many great memories of her. Those are truely a treasure, and if it were me, I'd write them down.