Last night, my mom texted that my grandfather passed away. It took me by surprise and it has been a struggle with my emotions since.
This has hit me so hard. Not because I was very close to my Ong ngoai. His passing opened the floodgates to all my sorrow and sadness that I have been pushing down every time it tried to surface. It is making me reflect more on how I should be living. I am incredibly sad for my family. My mom, my aunts, my cousins who were close to him and had a relationship with him. Who were able to communicate with him and hold real conversations with him.
You see, I am a terrible Asian. I joke about this and my non Asian friends think it is funny. It really IS funny on any other day. Any day but the day after I find out about my grandfather.
I am a terrible Asian because I never embraced by heritage nor did I want to learn more about my family and where I came from. Actually, the want was there to learn about my family but what I lacked was the desire to push past my insecurities and the language barrier to find out my family's story.
My parents and I along with an aunt came to the US when I was two. We spoke Vietnamese and English in our home but my upbringing was pretty Americanized. My mom brought over her family many years ago and although we would have family gatherings, I always felt like an outsider. I understood maybe half of the conversations that would fly through the house. My Vietnamese was not bad when I lived with my parents but after I ventured out on my own, I slowly lost those skills. It didn't help that I had no close Vietnamese friends to converse with. At family gatherings, I would rely more and more on my mom to be my translator.
He was 95. From what I know, he has had a wonderful life, surrounded by people who love him and cared for him. But that's about the extent of what I know. I bet he had stories to tell about his childhood, his life, his work. But I don't know any of it and that plays a part in my sadness.
We no longer take the time to find out about the people around us. What are their thoughts, their feelings, their loves, their vices. We call people friends, family, soul mates, or BFFs but do we really truly know them? Know what is in their heart as well on on their mind? Are we asking the right questions so that we can know them?
This seems like ramblings of a confused and sad soul but my point in all of this is take the time to know the people in your life that you say are important. Do this before it is too late to do anything about it. Are their people in your life that will be remembered after they leave? What is their legacy and will it be remembered, documented, and passed on so that others can know them? These people do not have to be famous or have done something Nobel Prize worthy. The people in your life, family, friends, loved ones, they are a part of your heritage and they are part of your story and their story deserves to be told and live on.
I wish I had taken the time to get to know him, to spend more time with him, talked to him more. Then I would have stories to tell my children and been able to pass down to them more than just the family nose. I love you Ông ngoại and so happy you are now at peace.