Although written a couple years ago, this is a tribute to honour my Grandma for her 94th birthday! She is doing well and reminds me that each day or year we have is precious. We should cherish every moment we have on planet earth.
Hot buttered rice, chats around the kitchen table, playing Yatzee, almond cookies, watching figure skating, seeing animals at the pet shop, and looking at old photo albums are just a handful of the things I enjoyed with my paternal grandparents while growing up.
My sweet Grandma Annabelle turned ninety-two years young recently and it’s caused me to reflect on her impact on my life. In the last weeks, my parents have moved her into a wonderful care home. It was starting to be too much for her to live on her own and cook meals. With only six ladies in residence, the staff can take good care of Grandma with an ‘as close to home’ feel. My parents have been busy trying to ensure Grandma is settled and feeling good about her new living accommodation, while also trying to clear out her home with over fifty years’ worth of things.
It makes me sad to think that she is no longer in her own home and that this change means she is truly getting older now. Still, I praise God for His kindness and loving care of my dear grandma. My parents faithfully drive a roundtrip of one-hundred and eighty miles to visit her weekly, taking her to doctor’s appointments, the dentist, the hairdresser and picking up prescriptions. She is settling in as well as she can and trying to be flexible to the change.
Grandma’s been on her own now for twelve years since Grandpa died. They lived in a golden era where they were able to both retire at sixty years old and were able to really enjoy time together. With humble beginnings, they both were very frugal yet, God always allowed them to have enough to live on. Grandma’s family immigrated from China to the United States before she was born. San Francisco was the ideal destination with a growing Chinatown and being the closest coast to reach. Her father travelled first and then brought over her mother, grandfather, and older sister, Alice. From our conversations, I learned that it was very honourable of her father who immigrated first and actually went back to bring his wife. Apparently not all men decided to go back for their wife and families in China but rather established a new life and family in America. My grandma was the first child born in the US and she grew up in a tenement house for her early years. There were communal bathrooms, and she recalls having to get in the queue for her bath along with her five brothers and sisters. Life was not easy for them, but they all worked hard and all of the kids went on to have good jobs and families of their own.
My Grandpa Philip was one of nine children, also from Chinese immigrants to San Francisco. His father owned a Chinese restaurant, so all the children took turns helping at the restaurant around their school schedules. My grandparents first met in primary school and I think in a lot of ways, they were opposites in personality. Grandpa enjoyed sports and being loud with his friends playing basketball, while Grandma was quieter and more reserved. I believe Grandpa was quite persistent though and eventually my Grandma agreed to go out with him! They enjoyed over fifty years together, raised two boys, my dad and my uncle. They weren’t perfect parents, but they always worked hard and provided for their family while in San Francisco, then eventually in Sacramento where they moved as the boys approached high school. They supported my dad and uncle through university and were generous with helping them as needed.
I’m not sure what age it started, but each summer I can remember growing up in California, I would spend one week each summer with my grandparents. They truly spoiled me, and it was fun to be with them. The smell of coffee brewing would wake me up, along with homemade American buttermilk biscuits and bacon. Together the three of us would visit the elderly at a care home near their church. They demonstrated love and care for their community in a very tangible way and that has stuck with me. Grandpa really took to cooking in his retirement years as well as baking tarts, pies, and cakes. I certainly ate well while at my grandparents’ home and after each meal we would have lots of conversations about family, life lessons, and perspectives. We’d sometimes play board or card games together. They both loved to go bowling and I recall them taking me and my cousins out to join in. No one could beat Grandpa, who bowled at least three times a week, but we sure had fun trying!
Now that I am married with children of my own, I think that time is the greatest gift my grandparents gave to me. As a parent, I’m so busy getting the day-to-day life organised and keeping everyone in the family functioning well, but grandparents tend to be able to give of their time more easily because they’ve already been through the crazy stage of raising their own kids.
Every time we visit California, Charlie and I make sure we see Grandma Annabelle. She can’t be as active with playing now, but she sure loves our Anna and Luke and they love giving her squeezy hugs. As the only remaining grandparent between our families, we value her dearly and want to cherish her for as long as we can. Thank you, God for grandparents and the time they so freely give us.
“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22
“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4