My Grandfather

My grandfather has a very “old world” traditional Chinese mindset. He believes that the oldest son is the main heir of the family name (daughters become part of someone else’s family after marriage, evidenced by the last name change), so he usually lives with my uncle (my mom’s brother), even though my mom is my grandfather’s oldest child.

My uncle is constantly busy (he’s a self-employed auto mechanic), so he doesn’t have time (and/or doesn’t take the time) to pay much attention to my grandfather, so my grandfather spends most days reading and rereading every single word in the Chinese newspaper. He used to watch TV, but the TV in his room broke. He won’t go into the living room to watch the main TV because of an argument my uncle and he had many years ago (I don’t know the details, but it’s been at least ten years). He also used to go out walking around his neighborhood by himself, but now that he’s over 90 years old and tripped somewhat recently, he’s afraid to walk by himself (and, for some reason, my aunt, uncle, and my cousins don’t ever think to go with him). He just sits around at home all the time except when my parents take him out for a walk and dinner on most weekends.

Now that my mom is retired, she has a lot more time to stay at home and take care of my grandfather (prepare healthy meals, take him for walks every day, etc.), so she (gently) insisted that he stay with us for a while. My grandfather has been staying with us for about a month.

My grandfather is doing very well considering his age. His mind is very clear. He has never had a heart attack or a stroke (though he did have multiple-bypass surgery about fifteen years ago). He has all of his medication organized and knows when to take which pill and how often. He doesn’t need a cane in the house to walk; he just shuffles around slowly. He also loves sweets, especially milk chocolate. It’s very cute to watch him carefully open a chocolate bar wrapper, break off a square, slowly eat it, and carefully put the rest of the bar back in its wrapper so he can save the rest in a Ziploc bag for the next day.

Since I speak sparse and broken Mandarin and nearly no Taiwanese, I have a difficult time communicating with my grandfather, but I try to be a good grandson as best I can. I say “good morning” (in Mandarin) to him every morning, I hand him objects with both hands (a sign of respect, I’m told), I offer to get him water when his mug is empty, and I drive my mom and him to the mall every day for a walk.

It’s interesting to observe my last living grandparent. Even though his daily activities are the same every day, he still seems to be enjoying life. If I’m lucky enough to live to his age, I hope I can still enjoy life too. What else can one hope for?


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