My grandma passed away yesterday night, after spending her final days in bed, the last couple of ones speaking with the dead. She would have turned 90 this summer, a long life spent as a matriarch. She was a frail little woman with a heart of gold and she ruled with a hand of steel. Nobody escaped her moral sense and we all felt her wrath at times. Nobody felt such a call to preach God´s word as she did and that made conversation with her often uncomfortable. She would lash out against my mother for using nail polish, always feel the urge to warn me against men and even beat the cats with a stick if they didn´t eat the soup she provided them with. On the other hand she was the most generous person I´ve known. She took in stray dogs and cats, gave money to beggars and made us clean our closets several times a year to give to the poor. But she was as ruthless with her sense of justice as she was funny speaking her dialect from the olden days. Woe to you who cross her!
I had a complicated relationship to my grandma. She brought me and my brother up and was affectionate to us for many years. At the same time she insisted on telling me that she didn´t like girls because they suffer and preferred my brother over me any time of the day. I never got over this fact. In addition to that, her religious convictions estranged me from her, especially when I was the object of her hate for being young and liking to dress like a girl. There was no end to God´s punishment for vanity.
As a 13 year old I moved in with my parents and kept my distance. We had a chilly relationship up until when I met Vuong. I was 23 at the time and the first thing she did was to drag me by my arm and show me all the cloth diapers she´d been saving for my children. I can still remember how touched I was. She loved me anyway.
Up until 5 years ago she´d make pancakes or donuts whenever we visited her and ask us what we wanted to bequeath from her. I chose her china and this New Year´s was the first time I used it. It reminded me of all the joyous Christmases we had in her house…
The last 5 years of her life she was mostly ill and fragile. Her God-fearing only got worse. And I never knew what to say to her. I chose not to go see her a couple of weeks ago when I was home, thinking she´d be there in December, when I´d go home for Christmas. Now I never get the chance to say Good-bye. So this is my Good-bye. Rest in peace, grandma!