Since I’ve taken the week off from university to come to the Philippines to present at the 7th APCRSHR, my grandparents made the specific request for me to visit them— and so I did. My Angkong and Ama (Chinese for ‘grandfather’ and ‘grandmother’) took care of me when I was very young and so my first memories are of them and of the house they built in Cebu. Apparently my first language was Chinese, and they frequently remind me that I was awarded the ‘Best in Mandarin’ ribbon in primary school, but the years in English-speaking Australia and subsequently in Tagalog-speaking Manila took their toll and now I’m afraid I’ve let it slip.
If you can imagine taking two long-haul economy class flights from Rome via an overnight stopover in Dubai then getting another overnight stopover in Manila then flying to Cebu on ever-delayed Philippine Airlines, you can imagine how utterly drained I was at this point. It didn’t help that during the flights I was catching up on readings for the many, many classes I have this term.
Nevertheless, seeing my grandparents again was worth it. It hurts me to see that they’re growing older and that I didn’t keep up my Mandarin skills enough to have real conversations with my grandfather, who doesn’t speak much English. My grandmother, who was an English teacher, does and we spent the two days that I had there talking about Italy and why-are-you-not-married-yet and giving her great grandchildren. This is a very Asian thing, this marriage-and-children discussion, particularly when you reach the late-20’s stage as I am in!
What broke my heart though was when I had to leave after just two nights with them, and I saw my grandfather peeking from the edge of the driveway until our car disappeared into the street.
At that point I wished above all else to be able to turn back time, to be three years old again, and to run into his arms and be their little granddaughter who they taught how to walk and how to use chopsticks and how to always look for the ocean. But there is no such option.