Nowadays, the prospect of long-distance relationships seems like a thing in the past. Repeatedly criticized by its opponents, the image of long-distance relationships have been tossed around and pushed aside. However, the downsides and the failures of a long-distance relationship lies within the beholder and his or her interaction with concept. For instance, the long-distance relationship that I shared with my grandparents had been buried deep within my abyss of memories and was something that I had to look for when I went to visit them. In the summer of 2013, I went back to Fuzhou, China to spend my summer with these people. It had been almost a decade since I last seen them let alone heard from them.
Bubbling in me was this doubt towards unknown and fear for the future. I did not know whether I was going to be able to reconnect my bond with them. Seeing my grandparents again emptied me of the human emotions that I had expressed as a child but being with them once more started to refill the empty spot lying in my memories and rekindled the bond that I long forgotten about. Ten years had flown by fast. The last time I had seen them I was four. I had lived with them for a couple of years until I was four before I moved to America to live with my parents and brother. The afternoon that I had arrived in the Fuzhou and saw my grandparents for the first time left me speechless. I knew that these people were my grandparents by name yet I had no idea why such people were of great importance to me. Why was it that I felt nothing towards them even as they welcomed me into their home? I kept staring at them with blank eyes and an empty heart. No matter how many times I had heard of them, there were no sparks going off in my mind. Empty and speechless, I gazed out at the windows of my grandparents’ house. The neighborhood had changed quite a bit. There were less people out on the streets compared to how it was filled with people years back. Young children and their families used to be out about on the neighborhood pathways skipping rope, playing badminton, and running around. Now, the place had become desolate and the only people who littered the streets were the elderly who remained and funeral processions.
The rest of the people had moved out into the city for school and work. Amidst all the changes were happening, my grandparents stayed in the same old house that they always lived in. Sitting there like two peas in a pod, the two of them continuously waited for the rest of our family to come see them. As welcoming as they were, I kept sitting in the corner of the living room watching them reconnect with my parents while I gazed at them like a stranger. So close but yet so far, I didn’t know what to say to them. Was I going to say, “Hello, it’s been a long time, grandma and grandpa. I’m very glad to see you guys again. ” What was I? A salesperson? I can’t sound that flat and rigid. Nervousness lumped at the back of my throat while doubt sat on my mind. At this rate, nothing was going to happen. I sighed and went dragged myself upstairs to my room. Days go by and my mom is yelling at me for not being a responsible person. I get frustrated and storm back to my room. Mind boiling with emotions ready to explode, I climb the stairs towards the second floor and see my grandma resting in her room. She notices me and asks me to come in after asking what was wrong. Throwing in some English in with my rusty Fuzhounese dialect, I spill my anger and frustration onto her. Despite the rude remarks and the inconsistent language, she sits there patiently waiting for me to finish venting out everything. Looking up at me with her understanding eyes, she calmly sits me back down. Even though she never learned English, she could understand what I was saying and fed me spoonfuls of advice as evidence of that. Laying upright against her bed, she recounts times where she used to be like that with my mom and told me how my mom only means the best for me. I leaned back in my chair and focus in on her words more and more. Her words are gentle therapy to my ears and bandaids to my frustrated being.
Time separates us from the rest of reality the more grandma reaches back into the past. She recalls the times where she and grandpa used to take me to preschool every morning or how I used to run errands with them. Little by little, the memories stuck at the bottom of the abyss begin to trickle out and my thoughts begin to click. I do remember seeing the neighbors with grandpa and I do recall hanging out with grandma in the kitchen almost all the time as a kid. Waves of assurance seeped into my mind and for the first time in ages, I do feel as though I’ve known them for a long time. My grandparents took care of me since I was a baby to when I was four. The sweet memories that I had developed from spending time with them struck me at my very essence and brought me back to reality. Never had I felt so thankful to see them again. During the rest of the two months in Fuzhou, I spent time more time than I ever did reconciling my old memories with my grandparents. Steadily, my bond with them deepened while the remaining month and a half passed by. My parents, grandparents, and I went grocery shopping together and ate at McDonalds where I firsthand witnessed the joy that my grandparents felt to share a meal with family once again. It had been several years since anybody came to see them and to always be by themselves in their spacious house did show the mental toll that it had on them.
Although some might say that it’s something that one should notice right away, loneliness at old age is not something that is not empathized for until one actually sees it real life. Others may suggest for them to move to the United States with us, but that is not always possible. To leave your place of birth to be with family elsewhere is a difficult task to embark on especially at my grandparents’ age. The best solution is to have someone come and visit them every year so that they don’t feel alone. I felt particularly sad to leave on the day of our departure because nobody wants to watch their grandparents fend and take care of themselves at such an old age. As much as my parents and I were leaving, I didn’t want the sense of foreignness to grab hold of me. Looking back, I was disappointed that I had stopped contacting them because that was what was leading to the distance between my grandparents and I. My grandparents were the source of most of my childhood memories and getting the chance to be in their presence reaffirmed the knot on our relationship and the memories I shared. As human beings, people tend to shy away from the things that they don’t know, which was what I had been repeatedly doing. Yet, taking the chance to physically reconnect with loved ones is what truly fosters the growth of an inseverable bond that not even the feeling of foreignness can cut.
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