Last night I found out that the lady I recently wrote about passed away. She was 85. Her daughter said she had suffered another fall. I just wrote about her a few weeks ago. I felt terrible, as if somehow I helped contribute to her passing. I know it’s ridiculous, and I know it’s not true. Yet that’s what I’ve been feeling. At least I know she’s in a better place.
The original recording of the song “White Christmas,” by Bing Crosby, was released in 1942 and is the best selling song of all time, having sold more than 50 million copies. My grandparents like the old singers, like Crosby and Sinatra. I like them too, but my favorites are bands like the Beatles. Though my grandparents weren’t that old when the rock n roll era started, they never got into it, and they don’t understand it.
“All young people care about these days is rock n roll,” said my grandpa. “They don’t care about the important things, like fixing the economy.”
My favorite version of White Christmas is the one done by the Drifters, released way back in 1954. While I like the original Bing Crosby version, I find the Drifter’s version to be more…I don’t know… catchy, upbeat, fun. It was, after all, used in the films Home Alone, and The Santa Clause. (Nice childhood memories.) But whenever my grandpa hears it, he says things like, “What is this? Who’s singing? The Drifters? They sure are drifting all right…drifting all over the place. Can’t sing like Bing Crosby, that’s for sure. They butchered a classic.”
It’s funny how this song, to me, is super old. I mean, 1954. Old. That was before my mom was born. Although I like oldies, even 1954 is old for me. While it may be old, I like it a lot. And yet, to my grandparents, this type of music is new, rambunctious, and unruly. What a generations gap.
One of the lady’s from church asked me to help with her elderly mother who had been hurt in a fall. Her mom had been staying in a rehabilitation center to recover, and now that her rehab was finished, she and all her belongings needed to be taken back to her care home.
We got to the rehab center, and I met her mom. She’s 85 years old, but still has a youthful look to her.
“We’re taking you back to see dad today,” said the lady to her mom.
“What?” asked the older lady. She’s a bit hard of hearing. When you get to be her age, I guess you can’t blame her.
“We’re taking you back to the care center,” she said, a little louder. “You’re going to see dad.”
“Oh!” said the elderly woman. “I haven’t seen him in so long. I don’t even remember what he looks like…” she said, bittersweetly.
I learned how she had gotten hurt: her husband had fallen, and she was trying to help him up. Her husband is a lot taller than her, so while trying to help him, she herself fell. I guess the husband’s fall wasn’t too bad, but her fall had been fairly serious.
“How long has it been (since you’ve seen him)?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, so long…” said the woman.
“It’s been about a month, right mom?” asked her daughter. “You got here (to the rehab center) about a month ago, right?”
“It’s only been a month?” I thought. From the way she was talking, it sounded as if she hadn’t seen her husband in a very long time. I thought it must have been at least 2 or 3 months, if not more. A month isn’t very long, but I guess it feels like a lot longer to her.
“Are you excited to see him?” I asked.
“No,” she said. Then she laughed. “Of course I’m excited. I feel so nervous. That feeling inside…it never goes away.”
They’ve been married for 58 years, and she still gets butterflies when she sees him.
We gathered her things and headed over to the care home. There we found her 89 year old husband, a tall, skinny Asian man, sitting at a table playing a puzzle, his back turned towards the hall. The attendants tried to tell him that his wife would be there shortly, but he’s hard of hearing, and didn’t understand.
As she was pushed in on her wheelchair, she saw her husband from behind. She tried to get his attention, but he didn’t hear her. As she was wheeled behind him, she playfully hit his back with her elbow. He looked up from his puzzle, trying to figure out who had touched him. But by the time he turned around she was already gone because she was moving on her chair, so he still didn’t see her. They were just missing each other left and right.
Finally she was wheeled around to the other side of the table, and they saw each other face to face for the first time in “forever” (one month). He chuckled in surprise. She smiled at him, quietly said hi, then looked down, as if she were just a shy young girl.
They’re 85 and 89 years old respectively, but they act as if they’re still a young couple. 58 years of seeing each other every day, getting to know each other inside and out, seeing each others good sides and bad sides, and still their eyes light up when they see each other. They’ve raised 3 kids and grown old together, and still they’re excited about each other as if there’s no one else in the world they’d rather be around. Their hearing, eyesight, and other senses may be going, but their love appears strong, so much so that though she’s just a little old Asian lady, she tried to help her husband when he fell – even though he’s way bigger than her – and she herself fell and got seriously injured as a result. Yet she doesn’t seem to regret it. (They’re literally just falling all over each other. Haha.)
I’ve got to believe that a major factor as to how people can be happily married for that long is because they’re both very good at forgiving and forgetting. (Although old age might be helping them in the latter department. Haha. Just a joke.) Relationships in life are between two very imperfect people. We all have faults and make mistakes that can unintentionally offend, cause harm, or rub people the wrong way. I think so often we get caught up in little, petty things that we lose track of the things that are really important in life.
We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . . But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness. –Ellen Goodman
Above all love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8
While I was on the mainland my grandma got a dog, a cute little whitish-brown silky terrier, no bigger than 20 pounds, with a snowball for a tail. He’s a handsome dog, with bangs that hang over his big brown eyes. My grandma named him Hope.
When I heard that I thought it was a cheesy name. Why would anyone name a dog ‘Hope?’
I didn’t like him at first. For the first month he would bark at me every single time I came home. He seemed like a spoiled rotten brat, arrogant, and cocky, always turning over on his belly and expecting someone to pet him. But oh, how my grandparents adore him.
For years now things have not been well with my grandparents. You see, they don’t get along at all. They argue every day. When they’re together, they complain about each other. When they’re not together, they complain about each other. Harmless comments are turned into battles. If there were ever two people not meant to be together, I’d say it would be them.
There doesn’t seem to be even an ounce of affection between my grandparents. I know some couples don’t physically express their love, at least not so others can see it. But even then you can tell when people love each other through the way they act and talk. Love is not really physical. It is a bond between people. That’s what I think, anyway.
There seems to be no bond between them at all. They’ve both told me the only reason they haven’t separated is because it would be too inconvenient.
They’ve been married for over 50 years, and I think it’s sad how they’ve turned out. I don’t pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I don’t think they ever truly loved each other, because I don’t think true love could ever disappear that entirely. They were probably part of the large group of people who got used to each other, and called that love. Then they grew too used to each other, and call it a mistake. I like to think that even after 50 years love would only be stronger than it was on day one. Or am I just naïve?
The one thing my grandparents agree on is they both love Hope.
Hope is the most spoiled dog in Waipahu. Now that I’m all grown up they treat this dog like a grandson. Every morning my grandpa takes him walking, every afternoon he takes him for a bike ride. So if you’re in Waipahu and you see an old man wearing a big, shiny motorcycle helmet, riding an old-fashioned red bicycle with a little dog sitting in a basket, that’s my grandpa. Every night before bedtime he takes Hope for a car ride so he can sleep better. Whenever we go out to eat they make sure they bring him back something, and usually it’s something good: Filet mignon, kalua pig, prime rib, or sashimi. When there’s thunder or fireworks, my grandparents cuddle him so he won’t be afraid. He has a thick coat of fur meant to protect him from weather much colder than it could ever get here in Hawaii, but they cover him with a blanket at night so he won’t be cold. And every night of his entire life, Hope sleeps with my grandma.
It’s quite clear Hope loves my grandparents. He’s a small dog, incapable of doing any damage to a would-be assailant. But still he fiercely defends Grandma and Grandpa by barking at anyone coming into our yard until he’s certain they are a friend. When I take Grandma to the market, he stares at us through the gate as we leave and cries, thinking I’m stealing her from him. When the three of us are leaving for somewhere, Hope can sense that he’s being left behind. Just before we leave, Grandpa has a man-to-man talk with him, telling him to guard the place while we’re gone, salutes him, and promises we’ll bring him back something. Hope, as if he perfectly understands, stalwartly walks around the yard like a soldier on patrol.
Hope even has a girlfriend. Her name is Chenille. She’s the little dog who lives next door. She’s even smaller than him, and they get along great. It’s as if they’re perfect for each other. She’s so slender, she slips right through the cracks in the fence to visit him. Grandpa continually tries to patch up the cracks, but it only deters her for a short time, as she always finds a way to slip back through. She comes right up to the front door, waging her tail, with a big, innocent smile on her face as if to say, “Hi everybody! Hi Grandpa! I knew you weren’t really trying to keep me out!”
My grandpa says to me, “Even the dog has a girlfriend! Why don’t you have one?”
Thanks, Grandpa. Thank you for comparing me to a dog.
But he goes further. Hope is a smart dog, and seems to understand a lot of things my grandparents say. When Grandpa says, “bike ride,” he goes to the bike. When he says, “Go to Grandma,” he goes to Grandma. He delivers mail to her. And he recognizes the sound of my grandpa’s trucks, and comes running out to greet them when he hears it.
And boy does he greet them. Even if they were only gone for a short time, he jumps up and down, doing spins, standing on his hindlegs, and licks them as if they were covered in chocolate pudding. And if he thinks they’ve been gone for a really long time (which to him is a few hours), he’ll do this howl thing that sounds eerily as if he’s speaking English, saying, “helloooo!”
My grandpa says out loud to Hope, “You’re so smart! You’re the smartest guy around. Smarter than some people I know…”
You see, my grandparents, like most of my relatives, are disappointed in me. Grandma is more coy about it, but Grandpa has no problem telling me, or anyone else, exactly what he thinks of them. They want to see me succeed. Believe me, I want to achieve success as much as anyone, and I’m always working towards it. I’m getting older, and I’ve been promising success for a while now, with little to show for it. My plans are taking a little longer than I thought they would, but success will come one day soon, I’m sure of it. Of course I don’t like it when my grandpa compares me to the dog, but I try not to let it bother me. I know he only wants to see me succeed.
One day we lost Hope. Grandpa took him for a bike ride as usual when I got a phone call.
“Hi, Robert, it’s Grandpa…”
I could tell from the slight waver in his voice that something was wrong. And whenever there’s something wrong with my grandparents, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“Hope is gone,” he says. “I think someone took him.”
I hop in the car and go to the park. Grandpa shows me the bushes in the corner by the side of the road, the last place he saw Hope.
“Someone probably stole him,” he says. “They’re long gone by now. We ain’t never gonna find him.” I can tell he’s trying not to sound too heartbroken, but the look on his face gives it away.
Hope is an expensive dog. He’s probably worth a few hundred dollars. He’s never run away before, so the thought that he might have been stolen was a logical possibility.
My grandparents health isn’t particularly good. That dog is a modicum of hope for them. Losing him could have disastrous effects. I’ve seen what emotional damage can do to the physical health of an elderly person, and I can’t let that happen to my grandparents.
“Oh shoot,” I thought to myself. “I’m gonna have to comb all of Waipahu, and if I don’t find him, I’ll have to search the entire island. All for a dog I don’t even care for!”
“Forget it,” says Grandpa. “You ain’t never gonna find him. He’s gone.”
But that’s the beauty of being stubborn sometimes. I’m undaunted by seemingly impossible tasks. When I make up my mind about something, I stick with it through thick and thin.
I searched up and down the street, asking people and businesses if they’d seen him, with no luck. I went back to our house, hoping he found his way home, but he wasn’t there.
There was a police man down the street, and I went over to talk to him. He was much nicer than he needed to be, took our phone number, and promised if anyone sees Hope, he would let us know.
Grandma came home from the library, and I told her the news. I can’t even begin to describe her reaction. She can’t walk well, so Grandpa and I were out looking for him while she stayed home, watching the phone in case anyone called. She left the gate open in case Hope came home.
Eventually Grandma got a call from a lady who runs the adult day care on the corner a block away, saying she thinks she found our dog. I took Grandma there. Grandpa stayed home. I could tell he was relieved Hope had been found, but also angry and a little hurt that he ran away from him, though he would never admit it.
When we got there Hope was jumping for joy to see us. Well, not so much to see me, but to see Grandma. The lady explains she had gotten our number from the humane society, who had gotten our number from the police, and that she had found Hope running back and forth across the busy street close by. How he didn’t get hit by a car, I don’t know.
It turns out that while Grandpa and Hope were biking down the street, Hope saw Grandma walking to the library. He was worried she might be running away, so when he got the chance, he took off to find her.
Since then, Hope and I started getting along better. Once, he noticed I had a wound on my arm and started licking it, not stopping until it was completely clean. In return I rubbed his tummy. He no longer barks at me, and instead greets me in a manner similar to how he greets my grandparents. Sometimes I take him for car rides around Waipahu. I even got him a Christmas present.
Turns out Hope was just around the corner, easy to find if we had only looked the other way.
I continually look for ways to help repair my grandparents relationship. But if love was never there to begin with, what is there to repair? My other relatives have given up, saying you can’t change them. They may be right, you can’t change people, but you can, I think, bring out the best in them. When you’re down, Hope licks your wounds.
Today is Christmas day. My grandparents think I’m too old for presents, so I didn’t get any. But I also didn’t want anything that money could buy, so it doesn’t bother me much.
Today it was just the four of us: me, Grandma, Grandpa, and Hope. I was kind of disappointed we weren’t going to see any of our other relatives, because it’s always just the four of us, and I always have to listen to them argue.
But then I got an unexpected present. Both of my grandparents told me they appreciate me being here with them, since they argue less with me around. And you know, I don’t think they argued even once today. Things will probably revert back to normal by tomorrow, but a victory is a victory, however minor it may be.
We must accept a certain degree of disappointment in life. Rare are the times when things go exactly as you hoped they would. But the dreams of today are the realities of tomorrow, and if you can’t hope for a better tomorrow, what can you do? You can lose people, you can lose things, you can lose money and status, you can lose pride, and you can lose love.
But you should never lose Hope.