I’d say I’m skilled in many things, but only because I’ve worked hard to obtain those skills. There are a few skills that I’ve acquired that I don’t think I’ve worked hard to obtain, but perhaps were molded through experience. One classic example I point out is my weight, and how I may look like I’m 120 (or thinner, for those who are so kind), but you’d be surprised how much I actually weigh if I step on a scale. Claim it what you will, muscle mass or whatever – but I’ve got a great mask.
Now, this post isn’t going to be about how to lose weight or stay healthy (although if you were interested in that, attend one of SFP’s HAC training sessions Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm in the Honors College – look at the website for solid dates). I wish it were that easy to do. I was debating if I was going to write about a certain thing that happened to me and my family, and I decided that it’s very relevant to living or adjusting to college life.
The skill that I’m going to talk about is my skill to act like nothing is wrong. I think a lot of people have those moments, when something tragic happens and they will cry about it until they realize there’s no use in crying but moving on, especially if there is nothing you can do. Well, my moment probably lasted a mere half hour before I knew I had to stop and focus back to school. It was a Wednesday, and I had my regular morning with microbiology lecture and lab. I went back to my dorm to have lunch and study organic chemistry for a quiz that was in two hours, but I only had an hour because I was going to tutor at the writing center for an hour first. On top of that I had nutrition from 3:45pm-5:00pm so it was going to be a long day.
Well, studying wasn’t very effective, and I called the director of the writing center to tell him I couldn’t go. Nutrition was brutal because I couldn’t focus and just wanted to leave and cry in my dorm for a few hours. If you haven’t guessed yet, my grandfather passed away that Wednesday early afternoon. My mother texted me “Ye ye pass away in peace” and I immediately went from normal to wreck, but I couldn’t keep it up for long since I had to tutor, take a quiz, and attend a lecture before I’d have time to myself…so I only cried for a few minutes before I slapped myself on forced focus mode and did my best to throw my energy into school. I feel bad for not tutoring that day, but I don’t think the writer would come back to the center if I just suddenly cried in front of them. The organic chemistry quiz was crazy hard, but I’ll just hope for the best. The nutrition lecture was interesting as my professor was explaining how cholesterol didn’t cause heart disease, but then I got sad about thinking of the cancer that took my grandpa’s life. I texted my brother, and he just told me to hold my mourning for the funeral.
I’ve never lost anyone before. I mean, I’ve lost really close friends and those were painful, but they’re still alive and I can always mend those broken pieces together if I really wanted to. But this is different. He’ll never come back, and I don’t know how to deal with this fact yet. I’m kind of tearing up as I write this, so bear with me.
I guess I’m just curious how other people have dealt with this situation. I guess because we all expected it, it doesn’t hurt as bad as if it came out of the blue. I saw him last week and even talked to him the night before he passed, telling him I’d come see him when the weekend came and that I would play violin and piano for him again. We knew it was going to be happen, I mean, when you have stage four cancer and none of the chemo or radiation therapy works, and when you don’t eat because the therapies screwed up your body, there is little chance you’ll survive for long.
We didn’t know when it would happen…and now that “when” came, I feel almost out of place. I still act the same at work, at research, in class, in lab, at the organization meetings, and all that jazz…but it’s always on my mind and I don’t know how I should act. I’m sad, but there’s something forcing me not to show it. I guess it could be my grandfather’s presence. He was a really tough guy, and he always tells us to study hard in school. Even with his cancer, he told me he would wait for the day I graduated, and I definitely believed he had the strength to do so.
I guess what makes his death the saddest is that he won’t realize his long time dream, of watching all of his grandchildren get married. I remember my grandmother kept telling us all to get married soon so our grandpa would be happy and get better from his cancer. A silly idea, but I think if we (cousins, my bro, and me) had serious girlfriends/boyfriends, we’d probably consider it.
The main reason I feel the way I do is that I don’t know how is the best way to commemorate his life. Funerals are sad, and he wouldn’t want us crying over him. The funeral is tomorrow (I’m writing this Jan 27), and it will be my first one. I’m going to be wearing my high school orchestra dress, simple and black. I never thought I’d actually wear it at a funeral. I remember when I was in high school my friend and I would joke about how hideous the dress was and that the only time outside of orchestra we would wear it would be at our own funerals. Weird. I’m going to bring my Erhu (two-stringed Chinese instrument) and violin to play for my grandfather and the rest of my family and family friends. It will be a nice service.
I wish he could have had someone write his story, the life he lived and the challenges he came across. We’ve compiled many pictures of him and his medals from World War II when he was in China fighting against the Japanese; these will be displayed at the funeral. I remember he would tell me not to marry Japanese in the future because he would be too sad at my wedding for killing their people in the past, but when you’re a soldier and you’re fighting for your life and your family, you have to do what you can to protect it all. He ran away from home when he was seventeen to join the army, got married around early 20s and had seven kids, all of which he sent to the best colleges. It’s really amazing what he accomplished in his 90 years.
Perhaps, maybe one day, I’ll write that story. For now I know he would want me to keep with my studies and enjoy life, so I’m going to do my best. I wonder what my grandma must be feeling. I mean, losing the person who has been a witness to your life for over 65 years must be traumatic. You knew it was going to happen, but you just hope that day wouldn’t have to come. I have a feeling she’ll be living with us, which would be nice so that I can spend even more time with her on the weekends that I go home.
Although a life was lost, a life was born too. My grandpa got to meet one of the newest members of our family (my cousin's two-month baby) while he was alive, and this baby is such a cutie. Welcome to the family Andrew! We're so happy you met your great-grandfather before he left.
My cousin played a very old Chinese song on my violin by ear (he's so amazing I don't know how he does it) for my grandpa and my grandma was so happy because he was trying to sing along with it. It was amazing to have that moment because he couldn't talk with all of those therapies.
My cousin is so talented. He was playing a song he wrote on the piano for my grandpa. I wish I could be as talented to do that. We did a duet together and all of the other residents of the nursing home came to listen. We played Pachelbel's Canon with me on the violin and he on the piano. Everyone really liked it. My mom said she and my aunts were getting really emotional.
Anyway, there’s probably more I want to say, but I hate being emotional in public places. Nothing new with me besides that I’m playing co-ed intramural basketball. I have games Tuesdays and Thursdays, so cheer me and my team on if you ever come out to the UIC recreation center sometime. I think next weekend I’ll be going to visit my brother down at U of I because PSA has a fashion show and he made the choreography for the dances. I have some other things going on, but writing this kind of stressed me out.
Keep your head up UIC, and I’ll try my best to do the same.