My Grandmother, a personal reflection & poem

by Eunice Park 

My grandmother died when she was 86 years old after fighting a long raging battle of Alzheimer’s. I was 16 years old then, and when I finally pieced together the news from a disconnected phone call, shards of words interrupted with violent cries, I felt an explosion of emotions I still can’t quite describe.

It was the feeling you get when you flip to the last page of a cliffhanger, an emotional leash tugging at your heartstrings, begging you to read more to ease your anxiety. It’s the feeling you get right when you’re at the very top of a rollercoaster, and you see the looming vertical drop below you, and your stomach clenches in preparation. It was disbelief, mixed with anxiety and grief, but most prominently, anticipation.

Even at the young teenage age of 16, I was always obsessed with the future. From the next school event to the next episode drop of Netflix, I was so focused on the future, dangerously blinded by my own anticipation. So when my grandmother passed away, my first reaction was one of disbelief. I desperately wanted to believe that her death was not permanent, as if there was something more I could look forward to.

But quickly I realized there was nothing more to anticipate, and my confusing mixture of feelings dissolved into regret. I regret not remembering more of my grandmother’s stories. I wish I could have spent more time with her as she cheerfully reminisced about her childhood in Korea, and I wish I could have listened more intently to the grand stories she told about her heroic actions during the Korean War. I regret not eating more of her traditional cooking, packed with fireworks of flavor and fermented with centuries of culture.

Because of her Alzheimer’s disease, there were a lot of things my grandmother couldn’t remember as she approached the last years of her life. It was little things, like what she had for breakfast that day, but also bigger things, so that there were so many days in which my grandmother could not remember who I was.

But my grandmother never forgot the stories of her childhood and young adult past. She never forgot the precious stories dripping with culture, morals, and wise advice that she never failed to impart on me whenever she got the chance.

My grandmother was a powerful woman. I wish I could have treasured the past more in the present with her. I’m learning to treasure women from all ages and all walks of life. We are powerful not only because we are the future leaders of tomorrow, but also because we are the living, breathing survivors of history with stories to tell and lessons to impart.

Sticky Sweet Illusions

cotton candy clouds

dissolved into an endless blue horizon

Nature’s Sticky Sweet Illusion

lured her outside

for just one taste

kissing her husband’s ghost goodbye

she shimmied into a sundress

salvaging the last of her spirit,

she stepped out to embrace

the Unforgiving Desert Sun

her wrinkles glistened in the sunlight

her battlescars

and beauty marks

protected by her sundress, a mirage of youth

basking in the loneliness of the Desert Sands

she reached the Oasis of the pure blue sky

pleasantly suffocated by her sugar rush of thoughts,

she floated down the endless horizon

only stopping momentarily

at Nature’s Gentle Reminder

her musing was interrupted by the collusion of colors

Golden Yellows & Rusted Oranges

seeping into her calm blue waters

as rosy illusions lingered in the sky,

her thoughts melted into sweet forget

the pitch black sky blurred all evidence

till what only remained was her faded sundress,

clinging unto her frail body

sprinkles of sand of Living History

hinted at her only secret

tomorrow is a new day

with cotton candy clouds

dissolving into an endless blue horizon,

Nature’s Sticky Sweet Illusion

beckons alzheimer’s curse and blessing