“Mother, there are so many things I’ve done wrong.” My father spoke these words moments after my grandmother died.
You may have heard it said that when a loved one dies, you remember in an instant all your regrets. All the things you never said. And all the things you didn’t do. Well, I believe it is possible to love someone without regret.
My grandmother was born on August 8, 1912, in the year of the rat. Accordingly, she had a mischievous streak, an ability to survive through the most difficult times, and a quick and determined manner with which she chewed her food.
My love for my grandmother was not saintly. Rather, it had its unshakeable foundation in the knowledge of her affection for me. I claimed my spot as the favorite grandchild out of necessity. My younger sister had taken the greater part of both my parents’ hearts and my solace was to be found in my grandmother’s arms.
My sister and I shared a bedroom, but in the early dawn, my sister often took her Strawberry Shortcake pillow and slept outside of my parents’ door until they relented and allowed her in. My parents then shut and locked the door, with my sister now tucked inside their bed. I took my own Rainbow Brite pillow and headed to my ever-welcoming grandmother. Soon I was all contentment as I snuggled beside her, feeling safe and un-alone.
During the rebellious years of middle school, this well-rooted love began to wane. My friends, all Korean American girls living within a few blocks, began coming over after school. My grandmother, until then flawless, suddenly became the scary enforcer of homework and violin practice and turning off the TV. She cut an intimidating figure, standing at the top of the stairs, staring down sternly and never afraid to raise her voice. My friends’ parents didn’t come home until much later, after a long day’s work at the dry cleaners, allowing them precious hours of troublemaking freedom. A lucky few had moms who would pick them up after school and most certainly not embarrass them. I had the worst of both worlds and none of the benefits –an authoritative, always-present grandmother, who didn’t drive or speak English or care about the opinions of a group of giggly girls.
One afternoon I became so conflicted about my loyalties that I decided once and for all that I would stay true to my grandmother and never be annoyed with her again. I prayed that God would give me an unconditional love for her. And God answered. If I ever got annoyed again with my grandmother, I can truly say that I don’t remember it, or choose not to. For all the remaining years of my grandmother’s life, God faithfully answered that prayer.
This is my story of loving someone without regret.
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