I want to share my fondest childhood memories of the first lady (of many ladies in my family) that inspired me to want to be as kind, smart, funny and tough as her. My Grandma passed away and I feel like a chunk of my heart is broken, she taught me so much when I was younger and many of my shared childhood memories with my sister also have Grandma in them. She was an amazing cook, for those of you who have had my lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) and think it is good, well… you’ve never had Grandma’s which were so crispy, yummy and tightly rolled. She also made many great desserts, and as a kid the sweeter the better. My love of Werther’s Caramel candies started because Grandma used to sneak them to me when I would come into her room to wish her good night. I wasn’t allowed to eat candies, let alone after my parents had made me brush my teeth, but I’d eat it in her room while she’d watch television or recite the rosary, and then she’d dispose the evidence. My mom did say that I did have a lot of cavities on my baby teeth… Grandma taught me a lot of things regarding etiquette and how to do chores around the house (of which I hated doing as a kid, but thankful now that I learned before going to college).
I noticed a few weird habits she’d do, like take all the sugar packets at restaurants, re-use the butter containers as left-over containers (imagine making toast and opening the butter to see last night’s dinner in it instead), and she loved using a toothpick after every meal. The best thing she used to do (besides loving and caring for all of her grandkids) is let Rikka and I make a huge mess out of the living room with our many many toys all day, and then she’d tell us “your Mom is coming home in 30 minutes so you better clean it up” sometime before dinner. That way, it looked like we just did homework all afternoon or all Saturday, but really Rikka and I would set up a blanket fort, or a performance stage, or Barbie-land, and the agreement being that we would always clean it up before Mama came home. Lastly, Grandma is the last lady in my family to know how to use a sewing machine, something I regret not paying attention to when she would use it. She would always make Rikka and I matching PJs, and after seeing “The Sound of Music,” I would consider them play-clothes-that-we-would-also-sleep-in. I have so many more memories of her, from watching Oprah every weekday with her after school, hearing her boisterous laugh, watching her do her exercise (head shoulders knees and toes) as I eat breakfast, to Rikka telling her that the green stuff next to the sushi is avocado and then Grandma putting the whole mound of wasabi in her mouth!
Grandma was around in a very care-free part of my young life. I learned at that young age that she was a working single mother of four who moved to America to better her family’s life and when she retired, got to travel to Europe. Grandma was able to fulfill her dreams for herself and her children. When she moved away around the end of junior high, I wish I had known then that I wouldn’t see her as much as I had growing up. I hoped she was still proud of me even though I didn’t set out to be a dentist, and I was surprised that she’d always ask about Josh even though they never met in person. In her 90s, she was still aware, and although her last days make me upset, I know she’s in a better place, reunited with the people she has lost over the years. I love her so much, I owe a lot to her. This amazing woman will be missed, and I hope to have a long, beautiful life just as she did.