Dim Sum Diaries
One of my favorite authors, Nora Roberts, wrote that "it is strange how grief can hide inside you, like a virus laying low for months, even years, only to spring out and leave you weak and helpless again." My grandfather passed away a couple of years ago and it was a traumatic experience. Now and then memories of him will pop up and it is surprising how depressed I can still get, even after two years. I decided to write about what happened as a sort of cathartic exercise. So here it is:


I was roused groggily from my sleep when the phone began ringing insistently. It was 1:30 in the morning and I felt a sense of foreboding. A phone call at this hour usually meant bad news. It turned out to be from my sister. We talked for a few minutes and I immediately went to get dressed.

"What is it?" Hubby asked sleepily.

"It's Gung Gung (my maternal grandfather). I have to go. I don't know when I'll be back," I said.

"Call me," he requested.

"I will," I promised. I kissed him and headed out the door.

The night sky was an inky black as I drove like a woman possessed. It was a two hour drive to the hospital, but I was determined to make it there sooner. I concentrated on the empty road and the flat, black landscape gliding by, thereby avoiding having to think about the events leading up to this juncture.

Three Days Prior:

"Your Gung Gung has to go to the hospital," Mom told me worriedly. "He had a relapse for his prostate cancer. He has to stay there for at least a month and do chemotherapy."

"Don't worry, Mom," I reassured her. "He'll be out again in no time." I had just finished book by Marian Keyes in which one of the main characters successfully fought off cancer and was in remission. I took this as a sign that Gung Gung would be just as successful.

"You know, the doctor said his red blood cell count was so low that he was surprised that he was still alive," Mom replied.

"Don't worry, Mom," I repeated emphatically.

I made the trip to the hospital in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I was lucky I didn't get pulled over. When I stepped into the ICU waiting room, I saw that two of my aunts were already there. My cousins were huddled around their respective parents. My grandmother was sitting rigidly on an plastic orange chair with a stoic expression on her face.

"So what happened?" I asked my mom.

"I guess he collapsed in the bathroom. It was several minutes before someone found him. He didn't have any oxygen to his brain for that long," she said flatly. I sighed.

I approached Pou Pou (my maternal grandmother). How exactly could I use my limited Chinese to express the depths of my feelings?

"I love you Pou Pou," I told her in Chinese. I patted her back awkwardly. "Everything is going to be okay," I added in English.

She nodded to me. "Ah-Wun, gwai," she replied. "Ah-Wun" was her nickname for me. "Gwai" meant I was being a good girl.

We were still waiting for Aunt G to drive in from San Francisco. Nobody really knew what to expect or how long we would have to wait before the next step was taken. Do we let him stay indefinitely on life support or not? In the meantime, we all took turns visiting his room. I hesitated slightly before going to his room, but I went with my mom and sister to visit. My uncle was already in the room. Gung Gung was pale beneath his tanned skin. His hands would twitch at intervals. Sometimes he would open his eyelids and I could see his eyes rolling around. Then his eyes would close again. I tentatively touched his hand. It was so cold. The contrast between the man that I knew and the man on the bed was a striking contrast. This was the man who babysat me as a baby by taking me to the racetrack. Gung Gung was a vibrant figure who always had a smile for me. The man with a strong profile and a fondness for good food and shopping at factory outlets. He could be at times a distant figure, but was there for his children when it counted. He would blush and shoo me away in when I made a big deal of kissing his cheek in greeting. He was great with children. When we went to Hawaii for my sister's wedding, he babysat my daughter. The emotional connection with my grandfather was even stronger for my mom, her siblings and my grandmother. I could only imagine how much deeper their distress and despair were.

"Look, he knows we're here," my mom told my uncle as if to comfort him.

After awhile we went back to the waiting room. By this time my Aunt G had arrived and the sisters (my mom and her sisters) were hugging each other and my grandmother.

The waiting room was situated only a short distance from Gung Gungs room. Since I was standing near the door I kept an ear attuned to what was going on outside. Suddenly the frantic beeps and whirrs of the medical equipment from his room caught my attention. Three doctors and/or nurses raced into his room. The tension level increased, and everyone began pushing towards his room to see what was going on. However, the nurses held us at bay. I could only begin to guess what was going to happen next.