[personal profile] kittenscribble
I wrote up a long entry regarding hospitals and the details involved in visiting sick relatives, and then I discarded it. When I look back over my journal, my memories are reinforced by what I have written, and these are the things I'd rather remember:

- My cousin P. P is amazingly strong, and brave. Stomach cancer is hardly easy to deal with, and the fact that he is joking around and acting lighthearted while undergoing chemotherapy is just incredible. His laugh is still the same, and his grinning fist-bumps, and his deft touch with a PS3 controller. His joy was palpable as he ate a glazed doughnut, bite by tiny bite, and I loved the wondering gaze that he bestowed upon the breakfast pizza that we brought him all the way from Hollywood, looking just like it had on TV.

- The dedication of P's immediate family. My aunt could not be stopped from fussing over us even though she was clearly worn out from caring for P. My uncle, even after working late into the night, drove us all over LA for the best places to eat. P's brother was very thoughtful, making sure we had everything we needed, thinking up little things for us to do and see. I don't see the California family enough, and they were gracious hosts even under such stress. Prayer is not generally my thing, but I bent my head with them as we prayed for P's health, for an easy treatment and a successful outcome, and I silently added my own prayer that P's mother, father, and brother be given strength as well.

- The culinary landscape in southern California: right up my alley. The concentration of Chinese people means that you can get lobster yee mein for $7.99 (one per table) at a huge, bustling dim sum place that also served up salty fry-bread and ginger tea eggs. We got our loco moco fix at an L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, and visited a Yogurtland for mix-your-own frozen yogurt. K timed our visit to the Bruery to coincide with the arrival of the Kogi truck, where we got awesome Korean tacos and quesadillas. We also went out for Persian food, and my first taste of fesenjan was particularly sublime: sweet and tart with pomegranates and roasted walnuts. It's just fabulous eating out there.

- The physical landscape in southern California was beautiful, rolling hills green with spring. K's friends took us out hiking near Goleta, up to the Gaviota wind caves. We walked upwards through fields of flowers and strangely bent trees, enjoying the views of the sea and the sky. The wind caves were brown and smooth, opening to the vista of green brush and ocean below.

- The landscape of the Pacific Northwest was even better, endless evergreens against a clear blue sky, mountains visible in the distance. As we drove across the bridge to Vancouver, twilight turned everything violet while the lights of the city glimmered over the water. We cheered along the Maryland basketball team as the game played on the satellite radio, giving us a taste of home.

- The image of my grandfather, translating a poem for my sister. He had looked strange and frail in the hospital bed, but when we sat him up and gave him his glasses, he seemed almost his old self as he peered into the book and slowly translated Chinese characters into English words for his grandchildren. Later, he blew a kiss to my grandmother, and she blew one back. Sixty-one years of marriage. I've never seen them argue.

- The incredible hospitality shown by my aunt and uncle. Usually when I have guests staying over, I consider myself to have done my duty if the guests have clean sheets and towels, and know where to find milk and cereal in the morning. My aunt, on the other hand, left little chocolates on the pillow, then greeted us every morning with steeped tea, fresh coffee, juice, and hard-boiled eggs, along with choice of raisin bread, sourdough muffin, or granola. All this before she took fresh fruit to my grandfather and then rushed off to work. For Sunday brunch, my uncle made perfect, fluffy omelets with mushrooms, bacon, and brie. Unbelievable.

- Going downtown with my other aunt and uncle, taking pictures of the decorations for the Olympics. My little cousin G is perfectly willing to climb up on anything and jump off for a picture. In many of my photographs, he is solemnly saluting for no reason at all. It's really cute.

- My grandmother, forestalling me from paying for hot pot dinner. As I got up, preparing to argue for the bill, my grandmother called to me: "Nui ah, would you please boil some veggies for me?" I hesitated; as my other aunts and uncles laughed, I ruefully gave up the fight and cooked greens for my grandmother instead. My grandfather had always gotten the bill before, by merely annoucing that he would. My grandmother: apparently more wily.

- Did I mention the culinary landscape in Vancouver? Oh my gosh: A little Chinese hole-in-the-wall where the soup dumplings were made to order, bursting with meaty broth inside the skin. The Japanese izakaya restaurant where the dishes came so fast and furious that I only remember snatches of the meal: mackerel seared at the table, braised pork belly with steamed buns, tiny cubes of matcha fudge, a delicate strawberry tiramisu. The whirlwind tour of my aunt and uncle's favorite foodie places: locally-roasted espresso, little chocolate petits fours, green tea lattes, double-cream artisan cheeses, chocolate-dipped Belgian waffles, the cookbook store with demonstrations in the back, the gourmet market where I tasted sweet golden honeydew, and the charcuterie where the guy behind the counter patiently explained to me exactly what went into headcheese. My sister, gesturing at eight different tubs of oysters in the shell: "I could totally eat that." Oh, me too.

- Let's not forget Vancouver's physical landscape either: beautiful as always, mist coming in from the ocean, tall hedges hiding the houses, tree-lined streets with the cherry blossoms in bloom. On a sunny day, we rode the little water taxi across the sparkling waters of False Creek and wandered around the city, taking in the warmth. From my grandfather's hospital room, you could look across the buildings and see the mountains, dusted ever-so-slightly with snow.

- The gift I have in K. He was incredibly patient with the uncertain scheduling that results from visiting people who may or may not be too tired to see you. He waited without complaint while people held long, involved conversations in a language he only half-understands. He drove everywhere, running errands for my grandmother, sitting in LA traffic in search of very specific food items, and driving between Vancouver and Seattle while I napped. He is a wonderful travel companion, and very supportive; I am so grateful for him.

- The dedication shown by my aunts and uncles in taking turns visiting with my grandfather, keeping him company as much as possible, and taking my grandmother to see him at least once a day. "He has more visitors than anyone else," one of the nurses said, and I felt sorry for the other elderly people in the ward, alone without their family to fill their rooms with laughter, coax them through their exercises, chat with them about their day. If nothing else, my grandfather knows that he is surrounded with love.

It's a little rough being so far away and unable to help out, but I'm glad I was able to go and visit, even for just a little while.
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July 2011

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