When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. -G.K. Chesterton
Goodbye Bapak Prijanto Kurniawan. Lie Pek Gwan. Opa Gwan.
I remember when I was growing up, I was talking with one of my friends and saying how I was so happy to have all my grandparents, and on top of that, their siblings (Indonesian culture.) My friend painfully said, “Yeah, mine are all gone, except one, and she’s in Indo.”
Grandparents too. One of the many frustrations of being an immigrant kid is that because you live in another country, often times the majority of your family is still back in the country of origin. Indonesia is a REALLY long way from the states. A round trip from NYC is 24 hours. That said, it didn’t help that matrimonial relationships were far from great. As a result, I saw my maternal grandfather literally, once in a blue moon when I had the chance to go to Indonesia. Instead, I saw my grandmother rather frequently because she could afford to make the overseas voyage, for which I’m grateful. I had lots of aunts and grandmothers constantly surrounding me.
I think this is why whenever an older gentleman engages me in conversation, I’m so apt to listen. There a lot of people in my life that were grandfathers to me in his stead. But they were never near, permanent, nor related. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is awesome, but there’s just something different about having a grandfather, and an even uncle around.
I made an effort within the past two years to give him a call every once in awhile. It has hard! He never had anything to say, and when he realized who was calling his response always was, “Kenapa Fiel…?” Which roughly means, “Why you calling, what happened?”
Of course, he was overjoyed inside, but I never got to see that expressed. Despite not meeting my expectations, I’m glad I did. You’d think I’d have found a way around this as a conversationalist…
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Paul of Tarsus (Philippians 4:8)
Time to be Grateful.
Enough of the lamenting. Here are my takeaways with the recent passing of my Opa (Dutch for grandfather).
1. As I write, I realized that all my grandparents got to see me into my 20s.
2. Many of my friends lost their grandparents before they were born!
3. Others have them, but have met them once or twice, or not at all!
4. I was able to have a relationship with Opa Gwan.
5. I still have 2 other grandparents left on either side, plus their siblings.
6. This will bring/is bringing the family (direct and extended) together.
7. Feelings come and go. Heck, he’s rejoicing right now. No need to lament.
8. My heart will stand still because I know that God is good.
I didn’t get to see Opa Gwan the last time I went to Indo because he was too far, man, I feel stupid. I forgot that time runs and is running. I felt it was better to just meet all the people around me. Cousins, aunts and uncles that were nearby. Even though he was a bit stiff on the phone, at least I knew that in real life he was a lively and hilarious joker. Always knew how to make his grandkids love him like a real grandparent should.
My Opa was getting old, living in a sort of a dormitory setting too poor to afford medical care and to visit his own grandchildren seven hours away in another city without support. His love of smoking brought him to a “premature” death. For an Indonesian, he lived to an age many never see. But regardless, I got to know my Opa. Time Flies. Didn’t get to see him much but, grandparents too.
Here’s to a grandpa that was there when he had the chance to be.