This is a photo from my third birthday party. When I lived in Maui, we would have family parties at my grandparents' house all the time. I'm not writing this article aiming to gain sympathy from others. While I appreciate the kind words people have given me, I don't want anybody else to miss out on valuable time with the people they love. Photo Credit: Cassie Valdez
The last time I saw my grandpa breathing he was bedridden and paralyzed. Machines and tubes were attached to him like additional appendages. His eyes were closed, and I’m not entirely sure whether or not he was conscious.
Surrounded by my family, we each took turns holding back our tears while trying to talk to my grandpa, hoping that he could hear our “I love yous” and “I miss yous.” However, after two weeks in the intensive care unit, his immune system could no longer keep up with the repercussions of pneumonia.
On July 31st, 2017, my grandpa passed away.
Ever since I was little, I’ve had a limited number of opportunities to spend time with my grandpa. Working long shifts at the HC&S sugar plantation, he would regularly stay overtime in order to earn extra money. The most I can remember of him is when he would watch TV in the living room or come home late at night with nets full of fish.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In my mind, I saw my grandpa as the bad guy. [/perfectpullquote]
When my grandparents got divorced, arguments forced division within our family. My grandpa distanced himself while my dad and his brother did the same. The fact that we moved thousands of miles away didn’t help mend the damage.
In my mind, I saw my grandpa as the bad guy. I was mad that money was his way of apologizing. I was mad that he barely dedicated any time for us. I was mad that phone conversations with him were rare and only lasted a minute or so. Convinced he was greedy and selfish, my words were laced with disappointment anytime I spoke about him.
However, as I watched my grandpa’s health deteriorate, all my previous grudges washed away with my tears, and a pang of regret took its place. Any ill feelings from the past didn’t matter anymore, especially since we were losing him. There was no point in letting stubbornness rule over emotion; anger wouldn’t have helped him recover.
Resenting him all those years also meant losing any chances we had to make amends. It meant growing up being emotionally distant and unaware of each other’s lives. Now all that I’m left with are glimpses of his smile in my memories, and family stories I was never around to experience.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]As much as I wish we could have sectioned off time and made the situation work before he passed away, there’s nothing I can do to change what happened.[/perfectpullquote]
On the last day I was in Maui, my grandpa’s wife told us about his plans for the future. After he retired, he wanted to visit my dad and our family in Las Vegas, hoping to apologize for his wrongs and attend my high school graduation. She told us stories about him: How he would regularly check my dad’s Facebook when he missed us. How he was his happiest whenever my uncle visited. How he regretted not being there when we needed him.
Although we both spent our time missing each other, neither of us felt compelled to make a move. We were waiting for the right moment in time–when schedules wouldn’t clash or stress from work couldn’t get in the way. As much as I wish we could have sectioned off time and made the situation work before he passed away, there’s nothing I can do to change what happened.
I know you may have heard the same advice a ton of times, but please take this to heart. Don’t go through life waiting for the right opportunity to come. While you may think putting an argument on hold is a good idea, you never know what factors may disrupt your expectations. Anger only distracts people from what they truly want. It’s important to forgive others before you miss out on opportunities to spend time with them. The moments you aren’t there to experience can’t be made in the future.