My Obachan | 10 Unusual Things I Miss The Most
Remember that grief I was talking about? My grandmother passed away. It’s been tough to verbalize and accept those words. My Obachan (meaning “grandparent” in Japanese), the one grandparent that has been with me my entire life, is no longer here. At a beautiful 88 years old, she lived an amazing life and left behind a legacy of memories that everyone from family to the garbage men could appreciate. And as I said my last goodbyes this weekend, the realization that she is not coming back has sunk in more and more. That has made me grasp even tighter onto the memories and the personality and the being that is My Obachan. In honor of her amazing courage and life that she’s lived these 88 years, I remember my grandmother with a smile, some humor and respect with the 10 unusual things I miss the most.
She kept me grounded. She kept me humble. She kept me…well fed. She kept me laughing and she kept me smiling right to the very end. I miss those memories of my grandmother. For anyone who knows her, her broken English, open thoughts and amazing cooking skills left no person forgetting my grandmother.
1. Her Unique Language
My grandmother married and came to the U.S. shortly after World War II. Talk about bravery. She was so proud to be an American citizen, knowing very little English and in a completely new place. I admire her courage so much. And while my grandmother definitely picked up the English language, the broken English remained these 88 years. I smile as I think that her English was perhaps learning “broken” to take advantage of her bluntness. Blunt English I would call it, and a language that was unlike any other person I have encountered in my life. She was uniquely my grandmother.
2. Telling Me When I Was Being “A Stupid Kid”
If there’s one person who would always say exactly what was on her mind at the moment she thought it, it as my grandmother. “You stupid kid” while perhaps wasn’t the eloquent way of telling me when I was doing something wrong, was 100% her way. Blunt, sharp and at the moment, she never had a problem telling you when you were amazing and when you were being dumb. She kept me rooted and humble,. always reminding me that I could be better. I know, it’s odd. But for me, it was motivating, encouraging. And even “stupid” as I was when I forgot my book yet again at her house, she would always brag to her customers, her grocery cashier, her neighbors and complete strangers how proud she was of me.
When I got good grades, got my nursing degree, married a good man, had kids, she always had something to brag about too. Perhaps not to my face, but I always knew how much she loved me. Even when I was stupid.
3. Late Night Puzzle Sessions
At such a young age, I picked up a love for jigsaw puzzles. I have my grandparents to thank for that. Gathered around the dining room table with my Grandpa and my Obachan, sitting in complete and comforting silence, those were some of my best moments with the two of them. My grandmother would tell me it’s too hard, which would only motivate me to try harder. The praise when I got a piece in, or the surprise when I finished a puzzle with them….today there’s NO puzzle that is ever touched without my thinking of them.
4. Eating Her Sushi, Her Cookies, Her Soup, Her Thanksgiving Dinners….
Every meal at Obachan’s was a filling one. She could cook unlike any other person I knew. A marvelous Thanksgiving dinner would be prepared, even up to her last years. Perfectly cooked, amazingly presented, and always delicious, Obachan’s food touched the soul. Hand rolled sushi for holidays, cookies for her customers, a meal for the garbage men or the postal worker. Her meals were more than just nourishment, but an extension for her love of the world. But my most favorite childhood meal of all was made by my Obachan. As more days pass, I find myself craving that meal everyday. Ichiban soup (aka fancy Ramen noodles), a bowl of sticky Japanese rice that was always perfectly made, a bologna sandwich cut on the diagonal and buttered, and a glass of milk. If I were to request a last meal, I would definitely ask for this exact meal. So many visits, so many meals so many growing waistlines have met and appreciated my Obachan’s cooking, including me.
5. Feeding the Ducks, Fishing for Turtles
A bamboo fishing pole. Cheerios. Obachan’s backyard. Sitting there fishing for hours, with a flock of birds always greeting us (yes, she kept God’s creatures well fed too), I would rarely catch a fish. Instead catching memories and sunsets. And yes, the turtles were always let go.
6. Waking Up at 5-6 AM
Waking up early was not in my vocabulary, even at a very young age. But when staying over at my Obachan’s house, waking up early was a must. 5-6 am wake ups were common in her house. So many wonderful memories of sitting with her first thing in the morning with our bowls of Cheerios as she would hum her Japanese songs and greet the day. I miss sleeping over so much.
7. Her Sharp Mind
Even when you thought she wasn’t fully understanding, my grandmother was sharp. She got to pass away with a 100% sound mind, as she would have wanted to go. She was determined and stubborn and so much smarter than I ever gave her credit for. She could talk politics. Football stats. She could do math faster on an abacus than I could on my calculator. She could tell my husband was a good man just by his haircut.
8. Hearing the Hum of Her Sewing Machine
The things that you hold most dear, end up being the most mundane. I asked my mom to send me pictures not of the kitchen she cooked in or the dining room table where we sat for years….but her sewing room. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress. “Everyone come because I cheap!” she would say. But her handmade dresses she’s made for me, the dedication to walking up and down flights of stairs in her 80s, the precision to her quality work were more than just the work of a cheap tailor. There was nothing more comforting than to sit with her on the floor of her sewing room, listening to the whir of her machine. While I never picked up any of amazing skills, the memories of playing with dolls, picking up lost pins, touching the many spools of thread, I miss that.
9. Her Snorting Laughter
She would embrace life with her whole being. She would laugh with her whole being. And I can still her her distinct snort when she would laugh. And if you weren’t laughing before, you definitely were then. Her laughter was a fine musical instrument.
10. Her Moments That Were 100% Obachan
When I told her I was pregnant with my 2nd child, her immediate response was “You have twins.” The dropjaw was hard to pick up after a comment like that. She always had a line that left you speechless. She always said something that made you think. She always had a way of making you laugh, smile and look at the world differently. She was and will always be My Obachan. There’s no one in the world that is exactly like her. And while time brings healing, a fading memory and a painful void that will never be filled, I know that she touched every life she came in contact with. She left this earth with hope and love.
Eat. Eat. Go home. Go home.
One of my favorite Obachan phrases. And a fitting way to end this post. We ate. She went home.
Do you have a loved one that passed on? What unusual trait do you miss about them the most?
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