things change

2 Aug

i saw my grandma today (dad’s mom) who has alzheimer’s and has been in the hospital after a few falls and pneumonia, then a high fever. she’s on palliative care and was sleeping a lot, but lately she has been having occasional days where she’ll be wide awake and even talking to people! before the fall she wasn’t talking to anyone!

my mom and i visited her today, me for the first time. she looks different but not as different as i expected. she still has all the features i think of when i think of her, the things i’d picture when i think of her. chubby cheeks, a round eyelid like mine, and a contented smile. she was awake but suspicious looking when we first approached her bed. my mom tried to talk to her a bit in mandarin, and my grandma just fiddled with the paper towels she was holding, her pillow, her legs, and rubbing her ear. then, my grandma started to smile and chat a little bit. she would look up at me but not know who i was. until i handed her her paper towels and she looked up then started smiling really big at me! she patted me and said “xie xie ni” (thank you). i don’t know for sure if she recognized me, but i think she might have! she kept her eyes on me for a while, smiling. maybe she didn’t know who i was exactly, but that she knew me and i was close to her. my mom told her that my brothers had visited, and my grandma repeated my brother’s nickname. after that she was chatting lots with my mom, just about things she was seeing, complimented my mom’s shirt, and so on. she patted my mom’s face. i thought of how she had told me years ago that she had always wished for a daughter but had 3 sons instead. that she thought of my mom as the daughter she never had, and when my parents divorced she cried so hard over the christmas cards she’d write us.

all in all though, it was so heartwarming and comforting to see that my grandma was content and doing alright in her hospital bed. she seems happy even, like a child. i guess she’s just always living in the moment now, literally, and has no worries.

i’m starting clinicals in 2 weeks, surgery first for 12 weeks. another big change. it’s funny being so aware of time going by, and the process of growing older and living your life. i still have moments where i feel so sad that one day i’ll have to die, and everyone i know will too – the same as when i was little and so sad that my mom would die one day that i’d cry in the car for 2 hours as she drove us home from visits in toronto. i’m tearing up now just thinking about it! geez.

one of my brother’s best friends works in the hospital my grandma is in. he happened to be walking by when we came in the doors, so he chatted with us as we went up to my grandma’s floor. when i told him i was starting clinicals in 2 weeks he gave me this look and told me “oh, wow. good luck.” not unkindly, but in the same way that i would probably react if someone told me they were starting med school. kind of like when someone is in puppy love for the first time and gushes to you. “oh.. you are so fresh, so young. you’re going to have soul-crushing moments. but hopefully you’ll get through it wiser but not bitter. good luck.”

really though, i’m excited. when i was heading to the pool today the olympics were playing at my gym and the 200m women’s breaststroke race was on. i watched it, the only part of the olympics i’ve seen so far. i forgot how cool swimming looks from underwater. i felt… funny. i swam, and thought of when i was at 2008 olympic trials. i was so scared and going so wacky with my fear. on the verge of tears, couldn’t stop thinking about how i didn’t deserve to be there, i didn’t belong, i was too old, i was so embarassed to be there, i was a joke, everyone else looks like they belong but i’m just the bottom of the barrel. even the nice brand new racing suit i was given, the new gold-coloured cap my coach gave me, the massages, everything – made me feel worse and more undeserving.

what was my deal? i wondered today, swimming. why was i so freaking scared? what was there to lose?

i had 1 really good race, my first one. and after that i fell apart. i was scared of the pain and so full of doubt that it all seemed pointless.

looking back, i know i felt bad about how my swimming career was finishing, and disappointed in my last races in varsity. i guess i felt scared of letting myself down again, then of the pain during a race, standing beside 13 and 14 year olds behind the blocks, later being so far behind in my heat.

but today i was swimming, thinking about what an amazing week trials was, thinking of the things i’m scared of today, wondering what my future self would say.

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Whutchu sayin'

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