Last month a couple of my friends, the boy and my father-in-law went to Wrigley Field. It was my father-in-law's first visit to Wrigley and he really enjoyed himself. He got to spend a chunk of the game just hanging out with the boy while the big boys watched the game (a win, yay!) and took some fun pictures.
This is somewhat relevant because on Tuesday morning, my paternal grandfather died.
I guess in a way it was inevitable because grandpa was 86 years old and had suffered from Stage IV lung cancer for the past couple years. He was on chemotherapy and needed help breathing, and the best news is that he would no longer have to suffer. More importantly, he had lived a full and eventful life in close proximity to his loved ones. But I was unable to go to California for the memorial service. That was today (just a few hours ago) and he will be cremated on Monday. He died just a couple weeks before my cousin would get married, and right in the middle of the first month of a very trying year so far at my school. It's really tacky to say it's horrible timing, because really, it's never a good time to die for a good man, but I would have liked to be there.
I don't think I ever cried about it. But I was certainly sad and felt a lot of regret because, past the age of about 12 or so, I didn't really hang out with my grandpa. For the longest time, he lived in Hong Kong while my family and I immigrated to America, and with that much distance between us it was difficult to meet regularly. I think I was surprised that it took so long for my grandpa to succumb to lung cancer as he smoked a ton when I was a kid, and I even remember helping him get his cigarettes. In his later years, he was just a drinker which led to much amusement during family dinners. I think the 80-grade IDGAF contributed to his extended life despite the ingestion of multiple carcinogens. The only tangible memory I have while hanging out with my grandpa was all the food. We ate a lot, which is always wonderful. But I regret not being able to do more with him now.
My maternal grandfather is still kicking; he won't turn 80 until next year and he's super healthy and strong as an ox. He also lives in Hong Kong, and the last time we were together was when my brother graduated from college eight years ago. The time before that, we spent three weeks together touring Europe before I went back to graduate school. I talk to him and my grandma here and there on Skype, but that's as close as I can get because, again, huge distance. They're both very healthy so I hope to see them sometime in the near future when I am able to get my family over to Hong Kong since they're a bit too old to travel now. This set of grandparents is a lot more active; my grandmother still does calisthenics and can probably do more situps than I can (she does use an ab-assist board, but she gets a pass because she's in her 70s).
This is why it is so important to me that my son spend more time with his grandparents. We're not as far away as America-to-Hong Kong, but both sets of his grandparents live in California while we are in Chicago. Because my parents and my wife's parents are more technologically savvy, he gets to Facetime with them a lot more. Also, my parents and my wife's dad do periodically come over to hang out in Chicago, so the boy gets to hang out with them about once a year. With my parents, they take him to places like Disneyland and Legoland where he can just be a kid. My father-in-law took him fishing the past couple years, and also hung out with us at Wrigley Field as I said earlier.
I think it's critical that the boy doesn't feel that sense of regret that I had because I was so far away from the grandparents growing up. The boy is luckier because the grandparents are just a short flight away and they're more than happy to take him places. Grandparents are grand for a reason, and the time spent with them should be treasured, even if it was for a couple weeks over a period of decades for me. I don't think this will be a problem for my son though. He'll interact with the grandparents a lot more than I did, and I hope this continues well into his adult years.
The sad thing to note is that he'll probably be even sadder than I am when his grandparents pass on, but he'll have so many more happy memories than I did. That is my biggest regret, but I will continue to treasure the few interactions I had with my grandpa, and continue to work towards meeting up with my other grandparents again before I run out of time.