I have been away from the blog for a long while, that last post about dog was actually written more than one week ago. I have been away from work for nearly two weeks and away from China as well. To let everyone know where I have been and what I have been doing, I will have to tell the saddest story of the history of my blog.
Monday 11-6-06, 2:30 PM
I was in a team teaching class with about 30 students and 5 teachers. We were about to start the children on their routine for packing up and going home when i felt a vibration in my pocket. I never have my phone on ring and I usually do not get phone calls during the day. I looked at the number to see who it was, maybe Jiao Jiao had thought I would be out of class at that time. But the number was not anyone I knew, so I went out of the room and answered it.
"Hello?" I said in a questioning manner.
"Jake?" My mother's voice replied and instantly I knew something was wrong; she never called my cellphone and never at this time of day.
"What is wrong?" I replied instantly.
"Your grandma Swannie had a heart attack and passed away today." She told me and left me speechless. "Do you think there is anyway you can come home?"
"I will go talk to my boss right now and call you the second I get home." I told her. I hung up the phone and went to the leader of that class, told him I needed to go and talk to the boss and I was off.
I called Jiao Jiao and told her to help me get a ticket home for tonight and what had happened. I felt sorry because I did not know how to put the situation with a soft twist, I only knew the word "died" and not it's more caring form of "passed away" in Chinese. I could tell that it was hard for her to hear it, but I told her to let me know what she could find, I would be preparing my weeks worth of lessons for the substitute and then be home straight away. I got all the lessons and materials sorted out and filled in my leave forms in between moments of crying. I jumped onto my scooter and raced home as safe and quick as possible fighting tense muscles and watery eyes.
Jiao Jiao had my bag packed and ticket booked. I jumped on the computer and booked a connection from LA to Boise, called my mom and told her when I would be arriving. It was then she told me the story; Grandma, a healthy woman had a great day on Sunday-going to Church and fixing dinner for the family to come over, but after the first of her children arrived she said, "Jimmy come here, I am having a pain" and then her head dropped and it was basically over. The paramedics came and took her to a hospital, but she had passed quickly into heaven.
Jiao Jiao and I jumped in a taxi to go to the airport. There was no ticket for me, just my name in the computer, so I went straight in and got my boarding pass and jumped on the plane. The whole situation could not have worked out more perfectly for me, I was on the plane at 8 pm, arrived at 4 in LA and on my next plane by 6. During the whole of the trip, I thought and cried and anticipating the meeting with my family. It was hard, I was constantly picturing the scene my mother had described to me-my heart ached for my uncle who had been there and I felt apologetic for not having been home more or called her more. It was hard travel.
I ended up in Boise, in my mother's, father's, aunt's and uncle's arms by 10 pm Monday night for a great group cry and a hug I had been craving and dreaming about for 24 hours. We drove to Jerome!
The Rest Of The Week
The rest of the week was filled by family dinners, crying, putting together pictures, crying, telling stories, remembering times, more food, more crying, dressing my grandmother, crying, the viewing, crying, hugging, crying, the funeral, crying, eating, crying, hugging and then the trip back to China...with more crying.
Grandma was always there for every person in the family no matter what the cost, no matter what we had done or were doing, she was there. I look back at my days as a child and teen and knew that grandma and grandpa would always be at my baseball games, walking up with their lawn chairs to sit and watch. I knew I could always go over to their house and get food, chat or play.
When I finally got to grandma's house, it was hard. To go in and feel all of the memories come back, see all of the things for maybe the last time as fresh and authentic. So, at this time I would like to put the pictures of her house in here and tell of some stories and memories I have of those. Hopefully, my family that views my blog can add some stories they have of certain places at the house as well.
This is the front yard. I can remember hours of baseball, Frisbee, the fox-sock, digging in the dirt and grandpa's green truck parked outside. As I grew older, I mowed this lawn in the summer, it is an awesome sight to see this yard freshly mowed.
The backyard was the baseball field, where I would play house of tee-ball with my parents, grandparents and uncles. In those trees creating the shadows on the grass there must still be plastic balls lodged in the bows. I can remember my mother coming here and hanging pants on that clothesline in the summertime.
This side patch of grass gets shade in the afternoon, so it is the summertime barbecue area. We spent house upon hours cooking steaks, potatoes and corn at this section of the property.
This was a true story for every single grandchild!
This is the front door, which squeaks as it opens and rattles the glass window as it shuts. It is always a great announcement of someones arrival, and of course, you are always free to let yourself in.
This is grandma's chair and the vibrating massage pad. When we were kids we used to fight over using that massage pad. Grandma could often be found reading her bible, checking her bills or watching TV from this chair. That lampshade is of course pictures of farming and cowboying, I have yet to find a similar lampshade to those.
This is the sink where she washed my mouth out for saying, "Oh my God!" I still cringe when I hear that phrase, and in Asia it is very common.
When I was a young child, I had a very bad aim when I urinated, always leaving some drops on the rim. One day grandma rubbed my nose in the drops and from that day on, I would take the time to wipe up my drops with t.p. before flushing.
Six years ago, Grandpa Swannie passed away. Still around the house, Grandma kept his things. You can see his shaving cream whipper and aftershave still in the cabinet.
In the kitchen, we found Grandma's candy drawer. It was famous amongst the family because she always had one of everybody's favorite.
This is the dinner table where everyone has eaten more meals that can possibly be counted. To quote one of the cousins, "Grandma would ask you if you wanted anything to eat and when you say No she would fix it anyway."
This is the back bedroom, where we used to play and read books for hours. It was hear that I learned to enjoy Dr. Seuss. I can still remember the smell of the old books and magazines.
But, Grandma Swannie passed away and it is hard for everyone alive to take, because we miss her nd feel that loss. Of course, there are those already in heaven that have been missing her for a long time too, so I guess it is there turn to enjoy her company. More than anyone I have ever met before, I can feel her presence with me now that she is gone, and that is very strange for me, but I like having her closer to me.
But, to move forward in news, on Saturday we had a funeral and on Sunday my mother and I went shopping for engagement rings to give to Jiao Jiao. I had been planning to ask her at Christmas if I could get her home, but the embassy is not very helpful in that regard-despite the fact that the were allowing some real winners onto the plane, pregnant and what not. So, the day I returned, after spending 2 days int he LAX airport, I proposed to Jiao Jiao and she accepted, so now we are engaged.