Dear Grandma, I Forgot to Ask You…

This week’s topic is “Do-overs and Mulligans – stuff I’d like to try again, now that I know better.”

I guess I’ve got my share of regrets like everyone else. I wish I’d thought to apologize to the guy I startled at the gas station when my car honked right next him as he filled his tank (my car was telling me that I’d left my keys inside). I’m sorry I forgot about my anniversary until that day and didn’t get hubby a card or anything. And I’m embarrassed that after seven months of being on Weight Watchers I still haven’t lost much weight. Are there things I wish I could do over? Absolutely.

Before I started writing this post I made a list of things that I’ve messed up on. Most of the items involved relationships with my family. Things I wish I’d done for my kids, things I know I could have done better, and things I wish I’d tried but didn’t. There have been times when I did things I shouldn’t have done. I suppose most of us have had times when we’ve questioned whether or not we could have or should have done better at the parenting thing. Another big part of my list had to do with my professional life. Did I make the right choices, or did I take the easy route? Could I have been more effective if I’d tried harder, worked longer, or demanded more of myself? Or should I have gone in a totally different direction and pursued a different career?

But as I looked at my list I realized that most of my regrets centered around two important people in my life who are no longer with us. It’s common, I think, that when one of our parents or grandparents passes away we wish we had talked to them more and asked questions. I think I’ll save the questions for my dad for later (maybe near Father’s Day), and I’ll list the questions for my grandmother (dad’s mother) today.

Grandma SGrandma lived with us from the time we arrived in America (I was a year old) until I was a teenager. She led a fascinating life, which I will probably describe for you in another post someday, because it’s a long and wonderful story. For now, I’ll stick with the topic at hand: things I’d like to do over with Grandma.

If Grandma were here, I’d ask her about her family. Other than her maiden name, we know nothing about her before she came to America sometime in the 1920s. She told us she grew up in a rural area on the island of Hokkaido, but I don’t know what kind of farm it was, whether it was prosperous, or if she still has relatives there. I’d like to know about my distant cousins there and what they do. I’d ask her how she and her husband came to the decision to come to America. Did they make that decision together?

I remember her talking about her life as a young wife and mother. She and Grandpa raised two boys during the Great Depression in a country and culture so unlike the one she came from. If I could, I’d ask her more questions about that time. How did she cope with homesickness and loneliness? Did she ever regret her decision to come? Was it difficult to find work with her limited English? Did she experience distrust and hatred because of her ethnicity?

IMG_2557I wish I could spend more time watching and learning from her. She taught me to knit and crochet when I was young, planting the seed for my love of crafts. A lot of her skills were learned out of necessity – if she didn’t knit and sew, her family would have gone without hats, scarves, and other items of clothing. And since the Japanese food she grew up with wasn’t available in her adopted country, she had to learn to cook American food. How did she manage that?

Grandma died a year before my first daughter was born. She loved babies and would have loved holding and playing with her six great-granddaughters. I wish she could have met this next generation. I think she’d be proud of them and their accomplishments.

But it would be even better to be able to ask her.

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About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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9 Responses to Dear Grandma, I Forgot to Ask You…

  1. That is probably the regret of which most of the people are now guilty: not knowing their family roots and stories; I have found it to be more and more true today. When I I was volunteering at my grandkids’ school and the subject of ancestors would come up, I found that most of them had no idea of their heritage,(other than general ethnic), and where their families came from…sometimes not even as far back as where their grandmothers’ were born or their maiden names.
    That had been one of the ideas behind my food and entertaining blog was to make it easy for families and friends to be together and to tell their stories. I have not really followed through in that area…and that is a regret that I have to try to amend.
    I hear, “I wish I had asked…” so often among my friends and relatives…sigh.

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I agree, Tonette. When you’re young, it seems that we think we have plenty of time, and we have so many other things we want to do. It’s only after our mentors are gone that we realize that we’d had so much more to learn.

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  2. jeff7salter says:

    beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I’d love to read more about her later, when you find the time to do so and (hopefully) when you locate more primary source material. Wouldn’t it be terrific if one of those distant cousins tracked YOU down and suggested sharing family history?

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thank you, Jeff. Grandma meant a lot to me, and it’s only through “growing up” that I realize how much she went through. And yes, it would be awesome for a distant cousin to track me down – although language is a huge barrier!

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  3. Jean Schmuker says:

    I have often felt this way about my grandmother and even my parents. It makes me remember the importance of getting my own life story down while I still am able. Thanks for the reminder, Patti.

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks for visiting, Jean! I think this is why I’m so passionate about scrapbooking. I’m leaving behind a visual history for whoever wants to see and read about it.

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  4. Emily Clover says:

    Beautifully written.

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thank you so much, Emily! I appreciate you stopping in to read and comment.

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      • Patricia Kiyono says:

        I looked at your blog and I see you’re in Sapporo now. I’m so jealous! I’ve been to Japan a few times, but we’ve always stayed with my mother’s family near Yokohama. I’ve always wanted to visit Hokkaido and see where the other side of my family came from. Enjoy your time there!

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