We do what’s important to us. And for Maria del Rosario Chan that meant giving her great uncle what he wanted and need most as his health was failing.
I gave him something he didn’t have much left of, and that was time.
Every day, I called him around 5 pm. Any later, he might be asleep. He would have good days and bad days. On his good days, I might be able to sound out the words he was murmuring. But on his bad days, he couldn’t even respond. All he could do was listen. The one-sided conversations with their long silence made me uncomfortable. I would just wait for his next utterance and think of something next to say.
Kao gong, my 78-year-old great uncle, lived in a nursing home in Las Vegas. I used to see him every day growing up. He drove me everywhere and did every kind of errand to make my life better. Whatever I wanted or needed, he gave me. I had to be careful not to mention if I liked something, because the next thing you know, there it was; not just one, but a hundred of them.
Eventually, the acts of generosity stopped when Kao gong moved to Las Vegas. I missed him terribly and would only call occasionally. But as his condition worsened, the phone calls became more frequent and my nightly prayers got longer. Regardless of what I was doing, I dropped everything and called him. My great aunt would tell me if I made him smile, and if he ate well or looked alert. I prayed for good days like that.
Teenagers are not known to be so affectionate with the elderly. We may not have the patience to converse and keep them company. For me, there was nothing I loved more than to talk to my great uncle and hear that he was doing well. I wanted him to eke out one more day, to have one more tomorrow.
On my last call, I told him we would be visiting in two weeks and that maybe I could take him out to walk around the garden. That was one of our best calls. He responded with energy and clarity–because he was using all the strength he had left.
The next day, I did not have to make that call at 5 o’clock. Kao gong’s time was up. And I didn’t know what to do with that extra time. All I could do was miss him.
With a Perspective, I’m Maria del Rosario Chan.
Maria del Rosario Chan is a sophomore at Piedmont High School.