Last evening I received the unfortunate news that my grandfather, Montague Blundon, passed away around midnight on Tuesday.  He just recently turned 90 and over the past few months dealt with complications with his heart that lead to a surgery which his body was apparently too weak to recover from.  He led a long and fulfilling life, marrying a woman he loved until the day she died not more than three years ago, raising three bright and successful children, witnessing first hand some of the most important and influential events of the 21st century, including the Great Depression, WWII (in which he fought for the Navy in the Pacific), and the election of America’s first black president.  He also lived long enough to see his grand children set out on their own remarkable journeys in life.  My cousin Carry just finished Marine boot camp with top honors.  My sister Sara has found her calling working for a company in Montana that sells and installs solar panels.  And somehow I’ve ended up on the other side of the world, bumbling around this country like a bull in a china shop, struggling to understand this vast and mysterious culture in the hopes that one day my acquired knowledge will ensure a better relationship between East and West and thus ensure a better world for us all.

At this time in my journey it’s as difficult as ever to not be home.  My college in the States is finishing up soon for summer vacation, which means I’ll be missing all the end-of-the-year-merriment that accompanies graduation season, not to mention missing the graduation of many of my friends, some of whom I may never get the chance to see again.  And now with the passing of my grandfather, the homesickness has almost become unbearable.

Living in and amongst a culture in which the elderly are held with such high esteem, it’s made me think a lot about the way in which I viewed my grandfather, even before the news of his passing reached me.  Many Chinese would consider it an absolute abomination to send one’s elderly relatives to a nursing home, seeing it as avoiding the responsibility of care and companionship.  It’s a cultural requirement for adults to take care of their parents in any way they can, and as a result the grandparents often help with the raising of a child.

Though I grew up far away from my grandparents, I spent a good deal of time with them, and by all accounts I believe my family and I did right by them, even by Chinese standards.  And even though it might pain me to have been on the other side of the world instead of by his side during my grandfather’s last hours, it’s important for me to remember that I am where I’m supposed to be.  We all want our offspring to go out into the world and make of it what we can, to change it in some minor way, to bring back a piece of what we learned, to continue that tradition of exploration by passing it on to the next generation.

Every time I talked to my grandfather on the phone he would always ask me, “So when are you coming to see me?”  The moment my mother told me of his passing I heard his bellowing southern accent asking me this very question, and my first instinct was to catch the first flight back to the states to be with my family and do him the honor of attending of her service.  But my grandfather was a selfless man, always concerned that those around him were always making too much of a fuss to make him comfortable.  His needs always took a back seat to those of others, and I know now that if he had any say in the matter I would not be flying home for his service.  “Don’t worry ‘bout me now,” he would say.  “You stay where you are and don’t worry ‘bout me.”

He will be missed.