My heart began to pound and my hands became sweaty as I stood looking through the large glass windows of the airport. I had waited months for this moment. Soon, I heard a loud noise outside and saw a plane quickly descending to the runway.
After the plane came to a stop, I eagerly began searching the stairs. Finally, I saw her. Out of the plane walked a short, aged, and unbelievably cute woman: my grandmother. I had met her only once before, but already she had a special place in my heart.
My grandmother, Sung Tran, had faced so many struggles. She persevered through war and poverty. Born to a wealthy family, she saw all her money vanish in the Vietnam War. She watched as her son-in-law was thrown in jail. She stood quietly crying as she waved goodbye to her daughter, leaving for America. Amazingly, she remained the kindest and happiest person I have ever met.
I first met my grandmother when I was in Vietnam for a month during my freshman year of high school. It was an unforgettable, wonderful moment in my life.
As soon as I saw her, something clicked. I felt as though I had known her my entire life. From that moment on, for the rest of my visit, my grandmother and I were inseparable. We spent the month taking walks around the city, sitting at the kitchen table, and shopping.
I'd hold her hand to help her upstairs. During long car trips, she'd lay her head on my shoulder. Although language was a barrier - I couldn't speak Vietnamese very well, and she didn't understand English - we found other ways to communicate.
We spoke through our eyes and gestures. We had a connection that I had never felt with any other family member. She seemed to understand me without being able to comprehend everything I was saying.
The month in Vietnam had to end. I had to tear myself away from my precious grandmother. I truly thought I would never see her again.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
My life for the next three years was typical for most high-school students. I'd have to wake up much earlier than I wanted to and spend the entire day at school struggling to stay awake. Afterward, I'd head off to some activity and go home to do some homework.
And then, after yet another monotonous day of school, I heard the best news from my parents: My grandmother was coming to live with us!
My grandmother was new to this world we call America. It had always been a distant dream for her, one that she never thought she'd realize.
On her first day at our house, I showed her everything, from the bathtub to my waterbed. Her eyes were like those of a child. They lit up every time she saw something new. She made me realize how much I took for granted.
She had never been in a bathtub or seen a pine tree. She would wander through the yard looking at every little object, in awe of it. This had an enormous impact on me. I realized that I had everything I could possibly need in life.
These little things -a waterbed, a bathtub -were not merely objects that improved my living. They were objects that I was blessed to own and use.
Watching my grandmother also taught me that I should start looking at the world through the eyes of a child. I should try to experience things as if they were new and not merely pass over them because I've seen them before.
My best memories of my grandmother came with the arrival of winter. She experienced her first Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even now, I laugh at the thought of her face when she saw all the food that was placed on the table at Thanksgiving. Her mouth dropped open, her small hands covered her mouth, and she let out a soft gasp.
Winter also brought snow. In Vietnam, my grandmother had never seen snow. When snow began to fall, she began to watch it. She watched the snow fall for hours. She curled up on the couch and stared out the window, seeing the yard become blanketed in snow. She'd sit like a child by her window, just looking outside. Often, I'd make hot chocolate and we'd watch the snow together.
Soon, ice started to cover the streets. I took her around the yard to show her how everything was coated with it. She ran her hands over the ice-covered fence and wanted to lick the icicles. She'd hold an icicle in her hand, turn it over, and look at it glimmer in the sun. She would hold it as it slowly melted into a puddle of water in her hand. I couldn't believe how amazed she was about an icicle.
I stood by and simply smiled. Never had I appreciated such little things. I had seen icicles and snow many times, but when I was with her, they were different; they were special.
Everything my grandmother had never seen or experienced, I learned to re-see and reexperience. When I was with her, these things were immediately more significant and wonderful.
I was looking forward to spring so I could show my grandmother the blooming flowers and the rabbits that always scurried across our yard. I was going to take her to the zoo to show her all the exotic animals and to Longwood Gardens to look at the flowers. She loved flowers; she loved animals.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to show her these things. Eight months after coming to America, my grandma passed away.
Still, in just a short time, she had influenced me tremendously. I learned to appreciate things at another level. I learned that at any age I could fulfill a dream. I learned to love life.
Every day, I remember her sweet smile and adorable giggle. I remember how she played with pine cones and butterflies. On cold winter days, I imagine her sitting by the window, watching the snow fall. It is the simple memories that make me miss her the most. Drinking hot chocolate. Holding her hand.
My grandmother has been an angel in my life. She changed the way I view life and the way I live it. Because of her, I will never look at an icicle in the same way again.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society