Taken from: my family’s Facebook photo collection. (Due to my desire to remain mostly anonymous, I can’t provide a link).
[Description: the central focus is on a baby grand piano covered in sheet music with a kitchen chair pulled up in front of it. The image is located within a large living room with various pieces of furniture, books, bags, and knick knacks that don’t matter to this blog.]
“We’ve always been a singing family, it came naturally. Our parents sang to us and some of us were singing tunes at just a year or so old.” – Grandma
On December 10th, 2015, my paternal grandma passed away at the age of 91.
She is survived by her husband, also 91, four children, seven grandchildren, and about 9 great grandchildren.
And I am one of her grandchildren. The youngest of my generation, the only queer and trans (to my knowledge), and until the great grandchildren were born, the only disabled from birth and mixed race kids in this line of the family.
I can’t describe how I experience my grief beyond ambivalence. On one hand, I feel sorrow about how I can no longer see or hear her actively again. On another, I’m one step closer to being free to not care about being me in front of the family.
I feel ambivalent about my family. I feel like an outcast. Out of my cousins, I’m the only of my kind, only that comes from a broken, poor home. I have one cousin who lives in the city but hasn’t been interested in having me in his life in any way. Even when I lived a kilometer away from him and offered to help with childcare. I can’t be me in front of the family because I don’t want to get rejected by my grandparents who are both from the Salvation Army. I look forward to the day when I won’t care about rejection anymore.
But when I heard a recording of my grandma’s voice and piano playing, I lost it. Memories flooded my body of her shaky, gnarled fingers pressing down on the keys of a piano, an organ, or keyboard. I remember Christmas carol sings around the piano. And I’m reminded of the music that runs through my blood. I’ll never be a professional singer. I don’t have the body or identity to be accepted as such. But I can still feel the warm tingling of music running through my blood. And no matter what, part of me is connected to these people. I am half white. My blood’s music is tied to the church.
When I think of my grandma, I think of the love she has around her. She has a community of friends and family that are part of her life. I expect that her funeral will be very well attended.
But most of all, I think of the love between her and my grandpa. Their’s is the only healthy relationship in my life. My parents divorced when I was not even four years old. And something I’ve never told anyone else, my mother had been secretly cheating on my dad. Neither of them have had a relationship with someone that was actually good for them. My mom’s ex’s have all been homophobic, racist, manipulative, and volatile. I am unaware of any relationships my dad may have had. My maternal grandparents were bad for each other. My laoye hit my laolao before he came to Canada and was probably cheating on her.
And my paternal grandparents exemplify what I dream for. They bickered constantly, depended on one another. Over the past decade, my grandpa took over many chores and the cooking when she couldn’t do them anymore. My grandma didn’t just give up though, she did her best to be independent and do what she could for him. And when it came to bedtime, my grandpa would always join grandma in bed and they would talk. When I was visiting, I’d join them for their little bedside talks curled up between their bodies and I’d notice the way they held hands tenderly. The soft caresses and pats he’d give her (and me when I was there). The way they looked at each other felt like eternity. They’d sometimes cuddle if their bodies allowed it. And then my grandpa would go to his own room just ten feet away (they have very different sleep needs). And my heart melts and aches for this tenderness.
I dream of a love like theirs. I dream of having a partner (or more), someone who is my equal. I want to be there supporting them and caring for them. I want to be cared for when I need it. I want to be making a life together with someone. I want to share in the troubles, the strifes with someone. I want to bicker over the smallest things like who should have the right to do the dishes for the other. I want that vulnerability, trust, and care. And for strange reason I can’t fathom, it needs to be someone who I’d be romantically involved. It doesn’t feel the same if it’s a friend. Call me naive which I definitely am, but I can’t accept anything less.
I use the words, “demisexual” and “demiromantic” to describe myself. I don’t like hookups, they make me feel defiled at worst, and something is missing at best. (And yet I’ll still engage in one once in a while as an unhealthy coping mechanism). I rarely go on more than a first date with someone. I just can’t feel anything towards someone easily right off the bat. But I still want a romantic relationship… It just takes a long time to grow enough for me to develop feelings for someone.
I like to use the image of a giant oak tree to talk about my sexual/romantic orientation. The oak tree releases many seeds that scatter to the winds. Some are eaten by animals. Some land in water and are lost. Some land in rocky soil and fail to grow. A few may find themselves in fertile soil and sprout, but fail to grow without the crucial elements of sunlight and water. Some may grow, but get trampled on, eaten, uprooted and blown away, or pushed aside by another sprout. But the giant oak tree is stubborn and somehow, maybe one or a few seeds grow nurtured. And if they’re lucky enough, they become their own trees and flourish.
I won’t make the same mistakes my parents have done. I can’t afford to make those same mistakes. I’ve been hurt badly. I’ve been coerced to have sex with men I didn’t want to. It takes a lot to gain my trust especially because of this. I carry so much trauma that I’m frightened to leave myself completely vulnerable to another person. It takes time and a lot of interpersonal work to gain my trust. And I’ll only open myself up to someone that my subconscious feels right with. I hope that someday, I’ll meet someone(s) who’s willing to put the work into building something with me.
I wish it were easier, but this is my life. And I guess nothing worthwhile is ever easy. And I guess this is something that makes me so different from my grandparents. For me to find love, I need to go against the social grain. I’m weird, I’m odd, and I hope that someday, maybe they’ll be okay with me.
In the mean time, I create my own family of people that care about me and who I care for.
I miss you grandma. I hope the afterlife is what you thought it’d be. I hope that we may meet again some day. In another life maybe.