The Struggle to Connect

Have you ever wished to go back to your childhood, so that you can love your grandparents in the most natural way that a child could give? I have always loved my grandparents from the bottom of my heart, but the distance in our relationships grew further apart from the obstacles of contrasting cultures, languages, and my personal struggle to express how I feel.

Before I was born my grandparents had chosen to travel to America and work so that years later they could bring their entire family to America with them. Their admirable perseverance disregarded their old age similar to how in Spirited Away, Chihiro from a very young age, worked hard to be finally reunited with her family. Just like in the movie, my grandparent’s determination paid off and led to my family migrating to America when I was 6 years old. The migration had fulfilled my parents’ longing wish of finally reuniting their children with their own parents.

When we arrived at LAX airport, we were welcomed with my grandparents’ utmost happiness. My grandma was very excited that she cooked numerous dishes of traditional food every day for the whole family to enjoy together. My grandfather would be my first teacher in America when he taught me English out of his worries that I would struggle in a new learning environment. Unfortunately, the wonderful times living in my grandparents’ house did not last long, and my family soon had to move away. Although we would occasionally visit them on weekends and holidays, nothing would replace the months that my grandparents and I had together. I knew, like other Asian grandparents, they are very fond of family dinners and gatherings where they could hear all of our voices and share with us their ethnic food. We would miss them dearly, but my family had to work hard on our own to adapt to modern American society.


I could recall when I first met my grandparents, I was initially shy of them but it did not take long before I was talking to them in our shared mother language: Vietnamese. Before my grandparents knew only basic English and it was difficult for them to communicate with their other American grandchildren, so imagine how they felt when they could finally talk comfortably with their grandson. The Vietnamese language had united us and a loving bond was created. However, as I grew older and attended American schools to learn English, my fluency in my native language declined and this affected my communication with my grandparents who struggled to keep up with what I was saying. While I could still understand their words, my response to them was often short and many times I would not find the right words to describe what I meant.


While living in America, I have absorbed and grown to like the things that normal American teenagers enjoy. These new cultural expressions, however, did not match that of my older grandparents and it has made it difficult for us to find common interests. For instance, my grandparents would like to watch Korean movies but I prefer to watch Marvel movies, and they like to listen to Vietnamese traditional music while I like to listen to American pop music. It was these differences in everyday life like enjoying music and TV shows that made it difficult for us to start a long and engaging conversation. This obstacle led to even less communication between me and my grandparents. I only wish we had more common interests so I would be able to bring more joy to my grandparents.


Stepping into high school, my mind and effort were often spent thinking about homework and extracurriculars from school. I would often have homework and projects to do that extend into the weekend, which left little time when I could spend with my grandparents. I began keeping what goes on in my life and feelings to myself, secluding the details from my parents and grandparents, and showing little affection from my outer appearance. Compare to me, Mr. Spencer, the owner of the Last Bookstore, incorporates “real” and “authentic” elements into his bookstore versus having a “cold” and “calculated” environment allowing his business to be genuine to readers. I learn my cold personality can sometimes drive my peers away from me and in the case of my grandparents, it only widens the gap in our relationship.

It was about last month when I did not visit my grandparents until I heard my grandma was very sick in the hospital. I was shocked and worried to the brink of tears that I immediately planned to go visit and embrace her tightly. But when the time came, I could only say simple greetings to my sick grandma and ask if she would be better soon, as if she was any other normal person. I was frustrated and regretful because I couldn’t convey how I truly felt in that crucial moment when my sick grandma needed me most. The reasons I chose to keep my thoughts captive in my head and my heart cold as winter are indescribable.


My grandparents’ love has brought my family to America and changed not only our lives but also the future generations of our family, their actions can be at best described from a line of the poem “Now and Then”: “All life is built from love.” I know it is often difficult for my grandparents to feel the love I have for them, but I will continue to find time to spend by their side no matter what they are going through. Unfortunately, I realized that there is little time left I have with my grandparents and I just want to tell them I am grateful for the unconditional love they have given to their entire family all their lives. I hope that not only my grandparents, but other grandparents would come to realize that their children and grandchildren want to give back the unconditional love that they had received despite sometimes not being able to stay by their side and express their love openly.

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