When my grandfather took seriously ill in 1964, my siblings and I had just arrived to live with my grandparents as our visa numbers came up under the quota system. Thanks to bureaucracy, my parents couldn’t come with us and they felt they couldn’t pass up the chance to give their children a better life. So we arrived one winter night.
As the oldest, I felt very protective toward my siblings, grateful to my grandparents for taking us in, and worried that I’d never see my parents again. It was a hard time.
And then it got harder, as my grandfather needed medical attention. As we navigated the public transportation system to get him to medical care, since no one had a car. Or a phone. As I had to translate my grandfather’s symptoms to the doctors, and the doctors’ recommendations and instructions first to my grandmother and then to my grandfather, because in forty years of marriage they’d been too stubborn to speak one another’s language and their children and grandchildren spoke two languages at home.
It was a very hard time.