From The Asian Reporter, V28, #23 (December 3, 2018), pages 6 & 11.
When Grandma Kia passes away
July 10, 1936 to September 15, 2018
When an elegant grandma passes away, the way each must — this grandma then
that one, your grandma followed by ours — there’s an awful anguish in all our
bones. Especially so in the bones of our transnational and traditional
communities. It’s an anguish shaped by awful uncertainty, like the dread that
overtakes you when you break an arm or leg bone really bad.
A revered grandma leaving us is different, very different from when a
determined grandpa passes away. Away from this sweaty life we’ve daily shared.
When a grandpa goes, our muscles ache. We ache like a bruised boxer’s old
arms and shoulders ache, as we sorrow and we celebrate what our stubborn
grandpas did and did and did to deliver their children and their children’s
children from all those desperate places, from all those dark days and darker
nights, so far away from our splendid lives here and now. So far away from this
robust city on the confluence of our generous matriarchs, Rivers Columbia and
Hmong-American Grandma Kia Vue Cha’s passing away in Oregon’s autumn of 2018
was so different from that of any great grandpa.
When this grand lady, as elegant and strong as bamboo, quietly left us — no
old working man’s blues filled you or me. Her departing had the sharp anguish of
a badly broken bone. Fractured bones, doctors reassure us, will surely mend. But
a splintered bone, like a torn apart people, cannot heal. Not ever.
It is the possibility of their human broken-ness, it was the probability of
Hmong (Free People) extinction that has urged Grandma Kia’s kin to move
continent to continent, century to century. To here. To the safety of here. To
raise pretty babies and bury their elders, here.
Just as surely, it’s been every muscular migrating family’s fear of erasure,
that has made so vigorous this blessed northwest corner of our shared America.
About 130 centuries of that.
This is always and everywhere true. Every human community’s dignity, each of
our determined un-broken-ness brings a world of meaning to our marvellous little
planet’s children, to their children and then to theirs. And likewise true:
Every family’s un-brokenness has right up to today, depended on women like
Always, they’ve made our households warm. Everywhere they’ve made our tummies
full, they’ve made our minds at ease, then made your and my sleep deep and
sweet. As Thai-American artist and community activist Chompunut Xuto said at
Grandma Kia’s memorial, for families suddenly without a home, for communities
without our homelands: "Mothers are our country, because we are so far away from
our homes. Mother is our country, our culture, our home."
"Mothers are Home," she said. "The home that daily feeds and rests us." Then
we get up for another day of shared sorrow and joy.
Let me say to our men, to our husbands and sons and grandsons — Hmong and
Lao, Anglo and Latino, Asian and African, traditional shamanic folk and good
Christians and Muslims — all of us near Madame Kia Vue Cha’s grand family: Let’s
you and me forget for a sacred moment our own aching shoulders, our nagging
backs. Because we are assured that our beautiful mothers and wives and their
bright daughters, who’ll all certainly be our elegant grandmas, will be there
for your broken bones. For my blues. No matter how bad. Surely they will.
Sure they will. But only if you and me properly care for their beauty and
properly light their brightness. All good young men — including our sons and
grandsons who’re a bit distanced from the blessings and the bitterness of our
homelands — if you don’t know how to properly protect and provide for good women
— go find a grandma, any grandma, yours or mine don’t matter. Humbly ask her.
Ask in your language or mine or mix, all the same.
When she answers, take tidy notes. Dan tentu kasihan’illaah (and surely God
will Love you).
Please go find a grandma — A Hmong Cha clan grandma or a
Bavarian-German-American one, a Spanish- or Russian-speaking one, a Native or
settled or Pac Islander grandma, all the same. Hold both her trembly hands and
thank her, your language or hers, she’ll know how you feel. Mending American
broken-ness is really important. It is never too late.
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