The first time I was supposed to leave the country, I missed my flight from New York to Tunis, Tunisia. I remember running through the JFK airport, getting to security and trying to negotiate my way through without a boarding pass. I accepted defeat and checked Find My Friends to see who I could ask for a couch to crash on. One close friend was doing an internship in the area. I could ask him. But then I saw my mother was also in New York, just out of coincidence. I called her and ubered to her. We found a flight to Tunisia that left the next evening that cost $900. That was double the ticket I already bought. Welp.
The next day we visited my grandmother. I didn’t know her name. I still don’t know her name. She didn’t remember me when she saw me. Dementia or something. She was in some old person’s hospital with a gigantic swell on her forearm. She didn’t speak a single word of English and the nurses didn’t speak any Chinese. The environment made your skin crawl. I watched my mom struggle to have her sign a paper. She barely scribbled on it.
She died a couple weeks later. I think about those $900 I spent because I missed my flight. That might be the most valuable $900 I’ve ever spent. The previous time I saw my grandmother, I was in middle school? I didn’t know anything – too worried about the girl I liked. This last time, I was 18, about to leave North America for the first time. None of my siblings had seen her since that very first time. What a privilege it was to see her, see my mom with her. Even though she was in a bad state, there’s no amount of money you can pay to see a relative for the last time.