Grandma Yoneda passed away at the end of June in 2014, somewhat unexpectedly. She had been sick in the hospital with pneumonia and I remember being stressed out because I was trying to decide if I should fly home immediately or wait to see if her health improved. In the end, I was too late.
I didn’t write about her passing anywhere, excluding the thank you cards I wrote to people who sent me condolence cards and the emails I sent letting friends and family know I’d be home for about two weeks for a funeral. Looking back now, I didn’t realize how much my grief had consumed me.
My sister Alyssa and I spent our summers either at Kawakami Delicatessen (a restaurant owned and operated by Grandma Kaneshiro and her sisters) or at Grandma Yoneda’s house.
Grandma Yoneda always had Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas in her freezer for us. We’d often have pizza for breakfast. She’d pop two in the toaster oven and then serve it to us on a plate wrapped with a single sheet of foil. We’d watch Nick Jr. in the mornings and then Grandma Yoneda would have me practice writing hiragana on a chart. I practiced the strokes, copying her handwriting, and she used to sing me a song to help me remember the alphabet. To this day, I’ve never heard anyone else sing the Japanese alphabet with the same melody.
As a side note, at her funeral, a few of her nursing home friends attended and came up to me after the service to offer their condolences. During the eulogy, I mentioned how we used to practice the Japanese alphabet and one of her friends said they used to sing a lot together at the home. I explained that I remembered the melody, but I couldn’t always remember the order of the letters, and with a smile, her friends stood around me and sang the alphabet, just as Grandma Yoneda had shared with me so many times before.
Music played a big part in my Grandma’s life, especially as her Alzheimer’s progressed. My Aunty Jan used to tell me that she and Grandma used to sing “You Are My Sunshine” together. Growing up, I remember watching a Japanese program called Heaven’s Coins on television all the time. Japanese dramas were popular in Hawaii in the 90s and I remember watching the show at both Grandma Yoneda and Grandma Kaneshiro’s house whenever it was on.
I had someone take me to Hakubundo to buy the CD single of the theme song (performed by the show’s main actress, Noriko Sakai. It was one of those mini-cds and I remember sitting with Grandma Yoneda in the dining room trying to write out all of the lyrics. After we figured out the verses, she helped me translate each line so I could understand the song. Since she passed, I’ve avoided listening to it (even when I’ve felt nostalgic), but hearing it today has actually made me smile. I miss you, Grandma.