We walked into the Shells restaurant at 7 PM for our 6:30 reservation. Grandma had gotten lost on our way here, which shocked me because we’d come here every year since I was little, whenever I visited Florida. But I hadn’t said anything - grandma had seemed upset already.
“Welcome, Ms. Chen, how are you?” Samantha, the head waitress, warmly greeted us.
“Hello, darling!” They hugged and I smiled - grandma made friends everywhere she went.
We followed Samantha to a table by the windows, ordering our food and grandma’s favorite champagne. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, which I was happy about. I was so excited to catch up with grandma after not seeing her for months.
“So, sweetheart, what have you been up to lately? You look gorgeous, like always.”
My heart warmed. Grandma was the one person who could always make me smile. “Well, I’m still working on the design business, you know. It’s actually going really well!”
“Really? What design business?”
“Clothing of course. Remember when we were begging friends to wear them for free? Well, now, we’re selling online and in some stores!”
“That’s amazing, sweetie. But I haven’t heard about this before! When did you start the business?”
The food arrived then, but I was so shocked that I hardly noticed. How could she forget? She was the only one supporting me and my wild dreams from the very beginning. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a designer. Grandma had worn my patched-together creations and pretended to be a model on my make-believe catwalk. Later, she’d taught me to sew on her ancient sewing machine and even though I pricked my fingers and messed up countless times, I was overjoyed when I sewed my first dress.
I’d always wanted to spend time with grandma instead of staying in my parents’ mansion with a babysitter.
When I actually started my business a few years ago, grandma had been over the moon. “That’s my girl, following her dreams.” She had told me with tears in her eyes. Despite our difficulties getting started, grandma had done so much to help. She’d offered design ideas, spread the word among her circles, advocating for my dream to my parents...
“Sofia, love, are you alright?” Grandma’s concerned voice shook me out of my thoughts. I blinked and pasted on a smile.
“Of course, grandma.” I took a bite of my fish, which was amazing, but still couldn't take my mind off what just happened. Grandma, on the other hand, seemed to be perfectly oblivious. “How’s your food?”
Grandma chuckled, taking a bite of her grilled shrimp. “Oh, not bad. But I can definitely make better.” She winked at me. There was a sparkle in her eye that relieved me a bit. That was the silly, feisty grandma I knew.
However, grandma’s obvious forgetfulness worried me and I sent a text to mom to let her know. I quickly wiped a stray tear that fell - it destroyed me to feel like I was losing grandma. Dinner was still amazing, though. We caught up as much as we could, and it felt like old times again.
The next morning, I woke up before dawn and couldn’t get back to sleep. There was so much on my mind, especially after learning from mom that she and dad had already decided to send grandma to a senior home. Things were just moving too fast.
After endless tossing and turning, I decided to take a walk on the beach. When I got outside, the sun had risen, glistening on the waves like diamonds. I sat on the warm sand by the palm tree grove and felt myself relaxing.
“Sofiaaa!” I woke to a voice calling my name. I turned sleepily and saw grandma jogging down the steps towards me. I smiled and hugged her as she came up to me and sat down.
“Morning, sweetheart!” She was beaming.
“Morning, grandma. How’d you know I was here?”
“Don’t think I forgot about this being our spot! We used to play fairies and have little picnics and things here.” We sat quietly together, listening to the crashing waves and the occasional chirps of sea birds.
“You know, I come here all the time when you’re away. I have such great memories of our times together here…” Grandma suddenly said, squeezing me. “I wish you could visit more often.” She added almost in a whisper.
My heart ached at grandma’s words. I looked at her and saw her eyes glistening with tears.
“Why don’t we go back in and I’ll make you some breakfast? ” I changed the subject, got up and helped grandma up too.
As soon as we got back, I started making waffles, grandma’s favorite breakfast food. Then, I noticed grandma was mixing up dough in a huge bowl. “What are you making, grandma?” I was a little surprised - as far as I knew, she hadn’t been cooking much the past few years.
“Dumplings! You can’t visit and not have dumplings!”
“Of course not!” I chuckled at grandma’s overly serious expression. “But please let me help. I’ve always wanted to learn to make them.”
Over waffles and fruit syrup, grandma told me how cooking had been her lifeline when she’d first come to America from China as a young adult. She’d make her favorite traditional recipes with friends whenever she felt lonely, to make her tiny tenement feel more like home.
After breakfast, grandma let me help her knead the dough. As we stood next to each other in the kitchen, laughing and joking, cooking together, a rush of warmth and gratitude filled me. I’d never fully appreciated our relationship before, but now I knew I was going to call grandma every chance I got once I returned to college.
As grandma taught me how to make the perfect shaped dumplings, playfully critiquing my attempts, I had a feeling that things weren’t as bad as I’d thought. Tears welled up in my eyes, but to my surprise, I wasn’t sad. I felt happy and hopeful - grandma was still here, and there were many more memories to be made.