Yesterday my aunt and I went on a sushi date. Originally, we were supposed to run together, then go to the mall to buy my mom a hat, and go home. Well, I ran. She didn't. We got to the mall four minutes before it closed and there were no hats my mom liked. Then as we were going home she asked if I wanted to go eat with her. Just me and her.
For as long as I've been alive I don't even remember going out to eat with my aunt one on one. We've always gone with family. She claimed we had before, but maybe I was too young to even recall. I jumped at the opportunity. It felt so rare, and so suddenly fun. I felt like a child all over again. But I quickly had to remind myself that I was twenty and turning twenty-one soon and that I should work hard to keep my almost-adult face on.
We decided on sushi. She urged me to buy whatever I wanted and was clearly looking to spoil me, probably because she knew how much I deprived myself in Paris (I was money-conscious the whole time). She bought me coffee before, bought me five sushi rolls, and even asked if I wanted a drink or to go buy wine coolers (no shame there). It was so unfamiliar, but so tempting. Like pulling me back into childhood all over again.
Over sushi we talked about a lot of things. It's interesting seeing the dynamic of relationships change over time using dinner dates as the markers or milestones for realizing change. Not just with her; with anyone, really. Before on car rides, we'd be talking about how college was and classes. Now it was more-so about things like my mom's condition, my dad's temper, the secret problems that I've always known to be in the background but was never allowed to confront and pull to the surface until now, now that I give less fucks and feel a little more brave. She played Candy Crush the whole time but I knew she was listening and I didn't take it as rude for some reason. Then we went home and lied to our family by saying we'd only gone for a long drive so the little kids wouldn't get upset that they weren't allowed to come for once.
I admire my aunt so much for her strength. I always tell myself that my first tattoo will be for the women in my family - my mom and my two aunts. They're each so strong in their own way.
My aunt, Valerie, was born in Vietnam. My mom told me once that my grandma had given her away to a different family before they immigrated to the United States because she feared being unable to raise her. My grandpa stole her back and brought her along with us. In the U.S., she learned English and eventually took an office job at the soldering company with some of my family members. She's the one that knows English best in our family.
When I was young, my aunt would practice my handwriting with me and force me to write my homework out legibly. I remember in vivid detail being on the third floor, the two of us laying on the floor on our stomachs, me tracing over dotted letters - cursive and print - that she had written out herself for me to practice. And one time in particular when she saw a homework assignment I had written up in haste and made me rewrite the entire thing on a new piece of paper. She sat there and watched every stroke of my pencil, every movement on the paper until I was finished, instructing me when to erase and rewrite certain words or letters. And people wonder why my penmanship is the way it is. Or why I'm so particular about my handwriting and notes.
Now as I'm older, she's really been more than just a handwriting coach to me and aunt. She's another mother and at times, a teenager with me. She listens to my journey as a nursing student. She gives me money when my family is in a crunch. She takes me out. And she's shown me impeccably strength as she stood and watched my grandpa pass before her eyes without shedding a single tear (I watched, I swear). She stayed with him through every appointment, every chemo session, every inpatient and outpatient visit and still didn't budge when he took his last breath. Unbelievable strength.
I aspired to be as good as her when I'm older. I can't even find the right word - good doesn't do any justice. How she can be the backbone of our family and provide for us while supporting her own kids and still finding time to be silly really makes me realize how important it is to still find happiness amidst all the adversity that you might battle day in and day out.
She told me to come every once in a while so we could make these dinner dates a thing.
She makes coming home more bearable.