Lessons from My Grandmother

Young Lee avatar

by Young Lee |

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(Photo by Young Lee)

My family members are traveling from around the country this week to gather for a celebration of my grandmother’s 100th birthday. We’re all excited about the event, and though I’m biased, I think my grandmother is a special woman worthy of a massive celebration.

Standing at less than 5 feet tall, it is easy to underestimate my grandmother. However, despite her age, she has bundles of energy, can beat most of my relatives at mahjong, and is adept enough with her iPad to send out emails and stream Chinese television programs. I admire many things about my grandmother, including her remarkable ability to take life’s hurdles in her stride.

Her adaptability and poise in the face of change is something I aspire to incorporate into my own life. While she doesn’t have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) as some of my other family members and I do, I think I can learn from her mindfulness and wisdom.

I recall the many occasions when CMT raised its ugly head. As a child, I remember my discouragement as I struggled in physical education class due to my clumsiness. In college, during my gym course, I resigned myself to falling on my face at least once per class. During times like these, I’ve found it difficult to stay positive and look at my potential for improvement. Instead, I focused on my shortcomings.

But when I look at my grandmother and see how quick she is to laugh and smile, I see the chasm between my life experience and hers. And I wish I could capture her optimism and feistiness.

For much of her life, my grandmother lived in mainland China, mainly in the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai. She has memories of hearing explosions during World War II from her bedroom. Later in life, she moved her family with three kids to Taiwan; the journey involved a boat trip in a typhoon. In 1985, after raising her five children, she and her husband moved to the U.S.

My grandmother has lost some of her mobility with age. She walks with a rollator and requires some assistance with moving and bathing. Still, she laughs as much as my niece and nephew do. We’ve asked her what her secret is and she simply credits it to her easygoing nature and ability to laugh at herself.

There’s a story in our family about when one of my aunts got lost while walking home. Neighbors helped my aunt to find her way back by identifying my grandmother’s place as the one that belongs to “the family that likes to laugh.” Such was my grandmother’s reputation.

I’m learning to find the humor in life despite its struggles. It’s an everyday exercise. But when I am tempted to fall into frustration, whether it’s due to tripping over my feet or fumbling with my fingers, I think of my grandmother and the importance of laughter.


Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.


Megan S avatar

Megan S

Very moving and touching piece!

Jill Price avatar

Jill Price

Such a loving tribute!


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