The people at my Grandmother's old age home are preparing a photo memory book for her. My aunt asked me to give her some pictures of the family and of Grandma engaged in some activities conducted at the home.

As part of the book, all my aunts and uncles, as well as us grandkids were asked to write something about her - our feelings, experiences and thoughts - I don't know what to write.

Some of my cousins have spent more time with her, on a day-to-day basis, then others. And although I lived with my Grandma when I was much younger, I don't remember a lot of those times.

......I really don't know what to write.....

If I think back, the only thing that vividly comes to mind is the time when we went to New York (I believe it was New York) to visit my uncle. it was night time and Grandma and I were just getting settled in to sleep. I think we were sleeping in the living room or den and although the lights were out, I could still see her because light was streaming through the window from the street.

Grandma sat down on the bed and lit up a Kent. I asked her why she smoked and she said it helps her to relax and sleep. I asked her if she smokes during the day and she said "no", just one before going to bed.

I never thought about it at the time but as I think back now, I realize I never understood why she need to "relax", for as long as I can remember, it has always seemed like Grandma has been taken care of - by her children. We never had those typical dinners at Grandma's house nor do I really even remember her cooking for that matter. I knew that my Grandfather left Grandma and my aunts and uncles a long time ago but I had always "heard" that my mom and oldest uncle were old enough by then to take care of the rest of my aunts and uncles - Grandma has 7 kids all-together.

So.....relax? Why? It never seem like she had anything to do, other than playing Mahjong. As it turns out, I don't know as much as I thought.

Having read what two of my aunts wrote about Grandma....I think I now know why she needed to "relax."

At 32, Grandma had no husband, no education and 7 kids to take care of. And if I do the math, the two oldest kids, my mom and uncle, were probably around 15 and 16. I'm sure they were of some help, but not really THAT much(at least not emotionally). I understand that my Grandfather gave some financial support after he left, but when that stopped, if not for relatives helping out - well, I might not be here today. Given the situation, it seems pretty obvious that the stress levels were pretty high for Grandma.

I see Grandma differently now - I know that some of my aunts and uncles feel like she wasn't really there for them - because when my Grandfather was around, Grandma went out to play Mahjong with her friends a lot. But while her life was pretty good when my Grandfather was around, that changed pretty drastically when he left.

I can't even begin to fathom how scared and alone she must have felt - add to that the sense of "debt" she shouldered for the financial support she received from relatives - saying that she had some stress would be a huge understatement.

I see Grandma differently now - looking at her, I see a woman of incredible strength and resolve - I mean honestly, 7 kids to raise with no education and little opportunity for employment - are you kidding me????

For as long as I can remember, I have never know Grandma to raise her voice or demand anything. The world could be crumbling around her but as long as the family was around her, she would have no concerns whatsoever. I always thought that sort of "aloofness" was because she was so pampered...well, that's a load of crap. That "aloofness" is what has allowed her to cope, to keep good attitude despite the hard times and I think it's something I need to learn.

The simple things make her content...I need to learn that too.

I have always and will always love my Grandma. I have always and will always respect her, but now it's not just because she's my elder, my Grandma. She deserves my deepest respect because of her strength...hell, if not for that strength, who knows where I would be today!