I met my daughter Mini’s grandma nearly a decade ago. To protect her identity, I will call her Nana.
From my first interactions with Nana, I learned how positive and compassionate she was. She has a tender heart for all living things and has so much strength and resolve in her day to day living.
Nana became a grandmother way earlier than she originally expected. There was much turmoil and instability in my relationship with Mini’s father in her early childhood. Mini’s father was a good hearted man but we were both too young to maintain a healthy relationship and partnership in raising Min. Nana filled in the blank and much more. She was there to help with Ella on the weekends, so I could study for tests in medical school. We lived 40-50 miles apart during my first 2 years of medical school, in spite of her busy work schedule, Nana found time to pick up Ella from me for the weekend so I could catch up with school and work more hours at the library.
There were many heart breaking moments we’ve shared together. Nana was always so strong and supportive through it all. There were many exciting milestones which marked new chapters of Mini’s childhood and new phases of my professional training. She was the representative parent for all the medical school ceremonies from beginning to end.
When I first started medical school, Mini was with my parents, 400 miles away from me for a few weeks until her father moved to near my medical school so he could watch her during the 16 hours I’m not at home, attending classes and working at the library. It was very hard to have Mini away from me for so long; it was a hard 6 weeks, which began with orientation and the White Coat Ceremony.
Nana came to my White Coat Ceremony, brought me her microwave, and took my friend and me out to a very nice dinner afterwards. I felt so loved and fortunate to celebrate this milestone with her, as it signified the beginning of my journey to assume the privileged responsibility of caring for patients.
2 years later, prior to leaving my medical school for clinical rotations, there was the Pinning Ceremony. Again, Nana represented all of my family. I was so happy that she came because we both knew that I would not have made it half way through medical school without all the ways that Nana had supported and cared for us. I was determined to never let Nana down.
During 4th year of medical school, a journey of nearly 6 months away from home included 3 1-month-long away rotations throughout the country, and nearly 4 months of 40 some interviews. Nana was very busy at work, as she was preparing for retirement but still supporting multiple family members and donating to many worthy causes. She found the time to come visit us, which really warmed Mini’s heart, as she was learning to deal with an absentee mother as a 6 year old.
One of my away rotations was near Nana’s house, so I lived with her during those 4 weeks. It was one of the funnest 4 weeks I fondly recall about medical school. Nana welcomed and loved me unconditionally. After long hours of work, we would chat about our days, our common passions, Mini and her son, in the living room. She would feed me very delicious and healthy foods she made herself or took out on her way home from work.
I flew directly from her town to my very first radiology interview. While I was with Nana, she bought me 3 pairs of amazing shoes, 2 pairs of tennis shoes, 1 pair of dress shoes. They were so comfortable. Everywhere I traveled to or worked at, I remember how generous and loving Nana had been to me.
Throughout interview season, Nana was always the first to know how much I liked a particular program/city. She knew when my flight was delayed or cancelled. She knew whether I’m staying on a couch or with a friend. She always made the effort to check in on me, regardless of how hectic work had been or how tired she had felt. She also loaded me full of nice toiletry and fragrant lotions, even a poetry book to read at the airport. She always said, “I got this for you because I knew you would never go and get this for yourself. I want you to take care of yourself.”
I have never met anyone more thoughtful and loving than Nana.
In my extensive traveling, I missed Mini very much. I felt guilty each time Mini cried at the airport, when they dropped me off. I felt bad that Mini’s dad was pretty much a single parent to our 6 year old daughter. I was grateful for what he did but really wished I was there for Mini myself as well.
Mini, her dad, and I would not have survived those critical hard months without Nana’s support. Just when we thought she couldn’t have been more generous or empathetic, she surprised us with reaching out more. Without us ever asking, she repeatedly helped with my interview costs… Extending herself without any strings attached, she gave so generously.
She had more impact on my rank list of programs than anyone else did. I wanted to be close to her. I wanted Mini to see Nana as often as possible. I wanted to take root in a place that we could afford to stand on our own yet still be accessible to Nana.
Came Match day; I was gearing up to buy a house. I originally thought that NO Down payment was required at all because it was a doctor’s mortgage. Also thought that my debt profile was superb, because I only had ~50k of student loan at that moment, ~30k of credit card debt @ 0% interest rate.
Not so, as I found out. The 30k of credit card debt made my debt to income ratio too high to qualify for a mortgage. When we shared the situation with Nana, she offered her unreserved support. She helped pay down my credit cards so that I could qualify for the mortgage, she later also contributed to a down payment that secured us the best 30 year fixed mortgage rate within our reach.
I told her I would pay her back as soon as the mortgage closed. Since I could take cash out of credit cards and keep that revolving balance @ 0-2% until I pay it off.
Then, we found that our roof needed a total replacement. Our AC broke… Nana then told us that she would pay for the roof and part of the AC, and that I could just repay her less and more slowly.
I was speechless. She again and again extended herself on our behalf. She literally put the roof over our heads and the cool air in our home. I wish I could start reciprocating NOW. I wanted to take her out to dinners and pay for her tickets when she visit us. But she is not yet letting me do so as I’m still in training.
She has been the epitome of selflessness.
She recently helped us to refinance our home, so that we could lower our mortgage interest rate: resulting in lower mortgage payment yet building equity faster. As I always discuss critical decisions with her, more so than my own parents or anyone else, I was explaining my plan to pay off this house in 7 years, on the conservative assumption of the lowest attending radiologist’s annual pay.
She joked, “Sounds like I will have a pretty good retirement.” If this came from anyone else, I would have felt imposed upon and pressured. But coming from Nana, I felt so happy and proud that she would think this way. I would be so honored and pleased to be part of her rewards in retirement!
Nana’s visited us twice since we moved here; we have had so many wonderful memories during her short stays. My dream is to one day purchase a vacation home for her in our current neighborhood, so that we could live close by and share more wonderful memories.
I’m eternally grateful to have become Nana’s daughter. Our family of 3 has gotten to this day of growing stability and strength, all thanks to her tireless helping hand.
Mini’s middle name was after Nana’s first name. I hope and pray that Mini will grow up to have the same unbound kindness, inner strength, work ethic, and positive outlook on life as Nana has.
- As my friend once said, “when I signed up for med school, my whole family did too.” Who’s your advocate and fan in your arduous journey of pursuing medicine?
- Who inspired you to pursue medicine in the first place?