When I was in the third grade, my grandparents and I shared the master bedroom in my family’s apartment. I went to bed and woke up to the sound of my grandmother’s snores.

These days, one of the things I think about the most is how much I took those snores for granted.

As my grandparents get older, and we remain separated by the Pacific Ocean and a 14-hour flight, each passing day is a reminder of the time I don’t get to spend with them. But every so often, I remind myself that there’s only distance between us.

An illustrated picture of fireworks against the Shanghai skyline, followed by Chinese characters that translate to “Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!”
“中秋节快乐” means Happy Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese.

If you’re looking for a short list of things to text your grandparents and other loved ones about, maybe this is it.

My grandpa often sends random videos of cool water fountain displays and firework shows to the family group chat. Though I was sad to not be celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day with family in China, he sent me video highlights. Seeing fireworks set against the Shanghai skyline has brought me to tears more than a few times.

They sometimes send me pictures of the sunrise or the sunset. When I remember that we share the same sky, the same sun, and the same moon, I feel at peace. Other times, we send each other pictures of our meals. We share bowls of congee, on different coasts, with only distance between us.

A sunset at the beach.
We share sunsets. I sent my grandparents pictures of beaches, and they send me skyscrapers in exchange.
Two bowls of congee with green onions, pork floss, and Chinese doughnuts. The text in the bottom right reads “congee is love, congee is life”
An illustrated video call screen showing a potted plant on a table with a pink towel hanging from a line.

Occasionally, we call each other over WeChat.

Every call, my grandma struggles to angle the iPad at her face without fail, and most of the time, all I see is the top of her head and a once gray head of hair slowly turning white.

Because so much of our lives don’t overlap, some days I can’t think of any words to say. Over time, “take care of yourself,” “make sure to rest,” and “are you doing okay?” have started tumbling out of my mouth like muscle memory. Awkward silence is also something I’ve gotten used to.

Though I can’t give my grandparents flowers and fresh dumplings from street vendors, it’s still nice to send photos and WeChat stickers.

It’s not the same, but it’s what we have.