Happy Qing Ming! Back to Melaka. It’s that time of year where we contribute to the Chinese sub-economy by buying things to burn. Yes, we contribute to global warming too. Truth be told. I attend these things because I do get my cheap thrills from burning little paper clothes, mobile phones, shoes, and Hell currency. That was on Saturday.
Then on Sunday, my grandmother died. She was already in the hospital for eight days prior to my sister and me visiting her on Saturday afternoon. Then Sunday, while at morning mass, I get an SMS from my sister telling me to go the hospital. This can only mean two things. Either my grandmother has miraculously recovered and is disturbing the other patients with her breakdancing and her constant requests that they all get up to do the Mexican wave, or she is going to die.
Sadly, no body-poppin’ windmilling grandma. No one did the Mexican wave. An hour or so later, the last outstation relative arrives from KL. It’s one of those moments. No one is crying. Then when one starts, the dam breaks! Twenty minutes later, the heart rate monitor flatlines. My grandmother breathes out two breathes. And that’s it. Grandma has left the building.
Lemme tell you about my grandmother. Born in Ipoh in 1918. That’s it. Just 1918. In her passport next to “Date Of Birth”, it says “In the year 1918”. No one knows the date. When I used to ask her when her birthdate was, she would say “Everyday is my birthday.” So we’d randomly select one day in the year and celebrate her birthday. I am not sure how that went because along the way, we just stopped the celebration.
My grandmother was just always there. After my parents and my sister, she has been the most permanent fixture in my life. She was just always there and I wanted her there. (It probably has a lot to do with the fact that she arrived on this planet before I did.) All I know until today was that she was my grandmother. My parents and I lived in her house until my mother could afford to buy her own house when I was about five years old. I think. Then she’d stay over at my mother’s house during the weekdays to look after my sister and I while my mother was at work teaching in the afternoons. I developed my bullshitting skills with my grandmother when I had to convince her to let me go out to play or to get money from her to buy food from the guy that comes around in his mobile hawker stall.
When Friday came around, I’d feel sad because she had to leave us and go back to her home for the weekend. And she’d take the bus. Two buses in fact, to get home. Then we’d see her again on Sunday.
My grandmother was the only person I trusted to clean out my ears with a sharp metal stick thing. (What was I thinking?!) She is the reason why I can speak whatever Cantonese I know. She is responsible for my love for all things preserved and sour. She gave me my sense of humour. She gave me that sparkle in my eyes that people say I have. She bought me my first 7-Up. She showed me funny and irreverence. She showed me not to take crap from anyone. She showed me self-worth, strength, and independence. She showed me you could pick up decent pieces of vegetables on the market grounds and use it to feed the chickens. And more importantly, she showed the various ways to cuss someone out in Cantonese.
She hid in the jungle during the Japanese occupation while pregnant with my mother. She loaned money to my father to start his business. She made her own clothes. She liked lettuce and tomatoes.
During the past two days, I learned a few things I didn’t know about her, most of it by going through her things. For one, her hair wasn’t always white. She did have black hair. And she was once young. (Yes, it is obvious. But it is as obvious as your parents having sex. Some things just do not cross the mind.) She was the second wife to my grandfather. She has only visited Singapore twice; in 1969 and 1974. Twenty years ago, she went out on her own to get her picture taken and framed which was to be used for her funeral. She even picked out the urn. No one knew this except my aunt who related this just a few days ago. She had a picture of my graduation in her personal drawer. (That was my “Touched By An Angel” moment.) She had very few possessions but I think she was happy because she had many children and more grandchildren who loved her and still do.
She wanted to visit China. She wanted to see me get married. She told me not to drive too fast. I failed her on those counts.
So that’s my grandmother in a blogshell. As far as grandmothers go, I am pretty sure my grandmother could beat up your grandmother any day.
She was given a Buddhist funeral but I hope she prefers hanging out with Jesus.
Before you click on that “COMMENT” link, here are a few rules. I know you are sorry for my loss and thank you for your condolences. Do NOT tell me to “be strong” or “take care k?” or ask if I am OK because honestly, every day has been Mardi Gras since. (Blame my grandmother. I picked all this up from her!)
Grandma has left the building.