Remembering Grandma, Discovering Dad

Yesterday as part of Mother’s Day, I went with my parents, sister and her fiance to visit our paternal grandmother who passed away 14 years ago. Had it already been that long? I still distinctly remember the night we got the news. My cousin called and spoke with my mom. When my mom told my dad, he at first asked, “Your mom?” “No,” she replied, “Yours.” Then he immediately left the house for my aunt’s who lived just a few minutes away, the oldest of the siblings.

As the years have passed time has brought healing, and on this visit to her grave, I was surprised to hear something I’d never heard before from my dad – funny stories of him and my grandma. It’s been interesting to see that since my sister got engaged, my dad has been sharing more about the history of our family and culture. An unexpected grace of this soon to be addition to the family.

My dad shared two stories. The first, the day my grandmother was mad at the children for leaving their shoes in the walkway instead of on the side, so that she’d keep tripping over them. She had said she’d throw them all out the gate. What did my dad do? Trickster that he was, he took all the shoes and threw them over the gate! My grandmother then freaked out explaining that she didn’t really mean it. Then the whole family – 2 parents and 11 children – were laughing.

On another occasion, two of my dad’s sisters had lost money playing games during the Tet (Lunar New Year) celebration and asked my grandmother for more. My grandmother was losing money at the time too though, so wasn’t very happy about this request. She then proceeded to take some of the small red envelopes (that are customarily given to children on this holiday with money inside) and threw them into the fire, telling my aunts to get them there. My grandfather just sat there and smiled, knowing that there really wasn’t any money in those envelopes that she threw in. My dad, having caught onto this, then took the rest of the envelopes and threw them in too. Of course, there was money in those envelopes! Which again freaked out my grandmother and got everyone laughing again.

Through these two simple stories I was able to know my grandmother – and even my father – in a way that I’d never known before. It highlighted for me the special connection my dad shared with her that I never knew about, and fun little boy that my dad was – and still is from time to time. There is a softer, more playful side that I am discovering here. I think my grandmother is very much smiling down at my dad now. I think she thinks he’s doing a pretty good – no, great – job. I think so too.

I’m looking forward to hearing more stories, and also writing new ones together. I’m amazed by how you can learn about someone in this way – memories of a past you never knew, etched into the heart of a loved one. Treasures like that can never be taken away.

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