My grandmother passed away last week at age 98. She was my paternal grandmother, my last surviving grandparent.
I wasn’t going to write about it because I felt it was a bit morbid, and also pretentious, since I had failed to appreciate her adequately in the last decade or so.
But I didn’t get to say goodbye to her officially (wasn’t able to attend the funeral in Singapore) and continued thinking about her through the weekend, so I thought I’d say a few words as a goodbye.
I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with my grandmother because we never lived together and, for a large part of my life, I only saw her once a year during Chinese New Year.
Also, we didn’t speak the same language. I could speak a bit of her language (Teochew, a Chinese dialect) but at a laughable child’s level. We communicated sometimes in Mandarin but we were both rubbish at it. My relatives used to laugh at me (affectionately) when I was little, saying I sounded like a Caucasian trying to speak Mandarin.
Still, I remember my grandmother as a caring and hardworking woman with a sense of humour. I don’t have any specifics, but I do remember moments when she would tease her grandchildren and laugh at our cute foibles.
My main memory of her is of the time when I was 21 and in hospital for surgery to remove a bone tumour. I was only in there for about a week, but she came to see me every day and brought me tonics she’d lovingly boiled.
After I was discharged, she came to stay so she could look after me while I recuperated. She cooked me nutritious, healing meals and helped with chores around the house until I was well again.
I didn’t know that was typical of the care she showed all her children and grandchildren until I read stories about her from my cousins in Facebook. I mean, I never really thought about what she was doing with her life since I was all wrapped up in my own world. I guess she went around a lot, helping whomever needed help. And it was probably a lot of going around because she had 10 children and 28 grandchildren.
I’m guilty of not having ever made the effort to spend time with her and get to know her. I didn’t know how to, not just because of the language barrier but because I grew up not having the ability to have a conversation with anyone (Asperger Syndrome).
All the same, I’m thankful that she loved me unconditionally, anyway.
Thank you, ah ma. I’m sorry I could never have told you this in person, but I appreciate everything you did for your family. May you rest in peace now.