Saturday, 5 November 2016

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A Letter to Granny

Birthday gathering with cousins at Telok Blangah... I am the girl in yellow

Dearest Ah Ma

I have so much I wanted to say to you, but each time we Facetime, words just disappeared, and I didn't know what to say. It seemed so awkward and mushy. Each time I put the phone down, I am filled with regret.

I thought that I have learned, since my father passed on, that I should take the courage to say words of appreciation to my loved ones, while they are still with us, even if the words may come out awkward and mushy. But alas, I couldn't. I just couldn't. It feels unnatural.

Perhaps it is the Asian up-bringing. We don't hug and say "I love you," to our kids or to our parents. But deep down inside, we know that we love our loved ones. And deep down inside, I know that you know that I love you.

Asians are men of few words. We are not as articulate, even with our loved ones. But that's ok. I know that God has accepted me as I am, for my reticence. We have accepted one another. It's alright. It is the presence that count, even if it is just silent presence. We say "I love you" with our hearts.

But, Ah Ma, I am the type who writes, so I will write to you instead. Perhaps that's why most reticent people are very lasting bloggers.

Dear Ah Ma, I will write you a letter. I will pen down my heart-felt words to you. I hope I will have the courage to read it to you.

I want to tell you how much I appreciate you, and how much I have learned from you, how to become a loving grandmother.

I remember when I stayed with you occasionally during the school holidays at Telok Blangah. How I would wake up, and you would ask me, "Ler ai jiak me gai?" what I would like for breakfast - milo with kaya, noodle soup, roti prata sprinkled with sugar or curry? I would make my choice and you would always fulfill my wish.

My favorite is your Yee Mee noodle soup. You would marinate the chicken and cook it for me, while I brushed my teeth and get ready.

Your voice, your loving tender singsong teochew voice, still rings in my ears.

Years passed, I moved to Denmark... you could no longer cook. I sometimes try to re-create your Yee Mee noodle soup, but it just doesn't taste like yours. I wish I had ask you for the recipe, while you still could cook, before dementia catches up with you. Your special noodle soup will be lost forever...

Although I don't quite make it like you did, it still reminds me of you, each time I cook it. Do you know that I make Yee Mee noodle soup for J now, and he loves it?

As a child, after dinner, Ah Gong and you would say, "Come, let's go for a walk, good for food digestion." You would say in teochew, "kia, nan khee kia kia," Did you know that my heart would leap up with joy? I had never tell you, but I guessed you could see that in our expression as children. Each time I thought of it, I could still feel the joy I experienced as a child. You love jalan jalan, and I love jalan jalan. We would walk up to Stream Garden at Telok Blangah Hill. Dear Ah Ma, did you know that I was observing Ah Gong and you? Ah Gong and you would walk side-by-side, leisurely and lovingly. I don't remember if you guys held hands, but you would walk together and you could walk for long. You showed me how to be loving to your spouse in marriage, in your own special Asian way. Ah Gong and your marriage was a tower of strength, even though Ah Gong was a man of few words. You showed me how to be tolerant. I asked my mother, and she told me that Ah Gong and you hardly pickle.

My brother recalled that Ah Gong and you brought us for jalan jalan at Chinatown. We would ask to ride those small electric cars at People's Park, and you would give us the coins for it.

I remembered how you would call out my baby sister, "Meimei..." These are my memories of you.

Dear Ah Ma, in your younger days, you were the central source that gathered the family. I remembered how during school holidays and birthday celebrations, all our aunties, uncles and cousins would gather at Telok Blangah. My mum, Aunt Alice, Aunt Misah, Dua Kim would be busy in the kitchen making Mee Rebus or Mee Siam for lunch and preparing steamboat for dinner. Then at night, the whole living room will be turned into the sleeping quarter with mattresses all laid out on the floor end-to-end. All the cousins would sleep side-by-side on the mattresses on the floor, and it was so much fun. That was one of the best things I looked forward to as a child, the simple joy of camping at your place in the living room. Now that is one of the best time of my life that I look back with joy. Long before I learned about the American family tradition of Family Fun Night, you have already taught us that concept. Our childhood were so much more enriched, because of you. Each time when my tiger-mom tendency rears its ugly head, I will remember you and let J and C have the kind of bonding time that you had given me with their grandparents.

Days passed, years passed... Ah Gong passed on... you could no longer live on your own... the Telok Blangah flat was sold... we no longer have the Family Fun Night with the cousins like we used to do... and I look at all that I missed with sadness.

But towards the very old age of your life, you once again become the central gathering source... through the very trying period that we are now going through, seeing you going through a very trying period... You pulled the family together, speaking forgiveness in our hearts, breaking down pride and bringing healing as we all gather around you by your bedside with the love that surrounds the silence.

Dear Ah Ma, although you didn't have an education and can't read a single character, yet you trusted Jesus with a simple child-like faith that touched my heart. Although everything that takes place in church is in English, you wanted to go to church and went to church regularly. When you got weaker, you still asked to go to church. Although you didn't receive any education, I am really amazed and touched that God could reach deep down to your heart and touch you, and enable you to believe in Him. You are in good hands, Ah Ma, you are in good hands. God will take care of you forever.

Dear Ah Ma, do you know that you are an amazing and admirable woman? I have learned so much from you, as you model your life for us, simply just by living it the way you are. When I become a grandma, I hope to learn to be as loving like you have been to me as my grandma. I hope to learn to speak in the warm tone like you do to my grandchildren.

I need to pray, that I would somehow know how to translate this letter to you in Teochew.

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