Author’s note: I’ve really gotten behind in posting so some of these are from several months ago…
On February 9th, a sunny day in Los Angeles, we laid my dear grandfather to his (body’s) final resting place next to my grandmother. So many tears and sadness…but was really beautiful.
I was fortunate enough to create the slide show and give the eulogy:
My grandpa would always say that I was an “LA geerl,” because I knew how to get to Sunday Café without directions. And in many ways, he was right. I started to come to LA regularly when they moved here in the mid-nineties. I even took a job in Westwood after college to be closer to my grandparents.
I was fortunate to grow up with all four grandparents. I was particularly close to Popo and Kung Kung Tam since they basically raised me while both my parents worked, delivering me fed and bathed to my parents in the evenings. I learned so much from my grandfather – what discipline, positivity, generosity, and love look like.
Kung Kung was one of the most disciplined people I knew, doing tai chi and chi kung every day late into his life when he could barely walk, going through the motions near his walker. He was an avid church-goer and always ate healthy, unless he was joining me in a Forbidden rice dessert at Foong Sing.
That’s not to say, he didn’t take great joy in life. He loved trying different cuisines – we ate our way through the world – Ukranian, Argentinian, Greek, Spanish, good ole’ Lawry’s prime rib. He loved traveling, going on cruises, and venturing vicariously with me through my globetrotting photos.
He also inspired me by how he could find such joy in the daily: watering his plants in the yard, reading the Chinese newspaper, a good home-cooked meal with family, talking about the olden days in the village. He was impressively always on top of current events, even late in his life. He would start laughing with me if I was laughing at the TV, even if he had no idea of why I was laughing. And he’d take such joy when contestants would spin a Bankrupt in Wheel of Fortune.
He was the most generous man I ever knew – I never saw him be greedy or selfish. He’d always give away the best parts of the fish and eat the stuff no one else wanted to eat. He just wanted to see others happy. And he showed the most generosity for his family.
He was so dedicated to Popo, through a lifetime of weekend mah jong games (and debts), going to the facility every day to push my grandma endless times around the courtyard while my grandma complained of how moong bai bai he was! J And he did so with the softest heart and strongest core – it’s hard to be surrounded by 7 strong women!
He was a great brother and son. He would tell me about how he learned to cook when he was 8 since he had to take care of his brother when his mother would go up into the hills to find firewood. He met his father once when he was 11. His father then went back to work on the plantations in Hawaii but couldn’t come back b/c of WWII and eventually died in Hawaii not long after. His little brother was born from that one time his father visited.
And of course, he was the best grandfather. There is no love as purely unconditional as the love between a grandparent and a grandchild. There are no parental expectations…there is just great mutual joy for being alive! We were very close, and he would often refer to me as his last daughter.
When Kung Kung and Popo lived in Hawaii, we would often take the 14 and 1 bus to go to China Town (because Popo didn’t want KK to learn to drive) to buy groceries and eat dim sum at Legend. He would give me the quarter to pay for the fare, let me pull the stop, and then when I got tired, he would carry me up the steep hill to their house. He would take me to karate and eat at Jolly Rogers and McDonald’s…all by public transportation. He thought I was so special and “so smaht” when I’d get the Jeopardy questions right.
Later in life, we’d play Chinese chess and even later in life, we’d just sit in the living room, looking at each other and laugh, not saying anything.
My grandfather was also an avid sleep talker, and I’d often ask him what he dreamt about. He said he would dream about the olden days in the village. When he was going to bed, I’d always wish him a good night and to “go make dreams.”
I know he’s living in heaven now with God and all the people from his dreams, including my Popo and that gives me so much peace. Jao tao, Kung Kung…I’ll see you one day as well. Until then, I’ll carry you in my heart and be a more generous and loving person because of you.