My grandfather passed away this morning. It’s Monday, February 22, 2016. I don’t even know how old he was.
Grandpa Lu was probably the most quintessentially stereotypical little old Chinese man. He was tiny and skinny, walked really slowly, slightly hunched over, was surprisingly soft-spoken considering how loud everyone else in the family is although when he raised his voice he still commanded everyone’s attention.
He was smart, and kind, and caring, and ever since I can remember he has always looked the same. He was always a constant in my life – when I went back to the countryside, I could always count on seeing him and my grandma – also an adorable quintessentially stereotypical little old Chinese woman – waiting outside the door waiting for us to arrive, and waving us in, and trying to help us bring in the luggage, and bringing us fruit from his garden and eggs from his chickens.
He couldn’t really speak Mandarin, and I can’t speak a word of the dialect, but somehow we managed basic communications – with a lot of prodding and pointing and asking my dad to translate. He and Grandma figured out the things I liked to eat and whenever I was there, they would have it prepared and bring me a platter of the stuff to snack on. When they moved and got a larger table with a lazy susan, he would always rotate the lazy susan to place the best foods in front of me and motion for me to eat it.
I don’t really know much about his life before I was born – we can’t really communicate, and I only know things that my dad has told me, which has mostly been focused around my dad’s youth. I know Grandpa was born sometime in the 30s because he’s older than my Grandma and she’s 81 this year; I know Grandpa was a child living through World War II and the Japanese massacre of the Chinese people; I know Grandpa lived through all of the horrors of Mao’s reign over China; I know Grandpa was the father of 3 girls and one boy and had to work overtime in the fields all of the time in order to feed his family, because women weren’t “paid” with the same amount of food as men were; I know Grandpa was a smoker but quit cold-turkey the minute he found out cigarettes were dangerous; I know Grandpa had many opinions about the Chinese government which would’ve gotten him thrown into jail if he ever voiced them to anyone other than his family. I don’t know much about Grandpa, but I’ve always known he was a survivor.
For the past few years, he had a myriad of health issues. It seems like every time I went back to China – which was about once or twice a year, mind you – he was sick or had just finished battling another health problem. He was almost never eating or had some kind of weird diet because he was having stomach and intestine problems, and he was frailer than ever, but it seemed like he just kept surviving. I never really thought more about it – Grandpa was a constant. He could survive anything.
When my dad called me on Saturday to tell me that he had fallen down on Chinese New Year and gotten some kind of medicine that ended up attacking the wrong parts of his body, but had switched meds to something that was helping him get better, I just assumed he was going to be okay.
Obviously, I was wrong.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to China to say my goodbyes. Either way, Grandpa – I love you. You have always been kind and I know I was one of your favorite grandchildren, whether or not that may be because I’m the daughter of your only son. You stood up for me that time I got into a fight with dad and you put dad in his place (which was really entertaining to watch, actually). You always ate some of the cakes and pies and tarts that I baked even when you were having stomach issues and couldn’t really eat anything, and you always made sure I had eaten enough even though I never eat much when I’m in the countryside, and you always tried to give me the best parts of the fish and the meat on the table. You and Grandma would always have that special pair of slippers laid out for me when I came to visit, which apparently only I could wear, and you were always there to greet us and help me bring in my suitcase even when I didn’t need help, and you were always so excited to see Hera even when she was afraid to even wave to you.
I’m someone who’s always entertained the idea of reincarnation – a life lost is a life gained somewhere else – and it was further reinforced when my grandma passed away on Hera’s birthday. So Grandpa – I hope you come back where society is better, where the government is less crazy, where you’ll have a family even larger than our ridiculously large family. I hope you have more children and they will have more children and maybe you’ll have more boys in the family than ours to balance it out some. I hope you are loved more than you already are. I hope your next life will be better and you’ll have to deal with less suffering and the people surrounding you will be kinder.
And I hope in the meantime, you’ll watch over us like you always have.