I lived with my grandfather for three years from 9-12. Those were some of the best times I’ve ever remembered from my childhood. Grandfather was a tough military man who joined Mao’s long march up north when he was just 14 years old. Although no taller than I am, he walked faster than most teenager in his 80s and smoked like a chimney. Grandfather liked to play poker and hated to see people cry. Under his iron fist I learned to laugh and cry at the same time. A ridiculous thing I still do ‘til this day.
The news came to me from my mother after she read it on the news paper. Since my parents are not on speaking terms after the divorce, it was my responsibility to call father to send him my condolences. It’s astonishing how much hatred there can be between two people who once loved each other enough to promise to spend the rest of their lives together. I guess with bigger commitment comes bigger disappointment. Despite few initial attempts, I quickly gave up on dialing. It was easier to live with the guilt than trying to search for few inadequate words in a language I no longer master. It hurts I know very well that those words probably mean everything to dad. I remember the night we visited my grandmother in the hospital when I was four. She was terminally ill and even at that young age I was well aware it was our last visit. We were not close but she was my grandmother. Before entering the hospital father meticulously rehearsed everything I was suppose to say. “Tell grandmother to get better so she can come visit you in Beijing. Make sure you invite her to see you next year.” I knew it was a lie but I didn’t know how difficult it was to lie in front of my dying grandmother. I was choked up with tears and nothing came out of my mouth. Mother tried to take me away from the bed so father could stop pressuring me to talk. He was very upset afterwards. I understood his anger but there was nothing I could have done. Grandmother passed away few months later while we were in