Came across a blog today – The World’s Greatest Grandma. It prompted me to leave a comment on the blog about my grandmother, but I thought: what does it matter to them? Maybe I should keep the thought somewhere where I can retrieve it and share.
In the blog, the author has a grandmother who is ill, and she loves going over to make meals and take care of her… etc It’s rare that in this time, 20 or 30 something year old people spare much of their precious time visiting grandma.
Willem has an oma who is 101 years old who lives about 20 minutes drive away and we can only make it once a month to visit her. Often, we forget to treasure what we still have, sight, taste, smell, hands, legs, parents and grandparents.
Oma is cool. She mostly speaks in Limburg language which I don’t speak more than 2 words. She told me that if I were to look for a job in this country I have just moved to, I have to make sure that I do something I enjoy and not just any other job. How often do you get advice as that from a 101 year old lady? My parents just want me to get a job, any job, for the sake of getting some money and maybe to have a thing or two to do. At the end of my first visit to Oma, she said in Limburg “Willem is enne gooie jong. He verdeent ut, de mos good veur em zorege” which was translated to “Willem is a good guy, he deserves it, you have to take good care of him”. I like this Oma, she reads, she makes sense, she knows what she is talking about. Often she likes to joke and tell us something about the olden days, about the 1 hour she had to cycle from her village to Maastricht to eat at a fish restaurant.
My grandmother from the far east was not as lucky as oma, she never got the opportunity to be educated. She can only write her own name which she occasionally had to sign on the immigration form when she traveled to Singapore to visit her sister. It was always interesting to watch her “draw” her name, slowly, in the wrong stroke but accurately form the characters. Being non educated, not able to understand any language than Hokkien, she was pretty much isolated from what was happening outside her world.
Her world evolved among her family and grand children. She was the master of making sure there is cooked meal on the table with the monthly Rm600 allowance given by my grandfather. I followed her to the market, she bargained every cent and every grain. She would naughtily grab another orange from the fruit stall at the end of the bargain process and murmuring something “I will have this one too, see you next week”.
I lived in the same house, growing up with her since I was born. At the time of growing up, I did not consider myself as lucky to live with the grandparents. Having them around means we could not eat out as often we we wanted, we could not change the sofa in the living room, we had to get permission from my grandfather when we would like to upgrade the TV to avoid him nagging on how the money is wasted. I was envious of my cousins who lived only with their siblings and parents, they could go on for holiday without thinking of the old folks at home.
My grandmother has passed away in January after being bedridden for about 2 years and on the wheelchair a couple of years before that. I have occasionally dreamt of her since. She was as healthy as before, she could walk and talk and was lecturing me in Hokkien as if I was still 12 years old rinsing the rice the wrong way.
Now that I am starting my own family soon and having to cook and (soon) to take care of a family, I am grateful that I have grown up with my grandmother. I have had the opportunity to have a glimpse of how my favourite food was made. When I was too young, grandma always shoo me out of the kitchen. When I started to be able to help, I got little jobs from her and those little jobs help me today in having some idea of what’s happening in the kitchen. Some times I am surprised at how many young people nowadays have no idea on how to clean the floor, kitchen, fold their own clothes… Once I even shared a flat with a lady who cleaned the whole house including floors and kitchen with only tissues papers.
Because I lived with my grandmother, she lives in my mind forever. I am so lucky compared to many of my cousins who have spent little time with her by circumstances. I never forget that are-you-crazy look when I gave her kisses on her forehead 8 years ago and I insisted on giving that kiss every time before I had to leave. “I love you” is a very weird phrase to say in Hokkien while hugging and kissing are not common in my family amongst the elder generation, I am not sure how do they express their affection but I hope she felt it when I kissed her.
Our grandmothers do not have to have invented some time machine to be special, they are all born naturally to be great.