Ching Ming

Spring has sprung! Spent a week in Boston visiting my folks post-thaw. I happened to arrive the day after Ching Ming. The next day, we went to pay our respects to my grandfather and great-grandmother.

I do it out of tradition, but really I believe that visiting a grave is for the living, not the dead. It’s a time to remember.

Things I remembered about my great-grandmother:

  • She was gentle.
  • She helped take care of me and my sister for years while my parents worked.
  • She had stylish glasses.
  • She was frugal.
  • She unknowingly stole ice cream from the Scooper Bowl every year, stocking her freezer with “free ice cream from the park” for when my sister and I visited.

In retrospect, I feel bad that I wouldn’t eat some of that ice cream because I was picky. I’m pretty sure she ate the ones I rejected, to avoid wasting food, whether she enjoyed them or not.

Things I remembered about my grandfather:

  • He always greeted us with “hola”.
  • He would study every new toy we showed him to see how it worked.
  • He liked to drink Chinese tea and read the newspaper.
  • He had a yellow canary that he found in the parking lot at work. I can still whistle its song.
  • The time he took me to Boston Common when we first moved to the US. I was afraid to cross the street and he said (in Chinese), “Don’t be afraid, if a car comes I’ll stop it with my foot!” I truly believed that he could.

Dad told us a little more about my grandfather’s (adopted) father on the way back. It wasn’t clear to me where he was born, but he grew up in Peru, and spent most of his life there. According to Dad, he had a Peruvian wife and family in addition to my great-grandmother and grandfather back in Hong Kong.

When he got old, he moved to Hong Kong and lived out the rest of his years with my great-grandmother. Dad says he spoke more Spanish than Chinese. I seem to recall from past stories that he either suffered from dementia or a brain injury. I don’t remember which, and even though I’ve met him, I don’t remember because I was too young.

I learn a little more about my family’s history each time I visit. How much more is there?

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