After rereading my post about my father, I realised I may have inadvertently cast my grandmother as the villain of the piece. Nothing can be further from the truth, and please allow me to clarify.
Although my grandmother and my father did not get along, for various reasons which I will not elaborate on, she was a good person and I loved her very much.
What a life she must have had. Married at an early age to a man she has never met, she had to travel a long distance to a foreign land, and adopt foreign customs and traditions. Before she set sail, the only information she had about my grandfather was a photograph of a handsome man and that he was the son of a wealthy and powerful man.
I can’t begin to imagine what her disappointment would have been like when she found out he was mentally disabled. She must have felt lonely and abandoned.
Despite all that, she embraced nyonya costume and custom. Our family do not believe in following tradition and rituals (we do not even celebrate birthdays), so she is the one that encouraged us to attend rituals and ceremonies.
She was a strong and resilient woman, and in many ways a role model and inspiration for me.
She visited us often and my father would invite her to stay for extended periods. I would often spend time at her house during school vacations.
I was generally regarded as her favourite grandchild, for perhaps less than “woke” reasons. Unlike my father and brother, who look somewhat Malay and are often mistaken as Malay, I look more stereotypically Chinese (to be more precise, Cantonese Guangzhou). I am often mistaken for a native when I visit Hong Kong, and they get very confused when they find out I don’t speak Cantonese very well. Perhaps I reminded my grandmother of herself when she was young.
Also, I loved eating the food she loves, such as preserved plums and red ginger. She often gives me bags of nyonya delicacies whenever she visits. She used to make me sit and listen to Chinese opera records with her. I was devastated when she died.
- My mother