Zhou Pei Lin

And I find it kinda funny

I find it kinda sad

The dreams in which I'm dying

Are the best I've ever had

Yin Yang

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

On Wednesday, my paternal grandfather passed away.

The same grandfather, Fan Boon Tong, who was hospitalized not too long ago is now dead, embalmed, and probably cremated by now. I felt a little numb when I heard the news. I couldn't cry, because I had expected it. I saw it coming. Though I never thought it would be that soon, I cannot deny the fact that I knew he would be going soon. The last time I saw him alive, he couldn't recognize me at first, and thought I was his grandniece... but after a while, he looked at me and asked, "Lui-lui ah, Tzai-tzai hiong bin dou ah? Mou tong huei lei ah?" Lui-lui was his nickname for me when I was growing up. He had asked me in Cantonese where my dad (Tzai-tzai) was, and asked why I didn't come with him. He could recognize me, and I was glad he could.

He used to drive my grandma and I to Ang Mo Kio where my cousin Kevin lived, in that blue lorry of his. I was very young then, but I can still remember him lifting me up into the lorry and sitting me in the middle, between grandma and himself. I even remember one time he tried to help me up into the lorry, but I said no, and tried to climb up by myself instead. I was about five then, and was barely taller than the tyre. I lost my balance and fell, but he caught me in the nick of time.

A lot of people asked me why I didn't seem affected by his death. I told them truthfully that I had expected it for a while now, but I didn't tell them I was keeping my emotions in as well. The night I learnt of his death, I couldn't sleep until 4am. Memories of my grandma and grandpa just flooded my mind and I tossed and turned all night. Instead, I took some drowsy medicine and fell asleep.

Then there are some that questioned his relationship with me. He's not my real grandfather, to tell you the truth. We have different surnames. Wouldn't that strike you as odd, him being my paternal grandfather? The thing is, my biological grandfather died before I was born. He had two wives. I called one Lou-Ma, and the other Ma-Ma. Ma-Ma remarried, and by marriage, became my grandfather, the only one I call Ye-Ye, the only Ye-Ye I know. Throughout the years there were arguments and disputes within the Chow family. Even my parents called Ye-Ye "Uncle". But I wasn't old enough to understand any of it.

My Ma-Ma died eleven years ago, around this time of the year, before Depot Road was redeveloped. Her wake was held at the now non-existent basketball court in front of their block of flats. At that time, it seemed like a little bit of my Ye-Ye had died along with her. I felt like a little bit of me had, too. After that, my Dai-Gu-Jeung severed all contact, and slowly my extended family drifted apart. Immediately, as an eleven year-old, I missed the closeness that my family used to have. We'd gather every now and then at my Sam Suk's place and just eat, talk and have fun.

I honestly didn't want to go to the wake. Funerals are so depressing in my opinion. I would rather like to remember him as when he was alive, cheerful, always smiling, laughing, making jokes. My mother chided me, saying I should at least pay my respects to him, even though I didn't want to attend. There are some things you HAVE to do even if you don't "feel like it", she had said. So I agreed, and we hailed a cab to Tanglin Halt, where the wake was held in a huge yellow tent.

We sat down at an empty table. My "aunt", who is a year younger than me, looked at me and went, "Eh? Lei hou sok leh... Ngor mm gei tuck hiong bin dou gin dou lei leh." (Eh? You are very familiar.. I don't remember where I saw you before.) I reminded her that I was her senior in secondary school, and then it dawned on her. My Ye-Ye is her mother's brother after all, which explains our "rank" within the family.

My Gu-Ma (probably like the rest of my extended family, isn't my real aunt) showed up later on, and then the three of us went to pay our respects at the altar, before going to see Ye-Ye for the last time. I looked at his face. It was calm and serene. A little chalky, but that's understandable. He was dressed in traditional Chinese costume, too. Blue and red, with gold brocade and trimming. I lingered a little longer at his casket than my aunt and mom, before rejoining them at that empty table.

I sat down, but I kept looking over at where the casket was, with a framed portrait photograph of my Ye-Ye. It was a beautiful picture, and he was smiling so happily in it, the way I remember him. I couldn't stop looking at it. I want to remember his smiling face, not his puffy, made-up face lying underneath a glass panel.

It was then when I realized how much he really meant to me, and how much I missed him being around. But yet I didn't cry. I couldn't cry. I wanted to burst out, but something stopped me. I didn't know what it was.

The cortege left this morning, but Stacy had signed for two days worth of compassionate leave, giving me Monday off as well. So I asked her what I was supposed to do, and she sent a message to my bosses asking for their opinion. One of them actually replied saying I should get unpaid leave instead, and added that the deceased is not related to me by blood. What has that got to do with anything?

Then I was told that in order for my leave to be approved, I needed to show proof of his death. Now where am I supposed to get that? My family isn't close to his sisters, which is understandable. They didn't publish an obituary either, at least not in the English papers. I have yet to check the Chinese papers. Why is everyone making such a big deal out of my leave?

I just felt like screaming at everyone to fuck off, honestly. My grandfather just passed away. Sure he may not be related to me by blood, but that doesn't mean he didn't marry my grandmother and take me on as his granddaughter by marriage! If they want to fuck me up all because of this leave issue, I say fuck it. I have seven days worth of annual leave which I cannot cash. I'll just take one day or two off and leave it as that. The last thing I need is any complication rising out of a trivial matter like this. I just want to scream at all of them. I just want to scream at all of them and tell them not to fucking assume that they know the inner-workings or complicated relationships in my family.

Then the tears finally started flowing.

I guess Brandon was right in a way. "Even though you don't talk to each other, don't acknowledge each other, you're still family. But that's just a NUT way of thinking. Being related by name or by blood is overrated. There's no more such thing as blood is thicker than water." I thought back of all the time we spent together, most of my childhood. He played a part in my upbringing, both him and Ma-Ma. Ye-Ye may not be related to me by blood or by name.. But he is my grandfather.

. // prawninator | 01:16 + ~

To whoever you are, wherever you are, I love you. I probably don't know you yet, but when I do, I'll know, and so will you. And you'll love me for who I am, as will I.

You might be living in my neighbourhood, or some other town or country far away. I don't know. And neither do you, at this point.

Wherever you are, I know I'll find you... if you don't find me first.

It's just a matter of time.

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