just before i left for Sydney in 2011 ahgong had given me a special angpao.
'are you going to Australia to study?' he'd asked.
'here,' he'd handed me an angpao. 'study well!'
it was around this time i realised that my gong gong (what i call my maternal grandpa) had no clue who i was, so to have ahgong remember that i was going away was especially sweet.
when i came back to SG in 2013 i think ahgong was more excited to see Silvia (aka a REAL Chinese person) than me haha.
he asked her where she was from and knew all these Chinese places.
this year when i went back Tao and i had bumped into him when we went to the lontong stall. i had sat opposite him but couldn't think of anything to say! (in my defence, i had been crying in dad's old room before Tao dug me out for breakfast and was still feeling out of sorts.)
so we enjoyed our lontong in silence, me sneaking bites from Tao's plate.
after the meal Tao paid, then ahgong rode his bike home while Tao and i walked for a second breakfast at the roti canai stall.
|ahgong on his trusty rusty old bike|
before we left for Sri Medan i had pressed an angpao into his hand as he sat on the sofa, whispering, 'just a small one, for your good health!' then darting away.
mum insisted we take photos (thank my lucky stars) and ahgong protested, saying he wasn't dressed. singlet = underwear. but he relented after we laughed and convinced him singlet = actual clothing.
'bye! look after your health! see you next year!' i'd called out as i entered dad's car to go to SM.
when dad had said that 'grandpa had a stroke' i thought it was my gong gong, hooked up as he is to oxygen and bedridden. it was quite a shock to learn it was ahgong, who was riding around on his bike just a few days ago!
manic crying ensued.
i wanted to pray, but what do i pray for?
merely breathing is not really being alive.
when i received the WhatsApp text saying ahgong had left on Saturday, i was waiting for a 10pm train to the city, where my friend had invited me for drinks at Hilton's Zeta Bar to break my rather monotonous routine of going home and crying after work.
manic crying ensued again. it was ugly - my smoky eyes had smeared, i had snot all over my face, i had neither tissue nor hair tie, so i could only swat helplessly when the wind blew and my long hair stuck to the snot. i sat at the station for awhile before cancelling drinks and going home, where i learned how difficult it is to cry and remove makeup/brush teeth at the same time.
my family called. i wanted to comfort dad but i think they were more concerned about me.
of course i know 生老病死即人之常情。but WHERE IS AHGONG NOW?
on Monday and Tuesday i didn't cry at all and i thought ahgong must be in the 'better place' people keep saying he is, wherever the fuck that is. don't overthink, min.
i called ahma on Monday, and she'd panicked, asking ‘告诉她吗？’to which i hear mum saying‘阿忞啊，那天哭得乱七八糟！’ and ahma had sighed at my sentimentalism and comforted me. man i was supposed to be doing the comforting.
ahgong had a good, long life.
he didn't suffer much.
it's okay that you can't make the funeral, ahgong will understand.
yes, for the first time i was truly grateful ahgong didn't suffer for an extended period of time.
until early this morning when i woke at 3am with wet eyes and wondered where the fuck is that 'better place', really?!
today the body of the man who had poured Milo into saucers for me, who would sneak into his room to prepare angpaos on CNY Eve, who loved taking Fann for haircuts, who killed snakes, who loved Brylcream, who had 'Wolverine hair'.. became a box of ashes.
i can only hope there is something called a soul, and that your soul is now free to travel. you can visit me in Sydney, though i don't think you will like it here.
maybe you became an angel, my first guardian angel?
or maybe you can go to the reincarnation cave and queue for your verdict on what you'll be in your next life - a 仙，a man or an animal. (whatever before sunrise says, this seems plausible.)
or maybe there is heaven, and you'll catch up with your brother and play mahjong and smoke cigarettes. (how does heaven work, really?)
or maybe you became a dragonfly :))
tomorrow i will stop crying.