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Showing posts from 2011

Serendipity

I attended my great aunt Tillie's funeral this past Saturday, December 10th.  It tore at my chest knowing that I didn't see her the last time when my parents said a bunch of family was going to visit her.  I couldn't even remember why I hadn't attended.

Several members of my family have passed away during the past few years and it constantly makes me think of the fleetingness of life and time.  I can still hear my Auntie Tillie's voice in my head greeting me in that friendly way that she always did when I was little.  It's hard for me to know that I'll never hear it again.  It's harder for me to know that I can't remember much about her and my uncle Keenie from when I was little.

Within the past couple years, my memories have been fading fast.  I used to have a great memory, and still do for certain things, although it is random what is clear and what is not.  Many events or facts I find important have disappeared, and many trivial things remain emb…

Some Old Pictures

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I found some old pictures and I thought I'd scan them before they degraded any further.



Dried Vegetables

A June visit...

June 14, 2011

I walk in the door and hand my grandfather a bag of potatoes I bought for him at the farmers' market over the weekend. He likes the better quality produce of the farmers' markets, but he just can't bring himself to pay for it.  Turns out I forgot my notebook, so I meander into my old room and fish around in the bureau drawers looking for a pad of paper. I find my neck-gear during my search and I'm flooded with memories of having to wear it every night.  Somehow I remember more nights having to wear it sleeping at my grandparents' house, which doesn't really make sense to me because I know I only slept over at my grandparents' house when both my parents were away.

My grandmother asks if she can serve the soup now. She was looking for me. In addition to forgetting my notebook, I also forgot my camera again today.  I lament because my grandfather has made a Chinese soup he hasn't made in a while.  Grandma goes to get spoons and…

Changing Memories

A May visit...

May 2, 2011
My grandmother spills the soup today as she is serving it.

"I told you to sit down!" my grandfather scolds.

"Instead of helping, I made things worse," she pouts mournfully.

She goes back into the kitchen to get plates.  Her hair is short now.  It looks like she finally got a haircut.  It had been getting pretty long and scraggly over the past couple weeks.  My grandfather is making chow mein and has already made his potato pancakes as usual.  My grandmother is driving him crazy asking over and over again if he wants a platter.

"What did you do today?" she asks me.

"I worked."

"You work every Saturday?!" she asks, incredulous.

"Today is Tuesday," I say, gently.

This conversation happened twice already and dinner hasn't even started yet.  She goes back into the kitchen to get another plate for me because she forgot she put potatoes on mine already, and thinks my plate is now a serving platter.  …

For My Dad on Father's Day

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And now, memories of Dad...

When I was a toddler, my dad would show me a little bag of single serve "candy bears" and then I would know it was our special time together.  We'd run upstairs and make a little tent out of the bed sheets and hide underneath them and share the small package of multi-colored chewy sweets together.  Sometimes I wonder if I love candy so much now because of that.

Even though I make fun of my dad for hating dessert,* we both share a love of gummy candies and marshmallows, especially old marshmallows.  Both my dad and I like to "age" Peeps.  As soon as Easter rolls around, we're eating Peeps from last year's Easter. As far as gummy candies goes, every holiday and birthday, my mom and I would get him a pound or two of assorted gummy candies.  My dad would hoard them in his room and eat them a little at a time so he wouldn't have to share with the multitudes of friends I always had over, since we were like a swarm of locusts, …

Japan

A March visit...

March 22, 2011
My grandfather makes potato pancakes again today, this time without a heavy-handed dose of cornstarch and they're much better.  I always ask for potato pancakes because I know that potatoes are my grandfather's favorite food. I also think lately he's been getting more stressed about cooking because he's forgotten how to make so many things.  He forgets that he relearns it because often if he doesn't make something every week, like he's been making these potato pancakes, he will tell me, "I haven't made this in fifteen years!"  But, I'll remember that he made it a couple months ago...

I didn't know how much and for how long my grandfather loved potatoes.  He tells me that when he was young, his brothers would call him "shu jai tow," which means "potato head."

My grandmother starts asking me when I'm getting married again.  I'm glad that she says "again" because it means s…

A Life Without Ketchup

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A February journal entry...

February 22, 2011
I forgot my camera again.  As I walk in, I notice the table is set for four people.  My grandmother is confused.

"Really? No one else is coming? No one from the... game?" she asks.

"What game?"

"I don't know," she says. "Just you?"

She takes away the extra plate and utensils where I have seated myself.

"That side is better," she tells me, motioning to the seat that still has a place setting.  She motions to the seat I'm sitting in.  "That side is darker."

There are sodas at my place setting and the one she has cleared.  I pick them both up to put them back, since I always drink water, and my grandmother takes me to the garage to put the sodas into the refrigerator that is out there.  When we return to the table, she looks at the table setting again.

"Where is your soda?" she asks me.  She can't remember that ten seconds ago she led me into the garage where w…

Dong

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Another January set of notes...

January 25, 2011

The State of the Union Address is on the television when I walk in, blaring as usual.  My grandparents deny that my grandmother couldn't remember that I was her granddaughter last week.

My grandfather serves snap peas tonight with dinner and tells me that the word for them in Cantonese is "ho lan dao" because they originated from Holland.  "Dao" means bean.  He also tells me that back when he was young, if you traveled to China for a visit, you gave your relatives bags of tiny dried shrimps, because they didn't have those in China.  "But, there are no more here," he tells me.  "They've fished them too much here in America and there's no more, so now they come from South America."

My grandfather is also insistent tonight that my grandmother has a good memory and that she only forgets things that happened two minutes ago.

Later, I go visit my old room where I used to stay when my gr…

Still Flirting

Old entry from January 4th.

January 4, 2011

My grandfather is frustrated. My grandmother is trying to bring him plates in the kitchen because she insists on helping, and I know this frustrates him.  I wonder how much he forgets of what she does.  I'm afraid to ask her my normal question of what she's done today because I don't want to bother my grandfather.  She shows me a picture from my cousin Kari's wedding.

"Do you recognize anybody?" she asks me.  I know them all, but she forgets who I've met and how long we've all known them.

Soon she carries out the tomato beef chow mein from the kitchen.  They can't find the serving utensils and are bickering about it.  I walk into the kitchen to look, but I can't find anything.  Later, I return to get the chicken wings from the toaster oven and look some more.  My grandfather sees me with the plate of wings and says, "Thank you. Good help."

We sit down at the table and I ask them about their…

I ♥ My Grandpa

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Another old entry...

December 14, 2010


I get myself some water in the I ♥ My Grandpa mug.  I remember buying it for my grandfather for Christmas one year.  At my elementary school, they always had little sales where you could buy silly things for your family for the holidays.  Twenty-something years later, it's still here, sitting on the shelf atop their microwave.

My grandmother seems a lot better today.  She tells me cognizant stories about my great Aunt Gladys and doesn't repeat herself very noticeably.  She tells me about how Gladys was the plain one and Cecilia was the pretty one when my grandfather leaves the room to fuss in the kitchen.  I wonder what he would have said if he had heard.

She says, as a result of Gladys being more plain, the family gravitated more towards her.  Guess family always has to be there to champion the underdog.  Although, it seems incongruous to the norm where the more beautiful / talented child is typically the more favored.

My grandmother tri…

December 7, 2010

I found my old notebook that I was taking notes in. Here's an older entry.

December 7, 2010

There are more ants in the bathroom tonight and I always forget how small the toilet seat is.  I also always forget how large the hump in my grandmother's back has become.

My grandmother goes back to staring at her computer screen.  She points out the story on Elizabeth Edwards. "She lost three things - her hair to cancer, her son to an accident, and her husband to an affair." It makes me happy that she is reading news stories.  As she walks away to get chopsticks, I go to the screen and see that it took her that long to read and absorb one sentence.  I feel my mouth turning into a thin, firm line of disappointment, but then I think at least she got the one.

She walks over and whispers to me, "I can't get in his way when he's cooking. He gets real snappy." Turns out she has mismatched chopsticks and she goes to get more.  She mulls around for a bit and then r…

I'll Hold Your Hand

I decided that if I keep trying to wait until I find perfect stories to post, I won't end up posting anything.  So I think going forward, I'll just write short posts about my visits each week, since several weeks ago, I found myself drowning in video and decided to take notes in a notebook instead.  And hopefully later, I'll have some time to go back and look at all the video I have and write stories the way I want them to be.  Without further ado...

April 5th, 2011 Visit

A John Wayne movie is playing loudly on AMC when I come in the front door.  The television is always on so loud.  My grandmother comments on my sweater, and how she likes it.  I thank her on my way down the hallway to wash my hands.  When I return, it's like she's seeing the sweater for the first time and she comments on how pretty it is again.  I imagine this will happen several more times during the visit.

My grandmother goes to serve the soup and she seems exhausted.

"How are you feeling?&…

For My Mom on Mother's Day

For Mother's Day I thought I'd list a bunch of memories about my mom.

I wish I could think back and remember my first memory.  My mom said that when I was born, she'd talk to me all the time.  She always wanted to make sure that I knew her voice and that she loved me.

I'm pretty sure that her reading to me every night before I went to sleep is the reason I that I majored in Literature.  She'd read me stories from the Bible, Greek and Roman myths, nursery rhymes, Aesop's fables, and all sorts of fairy tales.  I basically took a course in Western Literature that lasted throughout my childhood.

We used to listen to comedy tapes in the car, which of course had its fair share of adult-themed material.  I remember asking my mom what a blow job was.  She said she wouldn't tell me until I was ten, I think.  Finally, and unfortunately for my mom, I remembered when I was old enough and I asked her again.  Remember, this was the days before internet, so I couldn't…

That Creep Who Became My Grandfather

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Sometime during World War II, a woman named Joy was insistent that her friend Lily join her in supporting the troops on USO nights at the YWCA.  Lily really was not interested in going to these events to spend time with the servicemen.  Every USO night, which were Wednesdays, Joy would come over to pick up Lily, so Lily decided to get ready and leave the house before her friend arrived.  Joy was too smart though, and anticipating this, she arrived even earlier to pick up Lily.  And so, Lily was stuck accompanying her friend to these events.

(Update: 1/16/16 Going through old photos, I found a picture of Joy.)


There were different things to do at these USO nights, but the main things seemed to be playing at a mah jong table and dancing with the servicemen on leave.  On one particular night, Lily was playing mah jong when she saw a young serviceman walk by the table several times, who seemed to be pausing to look at her each time.

"Who's that creep?" she asked her table mat…

Insecticide 911 - 2011 Rewrite

I liked this story so much, I felt that 16-year-old me didn't do it justice. 31-year-old me figured I could do a better job.  I'll let you be the judge... :)

It was a hot day in August. Well, a hot day for August to a six-year-old kid in South San Francisco, so it was probably around 80 degrees.  I had run out of things to do that day.  Sesame Street was over, and all that was on was the news. My only job was to tell my grandmother when the soap operas came on so she could change the channel again to make sure that we continued to watch the news.  This was mind-numbingly tedious for me, but at least I felt like I was helping out.

Because school was out, I was spending the day at my grandparents' house like I did every workday during the summer.  My mother would drop me off at their house every morning, and my father would pick me up after work in the evenings.  Luckily for me, it was a Tuesday, so my grandfather was home, in addition to my grandmother, who was home every d…

Insecticide 911

When I was in high school, I had to write an autobiographical incident for an English assignment. I edited it a little bit, but this is the story I wrote...

Every day during the summer, until I was in seventh grade, was spent at my grandparents' house in South San Francisco.  My mother would drop me off in the morning, and my dad would pick me up on his way home from work. My grandfather did not have to work on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so on those days he would do chores around the house or play with me.

It was a Tuesday in the middle of August. My face was flushed as I flitted about the small one-story house.  Their tiny home on Franklin Avenue had been theirs since my father was seven years old. Needless to say, the house had been through quite a great deal.  Like all older homes with cracks and crevices that increase over time, my grandparents' house tended to have problems with ants.  The miniature, black workers always found some way to get inside, past all of the poison,…