Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feet of Iron

Gramps passed on this morning at the age of 81. Although someone else will be presenting the official eulogy, I guess I'll make my own speech here, although not as many folks will get to hear it.

Gramps was multi talented. A look through his old photo albums showed that he participated actively in sports, such as the 100 meter race. His fit, lanky body allowed him to run far, and do all sorts of activities that the young folk of his days did. He was also involved in music, having a small organ upstairs. I last heard him play a tune a very long time ago, but its pretty remarkable that he could still remember it by heart. Perhaps thats why my aunt naturally pursued music as a hobby.

My grandparents settled down in a small town named Buso. I've been to their shophouse once. Its proximity near the river meant that floods occured once in a while. Well, not to worry, you could always retreat to the upper floor. Gramps was a headmaster in SMK Paku, and I'm sure he was quite a stern principal. He believed in sending his kids for the highest possible standards of education, hence my uncle and aunt were able to study in Australia while my mum was one of the first female Physics graduates in Malaysia. This was when University Malaya was one of the top universities in Asia. It has unfortunately declined steadily since.

As far as I can remember, gramps retained several interests until he became mentally incapacitated a few years ago.

Its remarkable that during a time when women did most of the cooking, my gramps could manage to cook for the whole of my family when required. When I returned from school, I was almost guaranteed a hearty meal when I sat down at the dining table. It ranged from my favourite fried tenggiri (a local fish), to soy sauce chicken, and the necessary stirfried vegetables. Fresh fruits were a must, and pink guava was one of his favourites. Naturally he also had to do the marketing and diligently went to the third mile market almost every morning.

Like my cameras, carpentry tools were his life. I remember he had saws, screwdrivers, rulers and gadgets of all kinds, large and small. I reminisce the time in Form 3 when we were supposed to makea a small timber stool to sit on. My hands were obviously not as talented as my classmates - I couldn't cut a piece of timber as straight as the rest. Hence I brought the poor stool to gramps, who then took it apart without delay and made sure the timber was straight. He also gave it a good lacquer finish. It was pretty hard to convince my tutor that I made the bench on my own the following lesson. But oh well, at least I passed. Trouble will surely come should we mess around with his stuff. I cheekily advised my brother to drill a hole into a table he crafted. Unfortunately, gramps had eyes like a hawk and dished out his discipline immediately with a rotan (cane).

He loved plants. Late in the afternoon everyday, he would tend to his garden and made sure the plants were watered and tidied from weeds. He also grew some guava trees and picked a few fruits to be eaten every day. One of his favourites is the 'bunga raja' which blossoms at night and withers a few hours later.When fully blossomed, the flower gives out a very aromatic smell. My mum still tends to some of his plants in our garden. Gramps brought several pots over when he and gran came to stay with us.

Gramps would sometimes walk long distances to keep fit. I remember 7 years back when we were still residing in the old house, he would sometimes walk 2 km from Ong Tiang Swee to our house near Hui Sing. His legs could not stop walking and got him lost at times. My mom dropped him off at a hairdresser one day, and after getting his hair cut, he just walked calmly out of the door. My mom found him a while later behind some shops, lost and exhausted.

His last few days were spent in silence. Debilitated by his most recent stay in the hospital, his mind finally gave in. We had to do everything manually for him - feed him, brush his teeth, give him a bath, even help him to walk. I doubted that he could respond to anything, but he could utter a faint grunt whenever we asked him a question. But his feet were still as steady as iron. Fearing that he would fall, he would grab on to things like a vice. It took some effort from us to lift up his feet and remove his shoes. His iron feet were still determined to move on.

Yesterday, he was shivering all over, as if his body was telling him that it was about time to go. Although I should've sensed it, he stared me straight in the eye with a look of helplessness. Mom jabbed him with insulin because his blood sugar was too high, but it didn't solve the problem.

This morning I was awoken by frantic crys for help from the maid. Gramps lay slumped in the chair. I touched his clammy hands and there wasn't any pulse. There was a very faint pulse from his chest however. We got him on the wheelchair and it was a struggle to transfer his body into the back seat of the car. It was a race against time. The maid called for some towels, and she wiped what seemed like dried, blackened blood from his mouth. Internal bleeding - not a good sign. Mom bolted out of the house to the hospital while I promised to follow behind.

After heading out from the house, I stopped by for a breakfast of kueh teow and teh si. Inside my mind, I sort of knew that the end was very near. As I drove to the hospital, impeded by heavy traffic, I was wondering what would happen. I finally got to the accident and emergency ward, I saw grandma slumped, crying by his side. He's finally at peace. The doctor there who happened to be a good friend of my parents said that nothing else could be done even though we wanted to.

I guess one of the things I regret is not being able to say how much I appreciate what he's done for me. Would he be proud if I told him that I am a photographer? Would he praise me for the pictures I've done and tell me I've done well? I guess I'll never know the answer to that. But I'm sure right now, he's looking down from above and telling me to be strong and chase (or rather walk towards) my dreams. He's taking a very long walk for eternity. Thats what I'll remember gramps for.


changyang1230 said...

My condolences to you and your family Brandon.

robin said...

hey brandon,
I am really amazed by the detail you have described about your grandpa. It seems like you knew so much about him, something I wish I knew more about my own grandparents before their passing.
Stay strong, and let your gramps live through you and shine through your works, especially in your passion for photography.
My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

@lv1nX said...

My condolences to you and your family Brandon. Hopefully you'll also inherit his feet of iron to move forward in life.

Ai Ling said...

our condolences to you and your family.

chin fei and ai ling


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