Have you ever heard the saying: you will learn more about a person after they die than you will ever learn when they were alive.
Guess what? It’s true.
It’s been about four days since I received the news of my grandfather’s passing and since then it’s all my mom could talk about. Every conversation is about him and every morning this week, during the early morning hours, she’d called back to China. I don’t understand.
In the last four days, I have learned more about my grandfather’s last years along with the hardships my family went through than I probably will ever learn. The truth is: he was an awful person. He was stubborn, strict, discriminatory, cruel, and selfish.
I barely knew him but that was well enough. He spent his days hidden beneath the dangerously large piles of old newspapers in a room off the living room he called his study. I rarely went in and he rarely came out except to sleep, eat, and watch TV.
He was stubborn. He never wanted help from the doctors and modern medicine. He believed herbs cured all diseases. Even when I ran a high fever, he didn’t allow me or my grandma to go to the hospital. He did nothing and blamed me instead. I was fortunate my aunt took me away. Otherwise, I probably would not be sitting here.
He was also a man who liked to debate on one topic and one topic only: politics. That was always the topic of conversation because that was exactly what he did daily, watched the news and read the newspaper.
I call him discriminatory because ever since I can remember, he favored my cousin over me because he is a boy and I am a girl. When my cousin wanted something, he will have it. He gave my cousin all the best things in life and gave me hardly anything. Something I recently found out: my cousin had been receiving 150-yuan (equivalent of about $25) a week for allowance. Where was mine?
Okay, I’m not saying I care about the money but of the years I’ve been in the U.S, he didn’t even asked me if I needed help and when I asked for help, he turned me down and the only words he told me repeatedly were, “Study hard,” which is an equivalent of what he said to me that day many years ago.
Every summer, we were assigned a thin booklet with exactly one-hundred problems and we were to complete it by the first day of the new school year. I remember sitting on a short stool that afternoon, I was sweating from the lack of air conditioning and the humidity, while pouring over this math problem before me on the small wooden table.
It was a division problem, 10,000 divided by 101. I hadn’t learn decimal division yet and those two numbers didn’t go in. “Try harder,” he said.
“I did,” I answered and showed him my paper with the eraser marks.
“Try harder,” he said louder.
I re-drew the long-division procedure and recomputed the problem all over again. I showed him, “It doesn’t go through.”
“It has to go through, try again.” I erased and the paper ripped and then the next thing I knew, my lap felt as if someone had touched it with a torch. Pain shot up and down my entire body. I looked down and saw a hand-print, red as if someone had painted it on. My grandmother heard the noise and immediately came out and comfort me as I wept. He had done this. That day had long since burned into my mind.
It is sad that I don’t have a lot of memory of him. Even in his last days, I wasn’t there to convince him he should go to the hospital when he couldn’t ingest anything due to fluids filling up his lungs. Instead, my cousin was the only one that could convince him even after my grandfather renounced his dearly-departed son.
“Your grandfather was an awful man,” my mom said last night as she made dinner. “He didn’t care about anyone but himself. Even in his last days, he made your grandmother take care of him. When your uncle passed away, he beat your grandmother, questioning whether your uncle was his son. He meddled in everyone’s business. Look at where that landed him. He lost his sons at young ages, only have one male heir who he renounced, you’re full of health problems and your cousin is uneducated. This family is doomed.”
“What are you say? My dad’s family is cursed?” I asked. I don’t believe in curses just because it’s too supernatural. At the same time, I believe in fate and that everything happen for a reason.
“That is exactly what I’m saying.”