Not Such An Oddball After All

me-and-grandmaFor a greater part of my life, I have struggled with accepting myself as part of the family I come from. I look nothing like my mom and compared with all the photos I have of my dad, I don’t look much like him either.

I don’t have anything in common with both my mother and father’s family. I have this strange bone disorder that’s supposed to be hereditary but neither family has it. I’m not an academic scholar like my parents. I don’t have my father’s OCD for cleanliness. All I know I have is his pesky habit of never get in bed when my clothes had been on the streets. Oh, and not to mention, neither of my parents has the vivid imagination nor are they writers.

You can say I have been dealing with a sort of identity crisis. I became distant with my family because being with them often made me feel like a third wheel, like an odd woman out.

Ancestral Home Side view

I spent a day with my grandma last weekend and it turned out, we were more alike than I’ve previously thought.

The picture above is of me and my grandma. My aunt (dad’s little sister) took this picture. At first, I didn’t notice the similarities but the longer I examined the picture, the more similarities I could see between me and my grandma. For example, our eyes.

It felt amazing to discover those similarities because it made me feel like I belong. As I sat in my aunt’s house that day, my grandma said, “You look like your father.”

“I do?” I’ve never heard that before.

“Well, he looked like me and you look like me and therefore, you look like him.” Interesting logic, Grandma.

Ancestral Home Front Door

We also visited the ancestral house that day and on the car ride over, Grandma told me about grandpa. My grandpa passed away two years ago and as long as I’ve known him, I cannot think of one happy memory of him. He was not a nice man. He treated men like kings, boys like princes, women like yes men and properties and don’t get me started about girls.

So when my grandma told me he published books of poems in the years before his death, I found it difficult to believe. In fact, it surprised me.

My grandpa was a poet? A storyteller?

I have heard about his books of poems but I didn’t think he wrote them. I’ve always thought those poems were written by someone he admired, someone loyal to the Party. Grandma also told about all the hateful stories grandpa had written about her.

Upstairs Bedroom

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My grandfather? The man who hit me so hard when I was a child it left a hand-print for a week? The man who talked, read, and watched nothing but politics? The man who often thought of me as invisible and cared only about my cousin because he’s a boy? He was a writer?

My left brow immediately shot sky high. So I’m not the only one in the family who write stories? So I share a similarity with my least favorite person? I wonder what other traits I’ve inherited.

We reached the ancestral home about fifteen minutes later. The ancient house was just as I remembered – coming here several times a year as a kid to greet our ancestors with incense and fire-crackers. My fear of dogs began right here in this ancient village when I got chased all the way to the end of the street by a large scary wolf-like dog.

When my uncle opened the door, I was greeted by two pool tables. “My sister is using the house as storage,” my aunt informed us.

My uncle lit nine incense and passed them to me, three for each dad, uncle, and grandpa. When I arrived at the altar, I stood frozen. I’d completely forgotten what to say. I think it was because my relatives were hovering.


After several seconds, I shut my eyes and mentally, I said, “Hi dad, I’m back. It’s been a long time. I missed you and I hope you’re having a great afterlife.” After sinking the incense into the altar, I continued with greeting for my uncle and grandpa.

After everyone had sunk their incense into the altar, we headed upstairs to the bedroom and the rooftop terrace. “We used to sleep here when I was a child.” My aunt said to her son. She pointed to the wooden bed. There was no mattress back then and all they had was one bed. So my grandparents along with my dad and his siblings all piled onto the bed and did whatever they need to to sleep the night.

A few minutes later, we descended down the stairs and found a surprise. When we ascended a few minutes before, the stairway was pitch black. We had to turn on the flashlight function on our phones to see but when we descended, there was light.

“It looks like your dad got your message,” my aunt said. I immediately looked up and smiled.

23 thoughts on “Not Such An Oddball After All

  1. You do favor your grandmother! It must be wonderful to discover the part of the family that is like you. You have made a lot of great discoveries in your trip to China! I really enjoyed reading this post, Yinglan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of wished I discovered it sooner but I guess now is better than never. Yeah, I’m learning a lot on this trip. I think everyone had decided to tell me things now that I’m older. 🙂 I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this post.


  2. Hi Yinglan, this was a wonderful story…I have often wondered about my own kids and who in the family they look like. My older brother was always a mystery to me as he looked like neither of my parents then one day we discovered a photo of a long lost uncle and there was my brother….glad you came away feeling better in yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. People are full of surprises, aren’t they, delicious, secretive, multi-layered surprises? Especially the ones we think we know the best. This is beautifully told Yinglan and I loved every minute of discovering your past with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I agree and it seems like the older we are, the more we are finding out about it and the more the elderly is willing to tell us. I loved the journey myself too. 🙂


  4. I went through much the same thing. I am nothing like my family. They think writing is weird. My temperament is completely opposite from all my family. When we were cleaning out possessions after Dad’s parents died, I found a notebook written by my Aunt, his sister. A notebook of stories she had written. I felt such relief to realize I was like somebody in the family, even if I barely knew her. (she died when I was very young). Like her, I was solitary, often sad and depressed, happier alone that with others. Whew!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you can relate. My grandpa was pretty the same way too. He didn’t particularly liked to go out and often liked to be alone in his thoughts. I’m just glad I inherited my grandmother’s temper and not his. 🙂


  5. Ooh… you put tears in my eyes with this one. Poignant, and beautiful. Really beautiful.

    I just came back from Japan with something that belonged to my grandfather, with whom I never had much of a relationship. My cousin gave it to me, and related how his father (who died early January) and my father (who died 15-years ago) were connected through it. Explained much, brought back a lot of memories, and at the same time it helped to cement that distant family connection.

    Time to go light some incense.

    Liked by 1 person

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