In 2004, my family lost our patriarch to lung cancer. Although it was not said at the time or widely discussed, I knew my grandfather was sick and lung cancer seemed to be the logical illness due to his years of smoking. Since he passed, I haven't took the time out to discuss the issue or really brought light to it.
I guess the reason why I haven't is because in the Chinese culture sickness and death are negative aspect of life that no one should talk about. Negativity should not be discussed and we are not as open as to talking about it rather than talking about positive things in life.
To tell you a little bit about my granddaddy
He grew up in the country rural side much like everyone else in China, and continue due to the Communist revolution. Thats where he started our family as a school teacher. From then, he became a Principal and moved his family to the city of En Ping in the Guangdong province of China where I was born. Later on, he became a business man partnering with his brother and traveled around the Hong Kong area until he retired.
I didn't see him a lot when I was young because he was always traveling. But when he came home, he always showed me a lot of affection. Hugging me, showing me love and did the thing that irritated me the most which was rubbing his 5pm shadow on my face. When my mom would get angry at me, he would always be the first person to comfort me then make me apologize to my mom and make things better again.
He encouraged my dad to come to America to give me a better life. I went years without seeing my dad so my Grandfather was my father figure. He was tall, strong and truly the patriarch of my family.
When I left for America at age 7, I met him in Hong Kong before my flight. I remember the visual vividly. I still remember the last hug that he gave and the tears that he shed. I remember holding on to him saying I don't want to go and him shaking his head telling me that he didn't want me to go but I needed to go. He gave me a kiss on my forehead and we said goodbye.
The next time I saw him was 8 years later, and during that time he had a stroke and developed cancer. He came to America along with my grandmother September of 2004. I was a teenager then and I was busy with the football season. The fact that we spent 8 years apart, we grew apart. I did not spend a lot of time talking to him or spending time with him. One day I was coming home from practice and I saw a man with a crane struggling to walk down the street. I got closer and realized it was my grandfather. I asked him if he was okay and he said yes. The man who was tall, strong and seemed undestructable to me was now showing signs of weakness. I was hurt and sad at the same time.
My cousin Toby asked him while he was here how his childhood was like. He didn't want to answer and blew Toby off. Thinking back, I think it was a way for him not to think that it was time for him to go. But he knew his time was up, because I think coming to America for that month of September was his farewell tour. He wanted to see his two sons, his grand kids Toby, my sister Fiona and me for the last time.
He passed Thanksgiving day of 2004. Right before he passed, I was home alone one Sunday afternoon and I received a call from him. He asked for my dad but my dad was not home. He asked me how I was and I asked him when he was getting out of the hospital. He said hopefully soon and had I known that was the last time that I would speak to him, I would tell him that I loved him. A week later, I came home early from a family function by myself. I was watching football, I think it was a Packers game. My grandmother called frantically asking for my dad again, he was still at the function so I told her that he wasn't home. She told me to call my dad immediately because my grandfather was about to die.
On Thanksgiving day 2004, my mom walked into my room and told me that my grandfather has passed. I looked at her with no emotions and said "oh." The whole day my dad walked around the house teary eyed and I left my house to take a walk in Manhattan by myself. On the train, "Dance with My Father " came on my CD player and I started to cry on the train.
I regret not spending a lot of time with him while he was here in America. But my biggest regret was not telling him that I love him. Like I said before, I haven't have time to honor him but tonight I am going to Relay for Life the organization to fight cancer. I am going to honor the man who taught me affection, love and always putting family first.
I am going to honor the man who I want to credit my interest in Education because I want to be just like my granddaddy. I want to honor the man who was my father figure while my dad was in America for the first 7 years of my life. I want to honor the man who was the glue of our family.
Tonight I am honoring my grandfather for the first time outside of family.
I hope you are proud of me and all of the things I've done. Please continue with your guidance and love from above. I can't wait to see you and wait for your hug and for your 5pm shadows. Thank you for showing me love and thank you for this great family that I have.
I love you.