Friday, January 30, 2015

Goodnight Popo

I must admit that I never liked Popo when I was a kid. She's the opposite of what Datuk is: gentle, outwardly caring and forgiving. But somehow I've always had a thought at the back of my head that one day I'll appreciate her. True enough, now I'm ever so grateful to have a grandmother like her.

For as long as I could remember, I lived with Datuk and Popo on weekdays, and mom and dad would come in the evenings for dinner and take me back on weekends. Most mornings I would go with them to the market, get pinched on the cheeks by their friends and have breakfast at the coffee shops. Popo would always share her breakfast with me and tell me that in her days, a bowl of noodles would cost a quarter of a shilling which then they would have to break the coin in 4s. I never believed in her after failing to break my allowance in half. 

I spent a lot of time with them in my primary school days. I would pray very hard everyday as I return from school that Popo has won in her mahjong game. Because if not, I would get scolded for the smallest misbehaviour. 

"You better behave now or you'll get some serious time-outs on the potty!" She would yell at me in Cantonese. I could remember the tears that fell on my lap as Datuk fed me in between my heavy sobbing.

But as I grew older, I've learnt ways of staying clear from the wrath or finding shelter behind Datuk. Her temper got better somehow, and I saw the caring side of Popo eventually. 

She's not the type who would speak her emotions or say how much she cares. But she shows it subtly, expecting nothing in return. 

Popo tries every way to eliminate the fishy smell in her fish dishes because she know how badly I hate it. She makes sure she has enough change for me to take as daily allowance from her cabinet. She made me feel like an adult by letting me help clean and cook rice, peel fruits and vegetables, and help her brew rice wine. She would make sure I dry my hair after the shower so I won't fall sick.

The perkiest comment she said to me was: "Yee Ai (that's my Chinese name), you're thinking too much in that little head of yours. It's making you too skinny. You need to be fatter. Don't think too much ok?". After that, I realised how hard it was not to think at all! Sorry Popo... I did try. 
So many experiences I have safeguarded them in my heart that I'll never belittle. I'll never forget the times when she disagreed with me on growing my hair long, when she sang Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xing while doing the house chores with me, when she told me to be obedient to Dai Yee when I was studying in Adelaide, when she taught me how to boil herbal tea over the phone when I moved to Perth, when I told her I was getting married and Tim showed up late in picking her and Datuk up for dinner, when I tried to explain to her where Norway is and how life is over there, when I saw the once strong and scary woman be so weak on the bed, hoping with all my heart that she can still see me and recognise me as I squeezed her frail hands. 

We knew this day would come and I'm glad she's not in pain anymore. I hope that in her final cautious moments, she knows and feels the love and gratitude we have for her. I'm very sure she loves Datuk as much as he does her. And I truly hope he was the last thought she has before she passed on.

So dearest Popo,

Having the honour of sharing a part of my life with you, I know that you love to drink soup (now I know where I got that from), made a wonderful man fall head over heels for you, always had short hair, like the colour green, and always made me giggle when you try to say noodle. 

I would always remember you as a strict teacher, the mahjong queen, a responsible mother, a submissive wife, and an amazing grandmother.

Since I was young, you always made sure I greeted everyone and mind my Ps and Qs. So now I want to say thank you Popo, and goodnight Popo. I'll see you one day I'm sure. Have an awesome time in heaven. I guess it would not matter if you win or lose in mahjong there.


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