My Grandfather This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   My father was silent that night after myaunt phoned to tell him their father was sick. When I tried tojoke around by guessing my grandfather's illness, my fatherturned away so I would not see the tears streaming down hisface. He was quiet the entire night and when he did speak, itwas only to ask me not to bother him as he stared at theflickering television. I was too young to comprehend theseemotions. My mother later explained my grandfather hadsuffered a stroke and was in critical condition. I sat quietlyand waited for things to get better.

But things didn'tget better, and a few years later my mother's father died in amotorcycle accident. It was 1995, and I was 12 years old. Myfamily immediately flew to Taiwan to attend his funeral inChiayi. After a few days of traditional Chinese ceremonieswith my mother's relatives, my family took a bus to Taichungto visit my father's relatives.

When I entered theold, two-story house that sheltered his parents and hisyounger sister's family, I saw a familiar man sitting on acrimson chair in front of a television. His large eyes were amirror image of my father's, but they had no sparkle. His facewas not cleanly shaven and salt-and-pepper hair sprinkled theareas around his lips and head like confetti. His skin wasdark and wrinkled, and he wore old, stained clothes. I knewlittle about this man, a victim of his bad habits, yet he wasstill a significant part of me. I knew my grandfather had beena heavy drinker and smoker and, as a result, had suffered twostrokes, but nothing could prepare me for the sight of thecrippled man. My grandfather could walk but only with help.Most of his hours were spent confined to his bed or chair. Hehad to be fed and diapered and could barely utter aword.

My grandmother introduced us to our grandfather.My father asked, "Do you remember me? I'm your son,little Gang. It's little Gang." My grandfather stareddeeply at my father and then nodded his head. There were fewsigns of expression on his face. He seemed to be staring offinto another world. Searching the room, I tried to find whathe was looking at but found nothing.

My thoughts wereshattered by my father's voice. My sister and I slowly obeyedmy father's command and leaned over my grandfather's chair toembrace his lean figure. My grandmother asked her husband ifhe was happy to see his grandchildren and he nodded his head.She picked up my baby brother and held him in front of mygrandfather. He looked at the beautiful boy and began to claphis thin hands to entertain the baby. Suddenly his mouthopened to reveal large teeth, and his dry lips curved into anenchanting smile. It was like a miracle; my brother seemed topossess some kind of magic. It was the first time, mygrandmother told me, my grandfather had been so happy inyears.

As I stared into his strangely peaceful face, Ibegan to uncover forgotten memories. I recalled him in ourhome in Califor-nia; I remembered his radiant smile on hisbirthday. I remembered the brown jacket and wool-knit cap hewore on cold mornings. I could see myself holding his hand ashe moved sluggishly down the sidewalk. My sister and I wouldwalk at a normal speed with our grandmother and then run backto wait for our much slower grandfather. When he lived with usin America, my grandfather still had the strength to go forwalks and often strolled to the park near our house. Some dayshe would leave the house and pick up used cigarettes on thestreet. My grandmother would smell them, empty all his pocketsand yell warnings at him. She called him "old head"in Chinese which means "old man" and told him howsmoking was going to kill him. My grandmother made her husbandstop his bad habits the way she thought best: cold turkey. Mygrandfather would tremble because he was sick without hiscigarettes. I remembered how he would take our Christmas candybecause he was so fond of sweets. The Christmas my grandfatherlived with us, my father bought him a Snickers bar and a packof Camel cigarettes. They were the only things he seemed towant.

Less than a year after my family went to Taiwan,my grandfather passed away. When we arrived back in Taiwan, wetried to convince my grandmother he had found peace from hissuffering, and there would no longer be the burden of takingcare of him. But she disregarded these words and didn't try tohide the pain, like we were doing, as one sweeps dirt under arug. She sobbed and worked all day cleaning the house,sleeping little. She was grieving for a man she had known andloved. I only wished I could have known him, his stories andadvice. I didn't understand why, but I was mourning a man Inever really knew.

    I steppedinto the lonely room once occupied by my grandfather. I couldsee his eyes glaring at me in the dark shadows, but once Iblinked, he was gone. I looked at the fluorescent light thathung from the ceiling. It was Chinese superstition that wemust leave the light on in his room to light his way toHeaven. There were rice cakes in porcelain bowls in every roomin case my grandfather was hungry on his journey to a betterplace.

I felt I understood my grandfather. It wasalmost as if his spirit was in the room. I could hear hisvoice telling me how much he loved his family and how hewished he could have been there for me.

With my mindstill heavy in thought, I bent down and patted my baby cousin.She had loved her grandfather with all the love and joyinfants possess. I asked her where our grandfather was. Shepointed her finger at a portrait of my father's family takenyears ago when my grandfather could still stand. "Upthere," she whispered. "Grandpa's up there."



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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