Foreword: Wish the Angels can sing this serenade to you, granny.
I could finally see her, covered in a gold-knitted sheet, resting peacefully in her coffin. It was just like another afternoon, where she would take a nap with the radio tuned to her favorite channel. However, she would not be waking up due to another back pain nor suffer from any indigestion; she would not be waking up to worry about her children and grandson; and, God bless her soul, she would not be waking up in a hospital bed nor death bed.
I could remember her well, though I did not recall her holding me in her arms, which my parents kept telling me so. But I was sure she loved me to her fullest extent, just like how she loved her children. The only thing she was not able to do was breastfeed me, but she would if she had the ability.
“Nok,” She used to call me, “sit beside me, let me teach you how to add up and subtract the numbers.”
“Okay” I would rush into her room and sat beside a slim figure “granny.” I used to call her.
“Now,” she held a pencil and a memo pad on her skinny hands “let’s start with adding up…” she carved an equation on her notepad, one mark led to another, like drawing The Starry Night. Her hands were bony, but they were as firm and precise as the hands of Michelangelo. Dazzled and amazed by her handwriting, I would pay full attention to her words. (I guess that’s why people say teachers must have good hand writing)
“Nok,” she brushed my hair “Do you know how to solve this one?”
“Yes.” I nodded attentively. I took the notepad from her and started carving the numbers like she did.
“Very good!” She brushed my hair again.
“Granny,” I glanced up to see the afternoon beam danced peacefully on her wrinkles “what about multiplying and dividing numbers? I always hear people talk about them. Can I do the calculations in this way? What about the…”
“Don’t worry,” she brushed my hair “I will teach you that later.”
“Okay, granny” I nodded attentively.
The afternoon beam glowed gently on her wrinkles as I walked around the coffin scented with flowers.
“Granny?” I whispered, “What about multiplying?”
Her lips were too red, even for a living person. She loved nagging, she would seize the opportunity to talk or give advice to you. Not only was this her favorite pastime, this was her skill. If there was an Olympic event for that, she would definitely come first. My father told me she could spend the whole day chatting with her friends or bargaining in the wet market. So he had to spend the day standing outside the market waiting for her deal to close off.
“Nok,” she paused “listen to grandma now…”
I rolled my eyes “Here we go again.“ I thought to myself as I pressed ‘pause’ on my Nintendo DS.
“Don’t always look into the screen like that, you will get your eyes hurt. Do you know the DJ on the radio told us kids like you are looking at these monitors far too long and a lot of you are getting blind…”
“Geez,” I sighed “I don’t think so.”
“Kids like you always sit at home watching TV and playing computer games,” she ignored my comment “they are often obese and they have the biggest risk of getting a heart disease. The radio says kids nowadays suffer from the stroke as well…”
I laughed, mockingly.
“Don’t laugh!” She exclaimed “the next one could be you if you keep staring into the Nintendo DS like the other kids mentioned on the radio. Also, your eyes will get hurt…”
I continued my game.
After that “talk” with her, she banned me from playing the Nintendo DS for more than one hour. If she heard sound effects from my games, she would yell at me from her room.
“Nok!” She screamed “Stop playing. That’s enough.”
I thought I could outsmart her by turning off the sound in all my gaming devices. In turn, the present I received for graduating primary school was, of course, a pair of glasses, and more of them worn in the coming years.
Her lips were pursed, for good. Her voice echoed in my head, ripping away the memories of her.
“Nok,” her gentle voice called “how are you? Heard you guys are getting on a cruise soon, be careful okay? Don’t lean too close toward the sea or you might fall overboard. The ship moves quickly and no one will rescue you in time.”
“Of course I will, granny.” I rolled my eyes. Here we go again. “Don’t worry about us.”
“Take really good care of grandpa,” she sounded worried “remember to escort him everywhere. It is very easy for him to get stumbled and fall at his age. Also, don’t let him eat too much oily food. His stomach can’t handle the food. Make sure the food is not too chewy for him, or he will have no choice but to spit it out.”
“Yeah. I will take good care of him, granny”
“Nok,” her voice tendered “granny and grandpa really miss you. When will you join us to go Yum Cha in the morning, like you used to.”
Geez, I have a student society to run. I really don’t have that time, even for my parents. “Sure, granny.” I was ready to hang up “I will call you when I have time.”
“Remember, granny usually goes Yum Cha on Tuesdays” she reminded me “but if you call, grandpa and I can go anytime. As long as it fits you.”
Bad news, granny. Regular meetings are held on Tuesdays.
Taking grandpa by my hand, we took a last glance of her red lips before her coffin was pushed out of the cathedral.
“Everyone,” the organizer said “the family of the deceased has the following arrangements: first, we are taking the coach to the cemetery…”
Speaking of arrangements, I have to make sure there’s enough time for me to go to a tuition at 3 p.m. I looked at my watch: 11:00 a.m., Tuesday.
Granny, it’s time to go Yum Cha now. I am finally free.
(to be continued)