Pork rice noodle rolls. Sashimi. Curry. Pork skewers. Grilled fish. Mayonnaise shrimp. Hot pot.
When I think of grandma, I think of all the meals she prepared for the family. For the 21 years I lived at home, grandma cooked the vast majority of dinners. Not only did she care about the taste, the presentation was equally important. She’d carefully choose which dinnerware to use; place the foods down with intention; portioned the amounts to make the dish look aesthetically pleasing. I always told her she was an “artist cook.” The cuisine changed depending on season, as she preferred buying groceries on sale, but the quality was always there.
Calm. Sophisticated. Collected. Proper.
When I think of grandma, I think of someone who has never once yelled or shown anger towards another person. Not even once. Even when my loud computer speakers prevented her from sleeping at night, she’d politely knock on my door to beckon me to turn the volume down. Even when I talked back to her and caused her stress during tumultuous teenage years. Even when our house and garden got toilet-papered as a prank. By the way, she treated that incident as an opportunity by saving the toilet paper that was in good condition to be used later on.
Kind. Altruistic. Patient.
When I think of grandma, I remember the annual family road trips. She packed enough food for up to two weeks such that we wouldn’t have to dine at unhealthy or expensive restaurants. So that we’d have more time exploring and appreciating the wonders of the U.S. National Parks. On the more strenuous hikes, she opted to stay by the car or campground while the rest of us hiked for a few hours. When we got back, tired and hungry, a fresh warm meal awaited us, prepared by grandma.
Old fashioned. Opinionated. Good natured.
When I think of grandma, I wonder why I’m still not a doctor. It was the career she had been pushing me towards for. My. Entire. Life. I went down the information technology route, so in this last decade, in addition to being asked when I’ll become a doctor, grandma also insisted that I spend less time in front of a monitor. Out of concern for my eyesight, she’d say in Mandarin, “Look further away. Rest your eyes.” Grandma never attended college due to her family’s financial situation + gender norms at the time. Instead, her male siblings received educational preference. Even then, she cared for the family. Tailored their clothing. Lifted up her family members. I reckon her intentions of pushing me towards being a doctor was due to her life experiences, where doctors were the coveted profession of her generation.
Backyard. Gardening. Badminton.
When I think of grandma, I think of our front and backyards. The front yard that neighbors have complimented; solicited advice on how to build such everlasting beauty. The backyard that looked like a conservatory of flowers. The lawn where grandma and I would play badminton, and she’d tell me how skilled her late husband (my grandpa) was at the sport. The backyard was where Cindy and I were born and raised. Where we played tag with the neighborhood kids. Where we swung on the swings and had our sibling fights. We even got to admire the backyard view every day from inside the house as we ate our meals. These experiences were enabled because of grandma, who spent over 30 years grooming and tending to the garden. It was her hobby, her oasis, her sanctuary.
Competitive. Energetic. Spirited.
When I think of grandma, I think of her spirit and energy. Rather than exuding that energy overtly, she channeled it subtly, such as reminding me that I bore the Cheng surname and encouraging me not to lose (career wise) to my peers and cousins. That I should do well in school. That same energy resulted in the house and household members being cared for. I believe that spirit is what led her to live 96.
Grandma helped raise Cindy and I. She raised us in a loving and supportive household, one where we had the freedom to make and learn from our own mistakes. One where we could venture out of the house to discover our own path, but to be able to return to a safe environment at any time. Grandma, you’ve taught us well and we’ll continue your legacy. We’ll continue our journey holding your baton.