Friday, October 10, 2008
Funny Grandma Tricks.
The most common descriptions of my grandmother over the years have all focused on her as a survivor, of her toughness. And rightfully so, her strength and determination have at times been the difference between starvation and survival for the family. The posts below are a sort of short biography, and i think her strength and toughness comes out pretty clearly when one describes her life. She is a woman who has survived two wars (one invasion and one civil war) losing her mother and father and several siblings to the fighting and political environment, fled to a strange city with no money and 4 kids to raise, losing her beloved husband to cancer, and finally traveling across an ocean far away from everything familiar to be with her children. She took pride in her toughness and her resiliency, and she earned that pride, but my favorite memories has little to do with her strength or toughness.
For whatever reason, i have always felt close to my grandmother, a closeness that ignored language barriers, generational distinctions and cultural gaps. I think it had much to do with the fact that my grandmother loved to laugh, and i, in turn, liked to make others laugh. i could not rely on wit as we didn't speak the same language, so as a kid, i almost always relied on physical, slapstick humor, and popo not only was a kind audience, but she in turn could give her fair share of laughs. She had a wonderful, deep laugh, and we were quite a pair at times, each of us gesturing, smiling and laughing.
So here are some of my fondest memories of my grandmother.
As a kid, on long car rides (which occurred frequently since i was shuttled between my parents) my grandmother and i would sit in the backseat. She would hold my hand, and let me play with her hands; they were very strong and very warm.
My grandmother came to the United States in 1969 or 70, and she tried to learn english with every birth of her grandchildren. (first in 70, 72, 73, 74x2, 76, 79). Each time she resolved that she would learn english at the same time and rate as her grandchildren, but as smart as she was, she never could learn more than five phrases. "Please", "Thank you", "Yes", "No", "How much?". Her inability to learn english however, was not much of a barrier for her.
As useful these phrases were, they did not always work. Once when i was driving my grandmother from PA to NJ, a highway patrolman caught me speeding. While the cop was writing a speeding ticket, my grandmother showered the cop with "Thank you"s,
"pleases" and smiles. The cop happily wrote me a ticket, with my grandmother thanking him and waving good bye.
Once, my grandmother saw a kid (around 11 or so i think) outside of the house trying to learn to skateboard. Despite not knowing anything about skateboards, she took it upon herself to teach the kid how to skate. She was over 70 at the time, and apparently fell down on her second or third try. She decided that she didn't want to go to the doctor for the pain, and instead took some chinese medicine. Impatient with how the medicine didn't seem to work right away, she ignored the directions and took several doses at once. Unfortunately, the chinese herbal medicine had arsenic in it, and she ended up having to be taking to the hospital anyway.
Whenever i brought casey over, my grandmother would try and sneak her food, and i am not talking about scraps, but rather entire dumplings-huge portions of meat. Needless to say, Casey and her bonded and my dog would follow her no matter where she went.
Popo was the first person in the family to find out that i use to smoked. (i used to smoke 2packs a day in college). One morning i woke up to my grandmother handing me a large bag of candy. She looked me in the eye and made it clear that i was to give up smoking and replace it with candy. I was never quite sure why or how she made the connection that candy would fulfill my nicotine needs. While I didn't quit right afterwards, i never forgot how important it was for her for me to quit.
At my cousin's wedding in the summer of 2006, popo joined me on the dance floor. It wasn't just slow dancing either, popo and i rocked out on the dance floor. I don't think i could forget that, ever.
She loved coca-cola. She liked playing poker, even though she didn't understand the rules. She loved trying to sneak me money.
Some of popo's wisdom over the years...
On why i should get married, "Who would you talk to if you weren't married?"
When she found out i stopped eating red meat, she would always chase me around with a large jacket and make sure i kept warm since no meat meant no heat.
She approved of Korean women for marriage.
She told me i should never marry a woman smarter than me. She thought it would lead to too much fighting.
And of course, she told me i needed to always listen to my boss at work.