Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grandpa's Extra Toy Gun

Things were never the same when we brought you and your brother back to Alor Setar. At that time, it was just you, your brother and your cousin as the only kids in the house.

Grandpa was a strong man. He was a seasoned plumber, an experienced carpenter, and a self-made man. He was, in the words of many who’ve known him for long, a diamond that refused to be polished or cut. And perhaps, that was what made him tough, capable of enduring pressure and problems. A man of few words but faithful in actions, a father that showed his love to his children in the quiet and unseen ways, a husband that never failed to be there when the wife needed him most.

And like any typical Chinese businessman, he started small and slowly built his little kingdom. In all the ways of the business world, he endured his fair shares of losses, savoured the moments of gain, and above all stayed faithful to few principles through his life: Faithfulness, love and family.

One day, Grandpa bought 4 water guns. “For the children to play.”

For as long as I could remember, Grandpa laboured with both hands. Work is one; at the dining table, he ate with chopsticks in one and bowl in the other. He smoked cigarettes he rolled up on his own and habitually had a cut open tin can in his left palm to collect the ashes. It never occurred to me that he would actually do anything with only one hand.

He walked away quickly with the water guns, and I turned to Grandma and asked, “Why did Dad buy 4 toy guns? There are only 3 kids, so who’s the fourth gun for?”

So when my mom decided to enroll me and my brother for music classes, he wasn’t as adamant against it as Grandma. When I was 8 years old, with whatever few words he spoke, he said to me,

“Be the best in your school, and I’ll buy you a violin.”

With eyes wide open, I shrieked, “But Kong-kong, violin very expensive one!”

“That’s why you must be the best in your school.” He taught me then, that there always is a price to pay to be the best. And sometimes, it’s a price worth paying.

Now to think about it, there were 2 things I remember about Grandpa and his 2 hands. Maybe, in many ways, he believed that the best things come from both hands. It was effort, energy, and everything. But also, it was his hands that held his entire family together when things got rough and tough. In tears, he watched his little kingdom burnt down on the second day of Chinese New Year in 1998, and in his quiet but labourous ways he rebuilt it in less than a year.

Grandma smiled with that didn’t-you-know look all over her face. “Who else? It’s for him to play with your kids.”

And when my mom reminded me of the story of Grandpa buying the extra toy gun, it somehow didn’t fit into the picture. What would he do with the other hand then, if he only held the water gun in one hand?

Mom smiled. “He held your hand while both of you went shooting your brother and cousin.” I chuckled, and it all made sense again. After people have left and gone, and after all that’s left are merely memories, one thing for sure is that we never forget such little things that speaks of their greatness. And in all of his ways, it was those little things that ascertained me of my grandpa’s greatness. His violin, his toy gun, and above all, his two strong hands.