I’ve been thinking of home lately. Not my parent’s home here in New Zealand, but the old one, my first home back in China, and even the one before then; the home my grandparents first lived in.
Taking me back to their home gives me a sense of pride in the midst of all my failures.
Lately, my senses have been dulled and worn down by the pain of heartbreak, by the shame of self-pity, and the doom of seeing no way out.
But when I think back to where we came from, I am reminded of the strength that existed before my time and which will always be a part of me.
My grandfather saw his neighbour gunned down next to him.
Waking up in a world full of uncertain tomorrows made life more sweet and precious. There on the sidewalk, with the blood of his neighbour’s son, uncertainty crafted his strength.
As the oldest, he raised his sisters from the poor to the strong. He was a strict man, a gentle man, and a practical man. He wouldn’t have spent his waking hours wallowing in self-pity. One hour of pity meant one less day of food.
He knew the difference between love and war.
War was hunger, getting shot at and families parting.
Love was in my grandmother. Taking care of her, looking after her, giving her a better life.
He did not see war in love, even after my grandmother had a stroke that forced him to give up his love of travel.
He cried when he had to give it up. But he cried harder when he almost lost my grandmother.
He was strong in this kind of way. Strong enough to know what was truly important.
Yes, he is still alive. Still, after all these years, there is a twinkle in the corner of his eyes, a gift from the universe for his unwavering optimism. That is the only thing I have inherited, his twinkle.
A few months ago, my mum told me that the twinkle in my eye had gone. How sad that made me feel, to have lost the one thing that connects me to my grandfather’s strength.
But what existed before will always be there. Although faded, weary and momentarily hidden from sight, a little spark, a little patience, will ignite it once again.