The giant of a man I always looked up to was my Grandpa. I only realized how simple his life was when after his passing his belongings were no reflection to the life he led. His possessions were neatly packed into a suitcase and I wondered to myself be this all he had after 86 years?
As a Caucasian in war time Borneo he eluded capture by the Japanese right up to the end of the war surviving for most times deep into the jungles that bordered Sarawak and Brunei surviving on anything he could lay his hands on. Mum used to tell me wartime stories of the hardships the family endured in Miri and how ever so often Grandpa would appear at the garden house at odd hours of the night and bring her paddling in a small sampan out to sea to fish, crossing under a bridge guarded by Japanese soldiers on the way out. Mum was still amazed at his bravery to return ever once in a while to make sure the family was safe and had enough to eat.
Grandpa second marriage was to a Chinese lady. I never got to see him much until i was in my very early teens when he moved in with us after she passed on. He had 3 kids by that marriage and I never got to see or mingle with them much. Later on in my late teens he moved out to be with one of them and then it was only fleeting occasions and we slowly grew apart. I only managed to grow close to him again when I came back for the annual visits and was aghast to eventually find him was put in a nursing home.
In those few years that we were living together I remember my Grandpa as a silent giant. Nothing much said but when he said something it was always something of substance. Always keeping himself busy, it was him whom taught me how to make a kite, how to draw glass onto thread for kite fighting, how to sharpen a saw, how to thread a pipe, how to change the bladder of a bicycle, how to fish, how to patch up small holes with a thread and needle, how to use the old singer machine to sew, how to crack neatly the old preserved cabbage jars so that I could use it for breeding my Siamese fighting fish, how to not be scared of snakes, what jungle plants could be eaten, how to cast and repair a fishing net, how to weave coconut leaves into roofing material, how to cook with bamboo, the list goes on, all skills I have found useful until today, skills which I could bet my bottom dollar not many people will know how today.
But the most important lesson I have learnt from him is humility and kindness to your fellow man. I never heard him raise his voice. I never heard him prejudge anyone. I never heard him speak in anyway of himself. He was just there quietly tinkering away in whatever that suited his fancy, repairing an old clock, trying to fix a stubborn drawer or helping to see if I could get anymore power out of my air compressor for the fish tank. He just got it done. Period, no fuss. I guess his motto was ‘Just Do It’.
I was very angry the day he was buried. But that is another chapter. Something that I have to choose my words carefully for, after all I want to remember my Grandpa for what he was, what he did for me and what and how I want to remember him by.
Labels: A Time Reflected