When I was young I used to be dead afraid of my grandad. He croaks a strange tongue that you would halt to think twice, only to realise-- it’s just Cantonese with a heavy accent, and a mouthful of broken teeth. “Huh?” I would ask with the loudest voice I dared, because surely that pair of aged-old ears couldn’t hear well, and keep my hand religiously on the door hinge, or something solid near the exit of wherever the conversation took place. I thought that I could use a headstart if granddad started chasing me, bashing me with a stick.
One year, during the bizzzare in-between weathers of late April, my sister grew red welts all over her body. “You look like a tomato,” I remebered telling her in the dim yellow bed-side lights before my mother could realise what had happened and how serious it was. Almost immediatly, she was sent to the hospital by my mother in her nightgown and my barely-awake father. Naturally, I was left with who else? My granddad.
Grandma was nice. She gave me a cup of milk and played squeaky Chinese opera music on TV. However, unfortunately, granddad was not. Not only did he not express any worry over my sister’s condition, he was muttering about how we shouldn’t bring her to the hospital. “Do you people think that taking medicine is fun…” he bellowed, as if it was us who force-fed her crab biscuits which she was allergic to, not the weird kid with glasses in school, and of course, we should just let her be consumed by those terrible red boils … Of course, 6-year-old me was indignant.
Nowadays granddad and I like to watch opera together. Last week whilst he was proudly showing me a new show on Youtube that features the biggest rising starlet in the showbiz, I asked if he still remebered that day. That day when I spilled tea on his favourite sweater and screamed until my parents picked me up. He told me that he didn’t. And that moment, in the brightly-lit phone screen of his, I could only see the dozens of colourful pills laying in neat boxes, like bullets ready to be loaded.
On the boxes were the little-kid handwriting of my granddad, a result of his bad tremor. I had took a pen and wrote them all over again when I first saw the scene not too long ago. The truth was that my granddad was a terminal diabetic. He takes heavy medication daily, and knows the troubles those innocent pills bring.
My granddad was not one who speaks often. But when he grunts at you that your shoelaces are untied, or that he’s cut up apples in the kitchen, you can know in his chest beats a loving heart. And for that reason, he is a man that I respect very much.