Originally posted to r/lastimages:
The last photo I have of my grandfather. He died in 2017, at the age of 102. He migrated from China at age 10 on his own.
My grandfather, whom we called “gong gong”, was not a perfect man. He mainly spoke the Hakka dialect, as he’s came from the Hakka people in China, several other Chinese dialects (definitely Mandarin), so I must note that I did not get a lot of his information first hand from him. Plus, when I was a kid, he was already extremely hard of hearing. That means family reunions consists of very loud yelling conversations in Hakka, which sounds like arguments all the time, it’s strange. I never got the hang of any Chinese dialects so I resorted to speaking to him in Malay if he asks me something, you know, those questions your grandparents ask, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “When are you getting a boyfriend?” etc.
As a result, everything I say about his history is based on memory or stories from my dad, depending on how far back we’re going. I can’t really confirm if some of these are fact or fiction, it’s all based on what I know.
My great grandfather arrived in Malaysia first, possibly to escape the famine in China. After a while, probably realizing this little town was full opportunity for a farmer, he sent letters back home, letting his family know that it was a safe bet. I’m not sure how soon after these letters gong gong decided to take the next boat to Malaysia, with only 2 cents with him. I remember looking at his desk and seeing letters written in Chinese with oddly written alphabets spelling out his address. I asked around and I still don’t know who wrote the letters, does he still have immediate family in China, I cannot be sure.
Fast forward to his adulthood, he owned land in this little town, sold some off and started a grocery business. During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, apparently he was going to be sent to the deadly Burma Railway as a forced labourer for the Japanese. But it so happens, before the Japanese took over, he had given a job at his store to a Japanese woman. Of course, she somehow chose to step in and stop him from possible doom. I don’t know who that woman is but if it wasn’t for her, I might not be here today.
I was 5 or 6 when I realized I had to live in my grandfather’s house. As a child I never really questioned it. And I continued to live there until I graduated Form 6 at 19. Being older now I realized that gong gong treated his house like a second home to anyone who needs it. For years my parents were financially in trouble so he opened his home to us. In fact, I’ve seen other relatives come and go from his (or our) house.
He was by no means a perfect person, he’s definitely had missteps in his relationship with my grandmother. All I know is that he’s lived for a century and for a century he’s done so much. When he first hit his (Lunar calendar) 100th birthday, he was still so healthy, we often joked he’d outlive all his children. He says his secret his avoiding spicy food and walking long distances. Heck, my dad had a not-so-fond of them walking as a massive distance and gong gong was unfazed.
My parents say that even during his final days, he was actually very aware but what hurt him was that he was just unable to swallow his food, so he got extremely weak. Everyone knew that a medical bed and tube feeding might have kept him alive, however, he was kicking and shoving people away, too stubborn to allow his family to treat him like he was incapable of doing anything.
Rest in peace, gong gong. Thank you for the gigantic fruitful mango tree you had in your front yard that allowed me and my siblings to harvest and sell as school allowance. Know that we are thankful to you for keeping a roof over our heads.