Monday, April 6, 2015

Farewell Grandpa Wright

I don't have much in the way of extended family that I know. I tended to adopt them as life brings them to me. The Wright family sponsored my mom over from Hong Kong years before I was born. Fred and Doris looked out for my mom and we naturally became their Chinese grand children. We'd visit almost every year in the summer. I remember a freezer in the garage well stocked with Popsicles and ice cream, especially those drum sticks with chocolate and peanuts. Till this day I feel like I'm having a special treat when I eat one! Grandma had a ceramic chicken filled with candies that all children visited regularly. Even when she passed on grandpa kept it filled and the neighborhood kids would always stop by for a visit. Grandma would always introduce me to foods that my Chinese upbringing would exclude, such as "Chinese Hamburgers" from McDonalds, or olives, which she would carefully stick one on each our fingers till we had no more and together we'd suck each one off in pure delight. Grandpa would take the time to talk to us about the stars. I remember late nights out in his observatory looking at the stars. It was such a treat as he'd lift us up to look through his telescope at the rings of Saturn or the color of Jupiter. As I grew older and took to music he'd often sit and listen to me, encouraging me in my playing and tell me of his love for certain composers.
The last time I saw Grandpa in May of 2014, I was pregnant with Leora and Isaac took the picture for us.
This was in October of 2011, I was pregnant with Eli then. It would be the last time I would see Grandpa in his home, the place of my summer memories.
Leora with the famous chicken, filled for the funeral and the last time the grandkids would have to partake of it's treasures. The chicken is well past it's prime, glued together from an unfortunate drop but a universal memory for most of us.

By the time I went to college it was natural to spend holidays and long weekends with them, especially since my school was only 20mins away. I didn't have a car but grandpa would come and pick me up. He'd use he ham radio to call grandma on the way home and we'd stop for a few groceries and head back to set me up in the 'blue room'. Sometimes I'd cook for them my moms favorite Chinese dishes and some of their kids would join us. Then in the evenings we'd go to the study and watch some British comedy show or listen to some music with grandpa. I loved the quiet of their home and spend much of my time reading. It was grandma who first recommended Pride and Prejudice to me at the age of 13. I would read it every summer along with The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George speare.

Grandpa had an amazing garden, a small piece of Eden. It was only on the trip at his funeral that I learned from his daughter tut grandpa didn't initially like gardening, it was a frugal means of providing for his family. He never stopped though and often sent me home with a huge basket full of tomatoes, zucchini, corn and berries from which he feed me and all my roommates thus saving us from the constant diet of hamburger helper or Mac and cheese! It was also a place of peace, I would often go down to the swing and watch the sunset while the scent of roses filled the air.

October of 2011, we were in time for hazelnuts and peaches from Grandpa's tree. Their house sat up on a huge hill with a beautiful view.

Grandma passed away eight years ago and I had a chance to see her just a few months before. I was pregnant with Isaac at the time and Kent and I were out there for a residency interview. By this time Alzheimer's had taken most of grandmas memories but not her spunk or caring nature. I was tired and took a nap on the bed next to grandma. When I woke she was laying next to me, intently looking at me. "Young lady, do you have a young man to tak care of you and that baby? Is he a good boy? Does he treat you right?"

"Yes Grandma, his name is Kent and you will see him soon". Patting my hand gently she replied, "he better be!" And her anxiety for me finally let up when he arrived and she vetted him.

In the years since her passing I've taken the time to call Grandpa once and a while. He missed Grandma terribly and as I did so I got to know him so much better. He taught me about marriage and love. One example was a story that Grandma used always tell of the time that she bought a table for a sewing machine that also could store it within. From what I understood the cost of the two altogether was more than what she was supposed to spend so she simply place the sewing machine inside the table. When it arrived she had grandpa carry it into the home. Grandpa remarked that the table seemed awfully heavy, grandma would say, "Fred you're just getting old and weak!" Years later after grandma passed away I ask grandpa about this incident. He told me he always knew there was something in that desk, but he didn't want to take the fun away from grandma and that there were some things not worth fighting over. I learned an important lesson from him. I would have been irritated to hear her tell that story to us over and over as if she had pull the wool over his eyes but he loved her enough to let her be right so that they could be happy.

Grandpa's kids and front shot of his home
Kent and I loved hearing of his stories during the war. He'd tell us to stop him if he'd told us the story before, but we never did. He could describe such a difficult time in life with humor and gratitude. I remember one story in particular of his being invited to a home to eat. Everything was rationed and thus waste was frowned upon. Grandpa told of a young boy who sat next to him, carefully wiping every last bit of gravy off his plate iwth his bread. While the boy did not speak English, it was obvious he made a comment of Grandpa's 'uncleaned plate' to his embarassment for which the mother apoligized profusely for. His upbringing and life experiences taught him frugality and joy in simple things like music, food, company and the beauty of the earth.

The funeral was a reunion of sorts for me. It was fun to see faces I missed and hear of all the changes life has brought us. 'Cousin' Lisa and Jenny. We were so young I spent some time at both their homes on some of the first sleepovers I ever had. Lisa's family lived farther away so visits were not so frequent. I remember eating a gingerbread house at Jenny's as well as both of us with our younger brothers, James and Stephen which we were second mothers over.

Selfies with some of my aunts and a picture of Ann Marini, Orion and his wife Sarah.

Grandpa had a proper military send off. There is always something so hauntingly beautiful about Taps being played, such a simple melody that evokes so much.
There was something in his stalwart character that let me know that everything would be alright. I will miss him terribly. I'm so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that he is with Grandma again and in their joyous reunion I take some comfort at my small loss. Until we meet again Grandpa ...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. How wonderful to have Grandpa and Grandma like that. We also have a Grandma Wright that is now 86 and we adore her and try to spend more time with. Hope you are doing well. Love you, Abbey