Memories of my Grandmother, Sparked by a Single Old Photograph

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I’ve been thinking lots about my paternal grandmother lately as I’ve been pondering next steps for my life and vocation. Formidable and unflappable, the only daughter among nine children, she was unusually well educated for a woman of her class and station.

She was a mother of six, only five of whom lived past childhood. A primary-school teacher, she was so legendarily fierce that, the story goes, a young girl once stood, knees shaking, to answer my grandmother’s question and peed on the spot. Bu I remember that inner steel wrapped in the silk and brocade of the cheongsam dresses she wore every Sunday to church.

By the time I knew my grandmother, the years had softened her: She was my hero, my comfort.
Only lately have I begun to realize how human she was. The hints were there all along: Matter-of-fact stories, spare and lacking in detail, about refugee life during the Sino-Japanese War. Silence in the face of family conflict. Skepticism about pop culture (movies were “of the devil”). Exhortations not to show emotion. Is it better to romanticize her or not?

Was her faith beautifully simple or infuriatingly so? How best to honor her: to remember the best of her or to wrestle with her complexity? I don’t know the answers. But I do know that I loved her beyond words and, twenty years after her death, I still do.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for her care, her fried rice, and her trust in God. ~shared by @byjeffchu

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