December 20th would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday. It's hard to believe that he's been gone for nine years; it seems like it's only been a few short years since Goong Goong's death, not nearly a decade. Funny how time flies, and yet the people we loved remain ever close at heart.
I think about Goong Goong a lot. Most often, when I'm sketching, I'll be in that place where you aren't thinking much beyond the next pencil stroke, and I'll remember him teaching me how to draw when I was little with this big coffee mug full of felt tip pens that he kept in his dining room. He and my grandmother would save pieces of blank newsprint from the newspaper for my brother and I to draw on.
Another thing that always reminds me of him is eating grapes. I remember staying with him and Popo when I was in elementary school and he'd have a big bowl of grapes on the dining room table. We'd eat them together, and before handing me a grape he would carefully wipe it off with a paper towel. He was the only person I ever knew who did that.
He was equally meticulous with Raisin Bran. For reasons I never knew, my grandparents would buy Raisin Bran at the grocery store, but once they brought it home my grandfather would carefully pick the raisins out from the bran flakes with a pair of chopsticks. The raisins would pile up in plastic tubs until my grandmother did something with them. (I can't remember what. Did she bake them into cookies? Did she feed them to us? I have no idea.) I would think, "Why not just buy corn flakes instead of picking out the raisins?"
Goong Goong would heat milk for me before bed so that I would sleep better. A couple of times, he made egg custard for me because he knew I liked don tart. The funny/sad thing is that I don't think I actually liked the egg custard all that much, because without the flaky texture of the crust the flavors weren't right, but I remember it very fondly now.
Goong Goong could draw, but he was also a sculptor who would carve jade into birds and animals. I was always terribly impressed with his work, and remain so 'til this day. There was this beautiful agate fish that he once carved. He was extremely proud of it because it had won a prize, even though one of its fins had been broken and repaired. After he died, it was given to a cousin or nephew, one of his relatives who was also a lapidary. Sometimes I think that I'd really like that fish back, because it was a beautiful piece that Goong Goong loved, but we have many jade pieces that he did and it seems selfish to fixate on the fish.
I miss him often, especially around this time of year. He loved persimmons, and every time the branches of the persimmon tree in my parents' backyard grow heavy with fruit, I think about how excited he would be.
My grandfather was an amazing person. It seems funny that most of my happiest memories around him revolve around food or making art, but then again those are two of the things I enjoy most today so I guess it's no surprise.
Me 'n' my Goong Goong c. 1998