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  • Writer's pictureCaren

wai gong's name


about twenty five hours ago, my grandfather died. my mom's dad. my wai gong.

it was expected, i suppose--about as expected as death can be. but even with weeks in the hospital, and the family gathered all around, praying prayers and making arrangements, it's still a game of now-you-see-me, now-you-don't. poof. and he's gone.

on sunday afternoon, i had a wai gong. on monday morning, i didn't. and so much wouldn't exist if it weren't for him (for example, the person typing these words), but he's not here anymore, he's somewhere else, and i don't get to see him again until i go somewhere else, too.

and strange, how i didn't even know that i no longer had a wai gong, and i went on with my day for hours and hours until i was driving home from conn's at about four and decided to call caleb back and he said, "have you heard?" and i said yes, thinking it was something else.

appropriate, too, that i got the news while on the way home from hanging out with my oldest friend, the one i crouched next to in my wai gong's big zip-up luggage bag as he spun us around on a swivel chair and made scary ghost noises so we would scream and laugh and stare up at the warped diamond shape of light that two zippers made when they were zipped together as close as they could go.

my wai gong is gone for the time being, and i'm trying hard to remember what i can about him. gray eyes, spiky gray crew cut, an accent i could barely understand, even if it weren't for my already-spotty grasp of the language. when he and wai puo lived with us, back when caleb was born, he built a lumpy fence around the garden with large stones. he took walks. he dug in the dirt of the garden. he built, or fixed (don't remember) the play set in the backyard. he spun me and connie around in the swivel chair. he liked to eat the burnt part of the rice at the bottom of the pot. he had a room in the basement especially for stacking scrolls of paper and empty Welch's jam jars full of calligraphy brushes. there was also a desk. a chair. and a heavy ink stone and an ink stick, which he let me grind on the stone with water from the jar.

he must've been about sixty-five then. i was four.

and now i'm twenty-three and he's...eighty-five? was eighty-five. i guess he doesn't have an age anymore.


if i should be sad, i'm not doing so well. partially because it was a good life, and a good death, and he loved his family and he loved God and this isn't the end. and partially because i did not really know him. i don't even know his name. my parents must have told it to me a million times, but chinese names don't stick in my head. i can remember the italian name of my friend in preschool (Lori Pascuzzi), but i can't remember my own grandfather's name.

i should find out. and write it down.

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