I was six when I first saw my grandfather cry.
He wanted to be Chinese stoic
So he tried
But out of the corner of his eye
I saw the tear squeeze its way through
And trickle down his weathered cheek
Down down down down
Until it hit the edge and wavered for a second
Before dropping towards the ground.
Fourteen years later and here I stand
Now a man.
Chinese and stoic
But fourteen years ago I learned that
even the stoic shed tears
Even the fearless have fears
So why, as my family crumples around me
Wailing a long lament of life lived and lost
Do I find myself so unable to cry?
When I was three, my grandpa sat me on his knee
And asked me what I wanted to be
When I grew up
I was three
I wanted to be a penguin, fat and fuzzy and free
But Grandpa told me
that in order to carry on the family tree
I must come to be what I did not choose to be
A doctor, cause see
Doctors brought wealth and prestige,
Health and a need
To uphold the name of the family tree
With grandchildren branching out like leaves
I needed to be all that I could be
To ensure that I was worthy of being
Seventeen years later and here I stand
Not a doctor, but a poet
But grandpa, wouldn’t you know it
I still prescribe powerful potions and pills of poetry to the masses
Injecting intelligence and information to a world that is reeling
Because sometimes, it is not just our bodies that need healing.
So I guess I am a doctor.
I treat my patients with patience
And the wounded with words of wisdom
As I wade waist deep into worldly war zones of waste and wickedness
Grandpa, I hope this is enough for you
I’m sorry I can’t cry for you
I’m sorry you never got the chance to hear me heal with my words
My father always says “yun lo mo yeuk yee”
Which means “there is no medicine for age”
And when I sat massaging your frail hand
Three weeks ago in that hospital room
I realized that it’s true
There is no medicine for age
Your hand was literally a spider’s web
Your body, a skeleton with skin
The only thing remaining that still told me it was you
Was a nametag with your name, and your ridiculously oversized ears.
Age comes to us all
And while age didn’t come gracefully to the most graceful man I have ever known
Still I know
That the constant batter of waves
Can turn to sand even the toughest of stones.
Grandpa, I’ve seen you cry.
And I want you to know that
Even though you can’t see my tears
Hiding somewhere behind this passive face
Is a boy, not a man, who has witnessed your grace
It’s a grace that I hope to carry with me to the grave
They say, “yun lo mo yeuk yee”
But I plan on breaking that mold
So when I’m eighty three
I can sit my grandson on my knee and ask him
What he wants to be
At eighty-three, I plan to be still playing pick-up in the gym with the younger dudes
But since I’ll have two busted knees I’ll just be that old guy who makes smart passes and hits the open three
Grandpa, I never spoke your Chinese.
But that doesn’t stop me from wishing you safe passage
Wherever you may be
And I hope that from your celestial crib, you’ll look down and see
That I turned out to be
Exactly who I wanted to be
And that you’ll be proud of me
happy, in truth and in death’s sweet release
So to my father’s father: I pray you found your way to the father, grandfather.
Rest. In peace.