Here's my dad with his three youngest grandchildren (Nadine, Jolie and Xi-Yee) at Chinese New Year in 2010. It was the first CNY without my mom. Next CNY, it will be the first without both of them. He has gone to be with her, on her birthday April 9, 2014.
We've had a while to prepare for this, as his health was gradually declining, but losing a parent is still one of the toughest things ever.
It was seven-year-old Nadine who first alerted me that something was wrong. Last month, out of the blue, she tapped on my iPhone screen and in her limited speech (she has Down Syndrome) said, "Call 爷爷 (ye ye or grandpa)..."
I did and found out he had just been hospitalised, and that was to be a three-week long ordeal. The start of the end. When I was away for his funeral in Malaysia, she kept trying to call him too, via anyone's phone she could get her hands on. It was like she knew. Sometimes you just can't explain the bond.
This blog owes quite a bit to my dad.
Pa is the reason I am a foodie. He truly enjoyed his food, and he showed his love by feeding us delicious things. You'd often hear him say, "What shall we eat today?" and planning dinner before lunch is over. He liked to bring us to his favourite restaurants and eateries. He made sure we had a full glass of milk before bed. Food is love. I think that's true in many Chinese families, especially traditional ones. We may not be expressive, but we care by firstly making sure our loved ones are well-fed.
He also taught us the importance of reading, and the acquisition of knowledge. Our home is filled with books, whatever we could get in that little town. I think it helped me become better at writing too.
It was Pa who gave me a love of photography. I remember his old manual Olympus film camera that he sometimes let us play with as kids. It was just point-and-shoot back then, nothing technical involving f stops and metering, but you learn to have a good eye and to compose your shot.
Ironically my dad has never seen my blog. Or the Internet for that matter. He belonged to this age where computers were unnecessary in daily life.
Grief is a terrible filter. But as I shared on Facebook, there are little real miracles that tell me he is is still looking after us in his own way. And I am comforted that he is now with my mom, their ashes side by side.
I will remember all the things he taught us - honesty, hard work, responsibility, kindness and humility.
And I will continue documenting good eats as a nod to his great love of food.