Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great, Great, Great

My paternal grandfather passed away in 1996, when I was 14 and totally unaware of what death meant.

My maternal grandmother passed away in 2005, when I was 23 and a little bit more aware of my own mortality.

I've never met my paternal grandmother, as she passed away when my father was just a boy, but my step-grandmother, whom I've always loved and known as my granny, is still alive and well, living with my father's younger brother and his family.

My maternal grandfather, whom I will always imagine with a newsboy cap on his head, wearing a jacket zipped all the way up, is also alive and well, living with my mother's older brother and his wife, plus a cat that rules the house.

The only great-grandparent that I knew was my father's maternal grandmother. None of my other great-grandparents were alive by the time I was born, but this granny was- and she's not your average white-haired, sweet lady that bakes treats.

She lived in this big house in what we called the country (but really wasn't) and I remember she always had giant squash and pumpkins growing on her land. My sister and I were both there when I was in fifth grade and she was in fourth grade, and we used to play in and among those vegetables. I still remember the way my great-grandmother yelled at us. We weren't in serious trouble, but it was still a good hollering, and I was amazed that such a tiny little old woman could be so loud.

That was my great-grandmother; she quelled my rebellious father in his youth (I've heard stories) and she had instant power over everyone. Whether this was just because of her age or because that's what her personality was, I don't know. But I do know how much I loved her.

Although I don't necessary like all the members of my family, I had a genuine affection for my crotchety great-grandmother. She started losing her hearing in the last couple years, and whenever she was on the phone with my mom, I could distinctly hear both sides of the conversation. My mom also likes to yell into the phone when she's talking to someone in Korea; no matter how much I tell her that it doesn't matter, she persists. My great-grandmother yelled because she refused to somehow compensate for the hearing that was abandoning her, and it amused me to no end to hear her clear as day while my mom's ears were probably ringing from the sheer volume.

My beautiful great-grandmother, with her enormous ears. My dad has her exact ears, the same shape and size and everything. In Korea, they say that a person with large ears lives long. For my great-grandmother, it was very true. My father and great-grandmother both have the biggest ears I have ever seen in my life. When either of them stand in strong lighting, you can see the blood running through the veins in their ears, and you don't have to pull their ears away from their heads to see it.

I admire the way she lived her life- fully, with no feebleness in her old age. She was a feisty woman, always full of pep and life and something to say.

My great-grandmother passed away yesterday at the age of 102.

She will be sorely and dearly missed.