Grandfather’s Generous Spirit

Filed in Family, Memories

As the patriarch of the shop, he never turned anyone away who needed a meal or a temporary roof over their heads. But his generosity extended beyond the neighbourhood and was remembered by a particular young man from over the seas.

One day in the mid 1980s (I don’t have the exact date but it would have been before I went to study in England because we were still living in the family’s Chinese medicine shop), an elderly Asian man walked into our shop. He turned out to be Japanese, but with the help of a pen and piece of paper, and the fact that written Japanese was similar enough to Chinese for my parents to understand him, he wrote out the purpose of his visit.

During the Japanese Occupation, he’d been with the military patrol and assigned to our neighbourhood. Everytime he was on duty, my grandfather would invite him to eat in the shop. He never forgot my grandfather and many years later, on a visit to Malaysia, he found his way to the old neighbourhood and the shop. By then, grandfather had been dead more than 20 years, but this elderly man and my parents continued to keep in touch, mainly through annual greeting cards. Even after we moved from the neighbourhood, the annual exchange of cards continued.

One day sometime in the early 1990s, out of the blue, a taxi drove up to the gate of our new home in the suburbs. It was the ex Japanese soldier, this time armed with the new address that he gave the taxi driver who managed to find the house.

The annual exchange of cards continued after that second visit, but after a few years, they stopped. And four years ago, in 2005, my father left us. I wonder where this ex-Japanese soldier is now. He was much older than my father so perhaps he, too, had gone to the other side.

Note – there are many holes in this story, including the dates of his two visits, and particularly his name. I will need to look through my diaries for the information, but for now, the need to tell this particular story is strong so the details will have to wait. There is also a picture of him with my father in the shop, which I cannot find for now; all this will be added later on.