Today is Christmas Day but for my family and me, today holds another special significance: the opportunity to reflect and remember the wonderful life of my grandpa, Ben Lee Liu. One year ago on Christmas Day 2014, my grandpa left this world on his own power, with all of us (my grandma, his children, grandchildren, and even great-granddaughter) at his bedside.
My grandpa was an entrepreneur, running his own successful family business in Taiwan, and a man of integrity who always made sure people around him, especially family, were doing well. Living in three different countries for 20+ years (China, Taiwan, USA), he experienced many challenges (Japanese invasion of China, Chinese Civil War, military duties, being a father of five kids) yet was able to overcome them through hard work, dedication, humbleness, and a positive attitude. My grandpa was a “human history book” as even in his early 90s, he had very clear memory of what went on during his 20s, as one of the fondest stories from him is the time he jumped off a plane in Burma. My grandpa was a “human GPS” as whenever I drove him around town, he would always point and direct me to “turn here, turn there” for a shorter, faster route to the final destination. My grandpa was one of the most healthiest and fittest person ever as during his mid-80s, he challenged me, an elementary school kid at that time, to a push-up competition and he outlasted me. My grandpa was an artist as he found a passion for Chinese calligraphy after retirement and he soon became very skilled at the craft of painting, even having his own art gallery displays and finding way to recycle books into art. My grandpa was tech-davy as loved taking photographs and videos and even learned to use an iPad. Thankfully, he has neatly organized and labeled all his photos in albums and scrapbooks in a neat fashion so we can easily view them. My grandpa was one of the nicest person ever and that personality really reflected well through his actions.
I still fondly remember that tough phone call I received at Terminal 2 at Oakland International Airport as I was getting ready to board my Southwest Airlines flight back to Los Angeles on Dec. 20, 2014, one day after Fall Semester 2014 ended. My sister informed me that something had happened to grandpa and with my heart pounding I said to myself, “no way, this can’t be true.” Upon landing at LAX, I raced frantically to LA County-USC Medical Center and immediately went to the emergency room and with tears rolling down my face, I gave my grandma a big, warm hug. Then, I went to see my grandpa, who was on a breathing machine. I held his hands and told him, “Grandpa, I made it to see you in time and I love you.” I am certain my grandpa heard me as despite a breathing tube sticking down his throat, he moved his mouth a few inches as in to acknowledge me.
I am very fortunate to have spent 20 years with my grandpa. Before college, I used to visit him and my grandma almost on a weekly basis as I learned at a young age to appreciate and cherish all the time spent with grandparents. Every visit to my grandparents would be an unique experience as my grandpa often brought out photo albums and encouraged me to look at it, with him narrating the story. A lot of times, he would nostalgically recall his military days, of the daring missions he embarked on. There were also a lot of his paintings and writings in Chinese posted on the walls of my grandparents’ home and he would often read me the writings, explaining that this was what he had to memorize when he was younger. We went out to eat often and also went on many post-dinner walks. I fondly remember the time we went on a walk and this dog was barking and my grandpa resourcefully used his cane to tap the fence to shut the dog up. I also recall every time departing my grandparents’ house, my grandpa would go out into the driveway and do some “exercising” by swinging his cane in a figure eight motion. Most importantly though, I am very glad my grandpa got to attend my Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony in 2012 as I often shared with him photos about my scouting adventures such as backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, etc since he too was interested in high adventures activities.
When I began school at UC Berkeley in August 2012, my visits became less frequent because of me going to school 400 miles away. During every break, I would be sure to visit and spend quality time with my grandparents. Sometimes, I would even spend the night with them and take them to their doctor appointments. In November 2014, I made two trips back to Southern California, one during the second weekend of the month (for a conference) and Thanksgiving break. During the first weekend trip home, I purposely chose to fly back to Oakland an extra day later after the conference ended so I could visit my grandparents. We went out to eat lunch and talked about a lot of things such as school and him sharing with me about his past through scrapbooks. We somehow got to talking about some emotional topics and for the first time ever, I saw him shed a tear. A few weeks later, we all gathered together for a family reunion on Thanksgiving Day. A couple days later, my flight was Sunday afternoon and that morning, I went to go eat dim sum with my grandparents. I talked and hung out with my grandpa, in which we talked more about the Thanksgiving reunion and I listened to him talk more about his stories. Overall, I have no regrets with my grandpa as I am very lucky to have been able to maximize my time with my grandpa, visiting him at every possible moment. One takeaway I want to share with everyone is to cherish and make the most of your time with your grandparents (or senior citizens) as you never know when could be the last time you see them.
爺爺, I know you are watching from the sky, looking down upon us as there has been events over the past year that can be attributed to you.We will always forever remember your spirit, passion, and life principles you lived for. I miss you very dearly and love you very much and am thankful for all the time I spent with you.