To My Grandfather
Updated: Mar 28
Today, Mom taught me how to make dumplings.
She showed me how to knead the dough and roll the pieces into perfect circles. I used wooden chopsticks to put in the beef filling and my fingers to seal the edges.
I asked her how she learned to make dumplings. She told me that, growing up, our family would sit around a table and make them. She said that she, her sisters, and her cousins played with the dough like it was Play-Doh.
You were probably sitting next to her. She probably tapped on your shoulder, wore a proud smile, and showed you when she made her first dumpling. You probably patted her on the head and told her that she did a good job. That she was already a professional.
It’s probably a memory she cherishes.
It’s definitely a memory I wish I had.
The memories of you are scattered in my mind. There’s an image of us watching Chinese dramas on the television. Of you practicing tai chi outside. Of you giving me Chinese herbal medicine whenever I was sick.
All of my memories are of you introducing me to my culture.
Now that it’s 2023, it’s been eleven years since you passed away.
Your youngest sister died after Christmas. She was in her early nineties and passed away from old age. Your two remaining siblings are in their nineties as well.
You were seventy-eight.
You lived through the Japanese Imperial Rule and the Chinese Civil War. You were an engineer in the People’s Liberation Army and came to the United States of America in your early sixties.
But a heart attack was enough to take you down.
I didn’t watch Chinese dramas after you passed away. I lost all of my Mandarin. I didn’t go to your funeral. I can’t even visit your grave. Your ashes are scattered in a body of water in Yuyao, China. A place I’ve never been to.
You never taught me how to make dumplings.
The only things you left are black-and-white photos in old albums and Mom’s knowledge of dumpling making. Your wrist movement in which she uses to roll a perfect circle and the way her fingers turn to seal the edges.
I’ll pretend that you taught me. That you rolled up your sleeves, pushed up your glasses, and taught me how to knead the dough. That you patted my head and told me that I did a good job, and was quickly becoming a professional.
Editor(s): Marie Hong, Amelia Pinto