Last week I was back in the motherland to attend a close family friend’s wedding (congratulations Hamon and Jasmine!) and also took some time to visit my only surviving grandparent. Decided to dedicate this post to her.
My maternal grandmother, Tan Ah He, was born in Singapore in 1928. At age 14, WWII broke out in Singapore and the country was occupied by the Japanese. Living with her parents and relatives in a kampong, meaning village in Malay, she recalls constantly hearing gunshots and missiles being launched over a nearby hill. Seeing her neighbors and friends getting murdered by Japanese soldiers was a common occurrence. She even witnessed a friend getting raped by a group of soldiers after being dragged out of her own home. In order to avoid getting raped herself, she cut her hair short so that people would think that she’s a boy. These are things that a young teenager should never experience, but she’s seen and been through it all. Respect.
Now at age 86, she’s also survived the death of her husband - a grandfather whom I’ve never met, several colectomies (partial removal of large intestine), a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and so much more crap that I honestly don’t even know about. Despite all this, she’s still alive and well, sarcastic as ever, and sharp as a tack. Although I never lived with or know too much about her, it’s always a privilege to hear about her crazy childhood stories. Thank you, grandma, for staying alive and sharing parts of your life with me.