Who should I start for the series of my family? Of course it must be my Grandfather (in Teochew dialect: Akong)! Like his name which means “Hero” in Chinese; he is our own family hero, and for sure, he is THE number one in our family.
Akong is originally coming from China together with his parents and siblings. As other people, this migrations are meant to get a better life. He was born in 1927 (this year, he is 84!). Together with his parents and siblings, they are crossing seas and oceans, to Indonesia, in Borneo (Kalimantan) islands at cities called Pontianak.
His early life in this country was not easy. Indonesia was colonized by Dutch until 1940s (more than 100 years) until Japan came in 1942 and taking over Indonesia. So basically, he lived in the war-era in 1940s of Indonesia. Then, when Indonesia declared the independence day, his life was not (yet) getting better as well.
We spent our childhood, listening to his stories: from how, he would take his bike and selling ‘rujak air’ at the market; how he would be patient when his dad yelling, or raging on him; and how he struggled to feed his 7 children (he was married at the age of 17, my grandmother is at the same age). When we were young, the stories might sound boring, not important, but now, I can see that those experiences has make the now-Akong that we see everyday, and we kept learning from him.
His life started to change, when his children has grown up. When my dad’s was in high school (my dad is 5th child), he started to build his business. It is the distribution agent in our province (West Borneo). Then, together with his sons, he build the business which has grew my uncles into a successful person.
“Hu Kok Cai”
What make him more special? For me, as I am living with him, I learned a lot from him. We learned about photography (he loves that a lot!), Three Kingdom stories (oh yes, he remembered all the details), Chinese old art (from ceramic to painting), and even food.
At home, when dinning time’s coming, I will be his favorite granddaughter (compared to my sister and my brother), as I eat everything – from vegetables, fish, to every kind of Chinese cooking. There is a particular food called “Hu Kok Cai“. It is a soup, with green vegetables getting fermented first before cooked. People said it is old chinese food, and kids are usually hating it. Funny, I found it delicious! My Akong is the one who taught me to try that food, he taught me to add the soup with “Vinegar”, and if I may say, the taste is amazing!
This soup has been my favorite soup my entire life. Every time I go back to my hometown, Akong will get to by the ingredient, and asked my mom to cook it for me (I am now working and living at Jakarta). Until now, this soup will be always cooked by my mom whenever I get back to home.
A couple years ago, Akong went to his regular check up, and diagnosed with a symptoms of Dementia. It’s usually happened at the elder. Knowing about this tendencies, doctor has given a lot of neurotic medicine to help improve on his neurotic systems, and postpone the real happening of Dementia.
At first, the medicine seems worked, however we know that this kind of disease has no cure yet. Slowly but sure, he loses his memories. I can tell that for sure. I mentioned about my favorite soup before, and how he taught me to taste that food in a better way. From my mother updates recently, she told me that Akong couldn’t remember that this soup tastes better using the Vinegar. He would ask, why we should add the vinegar into the soup. It’s really heartbreaking to hear that he has forgot some of small things that regularly done in the entire of his life. But this is really unpreventable, we have to deal with it and move on.
This year, he is 84, physically healthy, still smiling to us, and joking with us. Well, he has lost some of his memories, but he never lost his memories of us. That’s what’s the most important thing for me (and for my family). He remembers our names well, he never called us with wrong name. He remember his families well, celebrating birthday with a lot of fun, and caring for my grandmother in a perfect way. What else can we ask from this old man? 🙂 He is still our HERO!
Live long, Akong, there is just a lot for you to see from us, your grandchildren. See you on this July 30th!
Your Granddaughter 🙂