Thank you to everyone for the condolences and sympathy on my grandmother, Ngin Ngin, passing away, early on the morning of October 7. Thursday night I bought my plane ticket to fly out next Friday night for her funeral, which will be next Saturday, the 17th of October. My family, with my dad (he is the fourth of Ngin Ngin's five children, and the oldest son) and his siblings and my oldest cousin have been working out various plans and making numerous arrangements, including a Cantonese translator, paper "money" and lai see (red envelopes).
Ngin Ngin was the last of her generation to pass on and my family is definitely incorporating a number of Chinese traditions into the service. One is a blanket covering that will take place at her wake. (I had never heard of this ritual before but then Ngin Ngin is the only person I've ever known who lived to be over 100.) My oldest cousin is making a special quilt and said that we can scan or fax images to her, to be transferred to the fabric.
I'd like Charlie to write his name on the quilt, of course. Friday night, after he'd led Jim on a bike ride, we'd had an early diner dinner, and we'd dropped Jim off in downtown Jersey City so he could catch the PATH train to do go to his office (Jim stays home on Friday and gets Charlie at school and I get a nice long afternoon to do things in my office)---after all that, I produced pen and paper and asked Charlie to write his name.
The answer to my request was "no."
"Yeah, yeah," I said. "You have to write your name for the blanket for Tai Po."
"Write your name," said Charlie.
"For Tai Po," I said. "For a special blanket."
"Tai Po," said Charlie. And took the pen and carefully wrote on the piece of paper.
You can see his first try in the photo: I'm not quite sure what happened to the a, looking as it does more like an m or Charlie's way of writing r. There is something distinctly, definitely, Charlie Fisher about that m and the half-oval C, and I think that's one of the best e's I've seen Charlie write. I didn't want to drive him crazy by insisting he keep writing his name on a piece of paper, so I added my Chinese name, Ju Lei Jen, to the right. And saw that, I need to practice writing my name.
I more than wish---Jim certainly wishes---that the three of us could be flying out next Friday night. It's going to be a very quick, and intense, trip, with lots of ceremony, talking (in more than one language), and many people whom I have not seen in years, years and years. Along with Charlie scheduled for intake at a large autism center on Tuesday of next week, a hurried trip to California and for a funeral would be just too much (it could be too much for me, frankly). Jim Charlie and I have traveled so far---covered so much territory---together, I know they'll be with me at every stage of the journey.
And Jim's writing his name for the blanket, too.