I Dream of Grandpa
Growing up, my grandparents were huge influences on my life. These would be my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather. Strangely, they held greater roles in my life than my parents - perhaps a result of my constant moving around as a child. These two were constants and so, even in adulthood, I cling to their memory.
As a child, all my grandfather's mutterings about herbs and Chinese legends, art, martial arts etc were just his tall stories. Most people within the family ignored him or looked indulgently at him when he "went on". I always wondered why the family took so little heed of his teachings when people from all over would come around to his house to ask him for prescriptions or counsel even though he retired eons ago.
He was a very mysterious figure as it was very odd that a Eurasian man would be a Chinese doctor in those days. Actually, I have a feeling it is strange even today. No one really knew how he learnt so much. I remember he told me that his teacher was some famous Chinese teacher that his father did a favour for so the man had no choice but to take him on as a disciple. Not sure if that was another one of his tall tales or fact. Considering how un-Chinese he looked, it would appear unlikely that he knew so much about Chinese legends and customs. It's a mystery that will never be solved.
I certainly never imagined that I would remember so many of his teachings. The strangest things would come back to me. Like today.
The rains finally let up and the streets were overflowing with people suffering from cabin fever. Everyone was out! As was I! Still sniffling and a mite slow because I still feel a little achy, I took this opportunity to go out and replenish some supplies. Just in case it starts raining again.
At one of the neighourhood markets, I saw a sign under a carton of vacuumed pack objects. "Fresh lily bulbs". It was the edible food section and not the gardening section so I assumed these could be eaten. I was highly intrigued and went over to examine them. They looked like garlic. I rummaged through my dusty database to remember anything that I might have heard about them.
I know dried lily buds. I've even eaten them before. I know how and what they are used for. But I suddenly realised my grandfather never cooked any for me. It was strange as he always made it a point to teach me how to decoct any herbs he showed me. I do remember my grandfather showing them to me though and allowing me to play with them as a child. I thought they were flower petals and used to make pretty designs with them. I think he gave those to me to keep me out of his way while he was sorting Chinese herbs.
I've certainly never seen lily bulbs fresh. I bought the fresh lily bulbs anyway and decided that I would go home, study up on them and try to remember what he told me about lily bulbs.
My subconscious must be really strong. I went to sleep and dreamt of my grandfather. I dreamt that we were in his dark "office" - the only place the women in the house would give him any peace. It's the room with all his herbs and books so the overpoweringly pungent aroma guaranteed that the women would never enter the room. He was showing me dried lily bulbs and he was telling me that we seldom use fresh ones. Why? Because they had to be "cured" before you use them as they are quite bitter otherwise. And the act of drying them actually intensifies the properties.
In my dream, my grandfather also told me to remember that I must not eat too much lily bulbs. And then I woke up. As usual, after vivid dreams of my grandfather, I woke up sad and missing him.
I'd like to think my grandfather was visiting me and watching out for me. I think among all his children and grandchildren, I was the one he "imparted" the most to. Partly because I was the only one who would really listen, and also because I used to follow him everywhere when I visited him. I watched everything he did. I thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread. He taught me about herbs, martial arts, how to play badminton, how to catch dragonflies, play marbles, fly kites ... all the really cool stuff that my other family considered phlebian or "beneath them".
As I was such a sickly child, my mother would send me to my grandfather to be healed despite my father's family's objections. During summer holidays, she would pretend to take me somewhere for the hols. Actually we were at my grandfather's.
Grandfather would try all sorts of way to heal me. But I think the best cure was actually letting me get out and play unlike at home where I was kept indoors, in the studio, or within the family compound constantly. Grandfather would always list the herbs I was not suited for. Again and again. He made it a point to tell me what I could and could not eat and in what amounts. He would drill these into me by making me recite what I could and could not eat. I think lily bulbs might have been one of those that I had to take in limited and wary amounts.
That would explain the dream. The dream must have been a flashback to afternoons of reciting what I had to be wary of. I think I am now determined to study more about the lily bulbs from what little information I had. And if I am in time, I will submit this to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blog.
And now back to sleep. Hopefully, Grandfather might come back and tell me more.
Categories - Rambling Prose