When Ruth and Jonathan were with us last weekend, they mentioned their parents, my Uncle Stephen and Auntie Paddy were in China and Hong Kong. They were in China to visit the old ancestral home in Hui Ann village in Fujian and in Hong Kong to visit Pai Li, a cousin who moved there with the family several months ago. Pai Li’s husband Shao Lead works for Intel and they’ve been expat-ting – previously in Costa Rica and now in Hong Kong.
A short while ago Uncle Stephen sent an email to a number of us, attaching some photos of the ancestral home. It was the home my late grandfather was born and grew up in. While in Malaysia, he asked the local church to use the building. That church has since moved to its own bigger and newer premises. 6 Chek took a photo of that building too, which is only about 100m along the same road. 6 Chek has accurately described the new place a pretty building.
I wonder if at different stages of our lives we are affected by different expectations and aspirations and therefore react to memories differently. Years ago I reflected more and looked back in the rear view mirror of life with more affection. I appreciated history more. I had a more acute sense of wanting to connect with the past. In as much as those photographs carried a lot of meaningful history, I couldn’t connect with the sentiments those photographs deserve. I could evoke little.
As a boy growing up in Klang we visited our late grandparents regularly – often at least once a week. I had made entries in this blog about the family altar practice my grandfather started and maintained and how that allowed so many of us to be well rooted in what I consider good things. Often in these family settings, I’d hear about this grand old house in Hui Ann, Fujian. Everyone who paid attention to what grandfather said and what grandmother griped about (he was always sending money for maintenance and up-keeping of that house) would not have missed the connections he, grandmother and some of the uncles and aunties had with that house. So those photographs should have evoked warmer and better affections. But they didn’t.
Maybe it is simply the elapsing of time. My grandfather died in 2002. That was 3 World Cups ago. I still remember a lot of the things he said. Things he said to me, things he said to the family, things he said to my late father and things he said to the public – in church, in community meetings, in weddings and in funerals. I remember his mini sermons he gave over the family altar. His prayers. His admonishments. His praises and encouragements. I still love him and I wish I can now have long conversations with him. In other words, my memory and affection for him remain vivid and strong. So I cannot account for the lack of connection I feel with those photographs.
The only reason I can fathom therefore, is I’m in or at a phase where the memory of past resonates less than expectation for the future. That is strange because it feels counter intuitive and inversed to how I (and perhaps others) generally expect our connection with the past to grow. I would have expected my sense of history – the desire to connect with my past – would grow as I become older. The opposite has proven to be truer. Maybe I’m hitching my outlook on something external to me…