Thursday 14 March 2019

Sài Gòn: We visited my maternal grandparents' tomb today. Neither my mother nor my father knew where it was, so we went with my mother's half sister - the daughter from a second marriage. 

I unfortunately never met my maternal grandparents. My mother never saw them again after she left Vietnam for France in the 50s. My dad was the last person to have met her father. I remember how in our newly bought house in Saint-Maur, one Saturday afternoon after lunch, the conversation between my parents got stuck on some topic I dont recall now. It must have been about family, for my mother asked to listen to a conversation that my father had taped during his first trio back Vietnam after the end of the war and the fall of Saigon. The trip was in 1982, one year before her father would pass away. At first, my father objected that it wasn't a good idea. But she insisted. "Don't I have the right to hear my own father's voice? Please!" My dad had to bow down to the demand and played the tape. Her father's voice began to fill the house. He was talking about his old years and his weak health. But he could joke about it. My mother said that he was a very witty and funny man, and I could feel some trace of it in what I heard. My mother's tears began to fall and soon she was weeping unconsolably.
That was the only time I had any physical connection with my maternal grand-father. 

The cemetery where my maternal grand-parents were buried wasn't well kept. It took time before we could locate the tombs. It was noon time. The sun was hitting hard. We first found the tomb of an older sister of my mother's, then her husband's and my grandfather's. My grandmother's tomb was the last one. The tone was casual at first. I was helping my parents to navigate from one tomb to another. I was looking at the picture of my grandmother taken when she was spending her final years at the Buddhist temple. My mother came and stood by me and began to address her.

"Dear mother.... I miss you so much.... Here's my first son... your grandson..." Her voice started to shake. "I love you so much.... I miss you so, so terribly..."

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