I suspect my great-grandfather was queer.
I have been told that I greatly resemble him growing up, my look, my interests, my talents, my intellect, my responsibilities, my development. My development.
I was his reincarnation.
He went off the mainland to the Philippines to escape the war in his 30s, while leaving his wife and children behind. I have not told why he would make such a decision, and I have not yet come up with a rationale. And it wasn’t until years after that his ashes were brought home.
It is said he died from sickness.
I was resented by his wife, my great-grandmother, until upon my birth, when my sex was revealed. I wouldn’t know if I would resent her if I were born otherwise, bur growing up, I was her favorite.
I was her comfort, her relief, her hope, her console. I would go to her room to greet her the first thing after I came home from school, and sometimes before I went to school if she was awake early.
She broke her hip in her 80’s and was not able to walk until she’s gone. She wasn’t able to leave her room, the apartment, or her family. We lived on the top floor of a 6-story building without an elevator. It was our escape, but it was her cage.
The irony was that the only time when she was able to leave the apartment was during the Chi-chi Earthquake on September 21st, 1999, in Taiwan. The earthquake shocked through the Strait, and as the building was evacuated, we carried her down. She felt the tremors of mother earth again long after being able to set a foot on.
She passed away a few years later at the age of 93. She had lived almost a century, and had witnessed the new millennium, which she wished everyone in the family “Happy Birthday” for. That’s what she would say to all good things. She had seen so much and told me so much, but never about her husband, my great-grandfather. She would just hold onto my hands and say “good, good” with such warmth and light in her eyes.
The night when she passed on, I wasn’t there with her. I was told at 3 am, and that I didn’t need to be there. There was an option, and I made a decision that I immediately know I would regret. I regretted it. I regret my whole life. I betrayed her again just like her husband. I would never know what she would have told me for the final time.
“Can you hear me, let me tell you some truth.”
I keep on imaging her last words for me, but my guilt comes from this undeniable sense of betrayal.
I was her comfort, her relief, her hope, her console, and I wasn’t there for her again, and again.
I was her cage.
She passed on when I was 11 years old. I was busy touching each others’ crotches with my classmates. I also started shoplifting after her death and was caught a few weeks later.
I wasn’t falling into a self-destructive mode or yearning for attention. I was trying to make sense of something, something that’s fundamental to me, something that she would have told me that early morning.
Something to set me free.
Years later I knew I am queer, and I left my family to escape wars with them. Would this be what she were telling me?
I look for reconciliations when I see her and my great-grandfather’s pictures on the wall next to each other. She was the great-grandmother I knew, old, freckled, silver hair. And he was young, handsome, dashing, but I don’t realize that we don’t look the same at all.