24 December, 2010

Grandma Loves You, But Take Some Dancing Lessons!

It's been 9 Christmases since my maternal grandmother was alive. Oh boy did she lay a major guilt trip when I saw her that Christmas day. And the thing is when she lays a guilt trip or gives a sob story, she tells it in the 3rd person. She put guilt-tripping into an olympic style art-form. She is constitutionally capable of getting things done her way. Talking about intention; she's all about 100% intention. She's also a story-teller to a highest degree.

She loved her gambling lifestyle. No she wasn't a professional gambler by any means, but she would be the type who'll know the high-rollers on a first name basis. A social bug. When I was in my first year of college, I moved into her flat because of the close proximity to school. I worked at a movie theater at that time, so I often worked late. She'd come home even later. I think it was her gambling tendencies which enabled her to take risks and chances. When I was growing up and we had our family outings at the amusement parks, it wasn't my sister or my parents who'd go on the roller coaster with me, it was grandma.

My 2nd cousin is a lot older than me to the point that she was considered to be the "niece" of my grandmother. (as opposed to the technical "grand-niece") According to the both of them while my grandmother was visiting my cousin, they decided to road trip from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas. Apparently my cousin was a regular at one of the casino/hotels there and offered my grandmother to use her line of credit on the tables. In gratitude, my grandmother told my cousin in 3rd person, "don't worry, Aunt Elma will share her winnings with you!" In due time, my grandmother was sitting on the blackjack table in an $8,000 hole. (I'm averaging out the accounts of the numerous versions of the story. The "hole" was as low as $4000, peaked at $16,000) Somehow my cousin was able to secure another couple thousand dollars in additional credit for the table. My grandmother played aggressively from that point, betting on "double downs" every other hand. Bottom line, she made that line of credit back with a couple thousand ahead. My cousin immediately stopped her from playing once she came out ahead.

She was a fitness buff. She regularly participated in "dry swimming." People often asked her what her workout regimen was, and she'd replied with a very straight face that she "dry swam." What exactly was "dry swimming?" MJ or "Mah Jonhg."

During the wedding reception of my other cousin, my grandmother grabbed me immediately after dinner because she wanted to dance and was not able to find anyone else to dance with at that moment. After two songs, she escorted me back to my table, gave me a kiss on the cheek and went, "Grandma loves you very much. You need to take some dancing lessons!"

I have to say there was no one like her. She was the second youngest of 5 sisters and one brother. (Technically there were 6 sisters, but my great-grandfather gave one of the sisters away for an unofficial adoption) She kept her Chinese ways, yet she was as much American as anyone else. She ran a takeout restaurant until she retired as a formal dining hostess. She dressed appropriate for the occasion as expected. She spoke her mind...often!

I remembered her especially during Christmas because of a Christmas dinner years past. I was in my mid 20s while my younger cousin was either turning 21 or 20, and he "discovered" drinking. So my cousin and I sat around the snacks table exchanging drunk stories when our grandmother came up to us and went, "oh Grandma knows how to drink better than you two." So my cousin in his youthful bravado decided to challenge her into a drinking contest pulling me in.

She won! She out-drank us. I'm not so sure if she out-did each of us, or both of us put-together because, well I was pretty out of it after awhile. We did know for sure she won. Her and her champagne cognac. She never settled for less than the good stuff.

Maybe this Christmas in her honor and in the honor of my grandfather, her husband, I should take a shot of Remy. (They both loved their cognac) Ah, a Christmas toast for her, and a Lunar New Year toast for him!

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