I walked into my grandfather’s room and look around. This is the first time in all my life where I’ve been in this room by myself. Grandfather would never leave us alone in the room when we were young, fearing we would mess something up. When we got older, as did he, he rarely went out and guarded his room as if we are still children with sticky fingers.
He’s gone. I’m in the room alone.
This room was his laboratory. Depending on what he is working on, it was a darkroom, a photo studio, a projection room, a painting studio, wood working, stone carving, library and later his computer room. The desk has been in every corner of the room, so has the bed. He rearranges it according to his needs and he literally lived with, on top of, amongst his work, his obsessions.
There are cupboards along the entire length of two walls and in them are treasure troves of … I don’t know. I was never allowed to open them and investigate. It smells the same: a mix of wood, paint, books and something else. The room hasn’t been dealt with yet. Everyone is still focused on the funeral and the million origami bits that needs to be made. I am not sure if I am supposed to be in here. Is there some sort of Chinese superstition I am unaware of?
I quietly open a cupboard. Photo-paper boxes stacked one of top of another, filling the entire cupboard. What’s in the box? Photos? Negatives? Or? Grandfather wouldn’t leave empty boxes around. He’s not a hoarder and everything in the house always gets recycled and upcycled and used until it vaporizes. No one will stop me from reaching in, pull one out to have look see. Except, he hasn’t been gone that long; I’m not ready to search through with abandon just yet.
Neatly stacked white ceramic dishes. Bottle of liquid, bottle of paint. The brushes are clean and organized. In the corner is our orange baby chair with the table top removed, he’e been using it as a stool for over 30 years. On his desk is a painting he’s in the middle of. I can’t tell if it is done or not. There are lots of paintings with the same faces clipped together hanging from a nail. He’s been trying to get her just right for a long while now. He alters the details, the dress, the flower motif, the animal that appears but she has escapes him.
He saw the world from this tiny room. This room transforms into a thousand different rooms to suit his whims. My grandfather was an artist, a tinker, an inventor, a craftsman. I look at what is on his desk, at the unfinished painting. I wonder how we measure legacy and if what we leave behind is enough?