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  • Por-por (婆婆) is Cantonese for grandmother.

    She smiled and mumbled something as I walked into the dining hall of the nursing home she's been in since the accident. She hasn't spoken much, if at all in the past few months. We're not sure if she still can. But there she is, smiling, holding my hand and taking down that apple sauce like a champ, her favourite dessert as of late.

    Judging from my mom's age in the photo, this was likely taken in the late 50's, early 60s in Hong Kong. A portrait of her and her children. Sometime shortly after the Sino-Japanese war, she and my grandfather left Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong.

    Her birthday is in a few days. My mother suspects she will be turning 94, but we don't know for sure. Even when she could tell us, she didn't really remember. The documents are wrong, they bumped up her age so she could work. She should be born in the year of the Monkey, so 94 doesn't make sense. A bit of a mystery.

    But what do I remember? I remember her carrying me on her back and rushing to the doctor's clinic when I was four. I was running a high fever. Back then, my por-por took care of me during the day while my parents were at work. I remember how much I loved the Shanghai-style pork chop noodle soup she use to make me for lunch, and the whole family gathering at her flat on Nanjing Road to make and eat won-tons.

    Flashing forward, I remember how astonished she was with what she could see after her cataract surgery over 20 years ago. "Look at all these spots on my arm!" I remember her saying in her mixed dialect of Cantonese-Shanghainese.

    My first couple years living in the big apple, she made lunch boxes for my cousin and me. A familiar face and taste in the midst of a big, strange city. Sometimes, the food was too salty, she'd forgotten if she added salt, and added it twice instead. I tried to ask her to make me the pork-chop noodle soup, but she had already forgotten how to make it.

    I only have snippets. I wish I could remember more.
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