29. January 2011 · Comments Off on What Goes Around · Categories: B. Family Legends · Tags:
My grandparents and some of their children

My grandparents and some of their children

When my grandfather suddenly died at the peak of his professional life, he left his family no clue as to how they could sustain the lavish life they took for granted.  Money just flowed in and out.  They knew he had an extremely valuable stamp collection, but nobody knew where he kept it.  He and his brother shared an antique porcelain collection, but it was a hobby, and there was nothing in writing about ownership.  Most of the collection was in his brother’s house on the other side of that wall.  He was a fanatic collector who had actually been to the Chinese Emperor’s private museum.  Who knew that someday the pots would be worth more than their weight in gold?  The wall stayed up.

Then the sky fell down.  My grandmother was told that her husband kept a concubine in the penthouse above his office.  You didn’t need a DNA test to see that she had two of his children.  Another one was on the way.  All the men knew, but if any of her women friends knew, they lied and stuck to their story.  But before my grandmother could forget her manners and storm the other woman’s home to reclaim the jewelry, an angel knocked on her door.   He looked like a Chinese gentleman but she knew he was an angel from God when he told her he would take care of her family in the style to which they were accustomed – well, maybe small changes.

Why would he do that?  Because many business ventures ago, when he was still wet behind the ears in the world of business, my grandfather saw his potential and through the years helped him make his way.  Now it was his turn to return his kindness.  He would choose one of my uncles, send him to Portugal to learn his father’s profession, and support the family until my uncle could do so.

What her benefactor did not tell my grandmother, and my uncle filled in the story for me, is why my grandfather was so impressed with the young man who came for help to start a business.   He had come from hunger, literally. 

When he was 5 years old, his mother, with his baby brother tied to her back, stood on the side of the street and tried to sell him because she could not feed him anymore.  He said to her, don’t sell me, I can help you beg.  Sell the baby, because he is just going to eat.  Later, he had a job cleaning out the bowls at an opium den.  He noticed that there was always some stuff left in the bowls and figured out that if he kept the scrapings there were people who would buy that for less money.  He saved every extra cent, and eventually he owned an empire of businesses and gave to charity what he would not spend on himself.

Every Chinese New Year, this man would open his home, and every child in our extended family was welcomed with little red packets of lucky money. 

Now I knew that there are rich people who have no money and other people who don’t tell you that they have money.   Having money is not the same as having the means, and having the means is better. 

Above all, timing is everything.