Death of Commander Yu


In 1976, when my granddad died, Father closed his unseeing eyes with his left hand, 

from which two fingers were missing. Granddad had returned from the desolate Japanese 

mountains of Hokkaido scarcely able to speak, spitting out each word as though it were a

heavy stone. The village held a grand welcoming ceremony in honor of his return, attended

by the county head.  I was barely two at the time, but I recall seeing eight tables beneath

the gingko tree at the head of the village set with jugs of wine and dozens of white

ceramic bowls. The county head picked up a jug and filled one of the bowls, which he 

handed to Granddad with both hands. "Here's to you, our aging hero," he said. "You've 

brought glory to our county!" Granddad clumsily stood up, and his ashen eyeballs fluttered

as he said, "Woo-woo-gun-gun." I watched him raise the bowl to his lips. His wrinkled 

neck twitched, and his Adam's apple slid up and down as he drank.  Most of the wine ran

down his chin and onto his chest instead of sliding down his throat.


1976, I mumbled to myself, the year my sister was born and it is the year of the Dragon. 

Such great figure like Commander Yu to die in the year of dragon, an auspicious mythic

animal, was perhaps no coincidence. And I seemed to have completed reading this chapter.