The life of this man, was as with many twists and turns, as the puppet shows he’d, performed in…translated…
This year at the before-the-New-Year Cleaning, I’d started sorting through the stacks of photo albums on the shelves, in the messy, not ordered by dates old photos, I’d found my long ago, already forgotten maternal grandfather. If he were still around, he would be, a hundred and eleven this year.
When I was in the elementary years, he was already, elderly, but every now and then, he’d taken the train from Changwha by himself to Kaohsiung to stay with us. Remembered how one time during the summer vacations, after we’d finished the tape of the puppet shows we’d rented, he’d started, telling the stories of old.
His father died young, his mother remarried, and so, at a very young age, he’d started, drifting around, thankfully, there was a man who’d, taken him in—a master puppeteer in Yunlin, saw that he was young, but quite intelligent, and learned really quickly, he’d, taken him in as his apprentice, and passed the skills of puppeteering to him.
the master puppeteer, performing with the puppets…photo from online
My maternal grandfather was illiterate, and had hired those who can read, to read the books to him, to tell him the tales, anything from the Tri-Kingdoms, the Seven Swordsmen, as he’d listened to those tales once, and, he could, recall the details, and put on the shows, and made the puppets perform the actions, in those days when the mic hadn’t been invented, using his diaphragm, he was able to star in the performances at the temple celebrations, and used this skill of his, to make a lot of, money, became quite famous in the central regions.
I’d privately asked mom out of curiosity, why he’d suddenly, retired, and stopped, putting on the, acts? Turned out, every time he’d done a performance, he’d gambled his earnings on the dices, and, lost almost, all of his earnings for the shows, he’d, performed to gambling, rarely brought home any of what he’d, earned in the performances. And, my maternal grandfather’s mother-in-law was quite intelligent, every time she received the news of him coming home, she’d immediately, cleared out the storages of rice, stashed the rice at another location in the kitchens, with only a bowl of salted water on the supper tables, and a few yams, to show how bad the situation at home is to my maternal grandfather, showed, that “this is the only things we had to eat”.
Later on, one day, when my eldest aunt was still quite young, she’d stolen a salted fish from the vendor when he wasn’t looking, took it home, and started eating it like it was, gourmet. This was sighted by my maternal grandfather, and he’d immediately taken her to the fish vendor, to pay for the fish and to have my eldest aunt to apologize to the man for stealing. At the same time, he’d, examined himself, that it was his addictions to gambling, that’s caused his families to be in poverty stricken means. He’d cried those tears of remorse, of regret, and sworn to stop being addicted to gambling, and had, sold off the boxes of delicate puppets at a very cheap price to a Japanese collector, and started up in his business since, walked all over the island, to sell the fabrics.
Thinking on my maternal grandfather’s life, it was, like those, puppet shows he’d, performed, with the ups, downs, the highs and the, lows, and, until before the curtains fell, the show still, played on, he’d had, the hardships of his life, handed, to him then.
And so, this is, a showman’s life, he’d toured around with the troupes, and, gambled away all of his earnings, and it wasn’t until he saw his own young, stealing and eating that fish, did he, finally realize, that he needed to cut his addiction off, and that was all that it took, for this man, to turn over a new leaf, to start acting responsibly, to provide for his own, families.
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