My family fought endlessly over my grandfather's fortune, until he died. Then the wealth (which was in property) got turned into cash got turned into shares and everyone was happy. Yes they were Asian. Early in life I learnt to walk the fine line between loyalty and prudence, understood instinctively the politics of affection, how favour could be traded like kisses and candy. I once made the mistake of telling one cousin another was my favourite; he kept away all his toys and then the other, his brother, quickly grew out of me. My grandfather gambled away an inheritance at mahjong but when he was winning would inflict largesse on the avariceless heads of the unjealous young in big notes: hundreds and thousands. At Chinese New Year we were told not to look in our ang baos but we knew already that nothing given so freely could be as recklessly generous as love. Nothing came from nothing. Once he got Alzheimer's, the last to enter his limited attention span, won. He followed his second wife into death and the first tagged along as usual while the rest of us watched. They fired all seven maids, since reunion dinners were no longer necessary. During the funeral pyre they burnt two mansions, four cars and a jumbo jet with the number 006 the night SQ crashed in Taipei. One of the granddaughters dreamed they were all fine, but she fell sick the next day as the legends prescribe. Everyone got enough in the end to buy their way out of blood.
23 January 2003 10:57 hours