One day, we go to visit Grandma.
Grandma is 98, small as a child, and sits on a woven daybed covered by a tin roof, knees pulled up to her chest.
She is Nong’s mother’s mother; a farmer her whole life, who raised seven daughters in this village. I realise how easy it is for Nong to point out so many of her neighbours and call them ‘cousin’.
Grandma’s eyes are bad: she thinks we’re Chinese because of our pale skin. Nong massages her legs and her feet, and she smiles with vast open gums and wet eyes. Nong wipes them gently, her finger pressed into the edge of a towel. She points to my trousers and says she likes the colour: for some reason this makes me indescribably happy. All I can do is smile back at her.
She mutters blessings to us both because, as Nong translates, she doesn’t have anything else to give us.
“Because she doesn’t work anymore!” Nong laughs.
Her legs stretch out and she looks with detachment at the dark hanging skin, as if it doesn’t belong to her. A baby dressed in sunflowers eats a slice of cake gleefully on the bare board planks. She is the woman’s great granddaughter.
Grandma has the same laugh as Mama.