Now, Bobo Lie (as the huge Efferin-Lie clan) calls her, can’t recollect clearly who she is. Due to her dementia, she has no idea what day, time, or year it is. She has no teeth. But she doesn’t need teeth anymore because her food is all soft porridge-like meals.
She was one good cook.
Around the time my parents got married (the 1980s), Bobo Lie was about fifty years old. She lived in a large estate which she turned into a boarding home, sometimes with up to ten boarders at a time. She needed the money from boarders to survive and care for her sons. She has four sons, plus two nephews that she took under her wing because their mother-Bobo’s sister-had died at a young age.
In her home, Bobo always made sure the best meals were set out for everyone: sons, nephews, boarders, eventually daughters-in-law, and all the grandchildren that visited. Her signature dish was rawon: black beef soup with turmeric, lemongrass, lime, and green onions.
She was one angry lady.
The reason she needed to turn her house into a boarding home was because Kung-Kung (my grandfather) divorced Bobo in her forties. He was a highly respected doctor in Surabaya, East Java. One of the first medical professionals in the whole province, in fact. After three children, he left Bobo (who was pregnant with a fourth child) to marry another lady. Now, I call her Granny Rika. I call her that behind Bobo’s back. I suppose reconciliation takes generations.
According to Bobo Lie, she never wanted the divorce. But somehow, in one of her angry emotional fits towards an unfaithful husband, it is possible that she signed the papers in exchange for ownership of the large estate.
She was one talented lady.
Before she got married to Kung Kung, Bobo loved to sing. As a teenager, she won singing competitions and even sang regularly on the radio. Being a radio star in the 1950s is like being a YouTuber with millions of followers in 2021. She was the belle of the town.
Bobo continued singing as a hobby, even when her mental capacities started to decline. Somehow, she managed to remember melodies and songs. Sometimes, she even sat on my piano and plunked out some tunes.
I suppose she doesn’t remember any of this now.
But I do. And now, you do too.
Bobo means grandmother. It’s a common term for Chinese-Indonesian families. Kung Kung means grandfather, another common Chinese-Indonesian term.