Friday, October 10, 2008

The Living Years Jan 1942 - Oct 2008

Excerpts from a beautiful 1988 song “The Living Years” by Mike & The Mechanics

“I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I called his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye”

3 Oct 2008, 8.15am, land line from the hospital. Mom was on the other end “I think your dad is gone!” In Hokkien “Bo Leow” not Boleh! I was in the car with the 2 kids, just a few minutes away from the babysitter’s place.

I woke up feeling good even though I did not have a good sleep as I ‘survived’ the crucial period. I always have the notion that the probability of death is always higher before sunrise. (Both grandparents fell into this category!). Aiyah silly me – what a distorted notion – work and jolly during working hours and drop dead in the wee hours? C’mon!

When I reached hospital, dad or rather the body was draped in white cloth. Mom remained cool, waiting for my arrival. No tear, no hysterical scream. Calls were made to dad’s siblings, informing them about the death and decided to let them to take charge of the funeral arrangement. Well, if it was up to me, probability I would be disowned by them at the end of the whole affair. No, no body snatching but something along the line.

3 Oct 2008, my sister turned 36! Huh! From now on, we just have to wait and see how is she going to embrace 3 Oct. Mixed celebrations? Or perhaps hang it as there is no joy in getting older anyway? She hugged the body upon reaching the bedside. It was a poignant moment. Tears were shed!

In his bachelor days, dad was a salesman crisscrossing the nation in a van peddling soft drink, cigarettes etc. He was the eldest son. He lost his mom when he was very young. She lost her life after giving birth to her third child. It was post Japanese Occupation era where medical advances were still in infant stage. Terms like C-section and epidural did not exist. The only term that I could think of is breastfeeding but it could not prevent death to the mother! Grandpa remarried and added 6 more offspring.

In the mid 70s, when I was a kid, dad ventured into business. He spent long hours in his work to feed the family. There was no break except Chinese New Year. As a sole breadwinner, he worked extremely hard. Mom was given the task in raising us. Obviously there was no winning formula in raising kids but it showed in the later years that our bond with dad was not as strong as compared to mom. And for all his hard work in providing for the family, he probably neglected his health!

Toward end of 1995, after a persistent blurry sight and headache, he was diagnosed having mild stroke. He was rushed to SJMC from Tung Shin in an ambulance to be operated immediately to remove the blood clot. (That was the first of many trips in ambulance!). Life was never the same again. He was less mobile. 1 chronic disease after another invaded him. Hypertension, diabetes and finally lung cancer. Not forgetting a hip replacement after a fall 2 years back. So it was kinda of poor quality of life in his last few years.

He was a friendly and talkative person. He could speak almost all the Chinese dialects and could converse in BM but not English. He was born, bred and died in his homeland, so stop all this pendatang labeling.

As the eldest son, he had a big ego to boot but he took care of the siblings well. They did look up at him. Like father like son, so in some sense, I did embrace some of his characteristics. He also ‘showed’ us the bad examples that none of us picked up i.e. smoking, drinking and swearing!

In the 70s and 80s, we loved our visit to the cinemas to watch the 9pm Shaw Brothers sword fighting movies, followed by supper at the Hokkien Mee stalls! To make these outings more memorable were the fact that our mode of transport was lorry. Me and brother enjoyed riding at the open carriage, facing the breeze.
Of course there were memorable regular outings to Frasier Hill, Lenggong and Mimaland. And not forgetting my first plane ride, from Singapore when I was eleven! (We missed the flight to Singapore, so as plan B boarded the train to Singapore – yeah in a swoop boarded train and plane for the very first time!)

Of course, I did pay back certain percentage! I made him real proud during my graduation. I gave him a lovely daughter in law who took care of him. Last but not least, as a proud Chinaman, he left us knowing that he has a grandson! He must have been holding on until this grandson started walking (a month ago) and started calling him Ah Kong (a week before his demise)!


Razali Razman said...

Dear Chee Wee

My deepest condolonces on the passing of your beloved dad. Hope you stay strong in your current bereavement.

Kayage said...

An article very well written!! at the end of it, i felt a drop of tears forming...

my deepest condolences, my bro!!

CheeWee said...

Thanks bro for the support! In fact many many friends hv been showing their supports either via sms,mail, face to face etc for past 2 wks. Thank you once again. We r coping well. I m at mom's place daily for dinner and so far we hv been talking abt dad without fail. Talked abt his past actions, his last months etc. V transfer our good merits/ deeds that v hv accumulated to him! Yest activities at vihara, donated blood this morning etc.