Parenting Tips

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Remembering My Dad




My dad (age 78) passed away on Vesak Day, 12 May 2006, this year. Today is his 100th day ritual prayer session. All his children, grandchildren and my mum were present at the temple this morning.

Since his death, my mum has not been taking it well. As her health has also been bad, she has been crying in private moments. As I pen this article, my eyes are also wet with tears. I still miss him dearly.

Dad was borne in China on 22 Dec 1927. At age 20, he went to Kuala Lumpur and spent 5 years there, in his eldest brother’s home. Every month, he would dutifully send half of his pay back to his hometown. Thereafter, he came to Singapore and worked. After 3 years, he married my mother and had since settled down here. My god-grandmother was their match-maker.

Dad fathered the 6 of us – 3 boys and 3 girls. For the first 8 years of my life, I was the only girl and the apple of his eye. Even after my 2 younger sisters came along, I was still his favourite. For most of his financial and personal matters, he would prefer me to handle them. After I was married, he would still call me up and talk about private issues concerning my mother and my other siblings.

I would not say my parents were a loving pair. They quarreled a lot. My mum is the domineering one and it was my dad who would give in to her most of the time. However, when it comes to monetary matters, both will discuss before making any hasty decision. After all, theirs were hard earned money from doing business and they would only spend on what is necessary. Because of their thriftiness and foresight in investment, they had some savings and passive income during old age. After his retirement, he relied on rental for his daily needs.

Like most parents, they wanted the best for us but never spoiling us. My mum is the one who would use the rod and dad would be the good guy. My 3 brothers got most of the spankings when they were young. I was always at ease in dad’s presence and he would accede to most of my requests. He had this positive attitude that things will turn out right. When my husband’s business failed a few years ago, he rendered financial help and moral support. Only last year, after selling my apartment, was I able to repay him. He had planned to return to China again some time this year.

Dad never drove any car. Instead, he rode motor bikes until age 65, all the while on a L-plate. He attempted the driving test but would go giddy whenever he had to make the ‘8’ turns so he gave up trying. Although no passengers are allowed for L-plates, I was a regular rider, hugging tightly behind him. He was a prudent rider, never speeding to ensure safety.

On 18 February this year, we celebrated the 50th wedding ceremony of our parents. My youngest sister had pieced together a cluster of black and while photographs of our parents and the 6 of us. It was a touching moment for them with plenty of recollections. The younger generation looked in amusement of how their parents were when they were babies. It was a happy meal together, followed by Karaoke session.

On 22 Apr 2006, my uncle in Kuala Lumpur passed away at age 88. Though my dad was not too well himself, I knew I had to bring him in to pay his last respects. Of the eight siblings, after my uncle’s demise, my dad was the only surviving one. The 2 brothers had not spoken to each other for the past few years over some misunderstanding. The trip was a fruitful one in that the mystery was finally solved and my two cousins finally knew what happened.

On the last week of Papa’s life, mum was away in Vietnam with my youngest sister (7/5 – 12/5). I was glad to have spent the last three days with him – buying him lunch on 9/5, staying overnight to keep him company on 10/5 and getting breakfast for him on 11/5. On the same evening, after work, my second brother and I were at his Ang Mo Kio flat until 9 p.m. before he ‘drove’ us home. My youngest brother stayed with him that night.

The next morning at around 7.00 a.m., my brother woke up and found him already cold and informed us. Other than diabetes, dad is generally in good health. We did not expect his sudden death at all. The doctor certified the cause as natural death. My mum and youngest sister came back only in the afternoon flight reaching Singapore after 6 p.m. The funeral lasted 5 days. During the wake, many people turned up to pay their last respects. One of my uncles even sang a song to him. Older acquaintances said they had enjoyed doing business with my dad as he was an honourable man and always prompt in payment.

On the last day of the funeral, my nephew of 7 asked me if “Kongkong” (grandfather in Teochew) is really gone. I told him although we may not see him again, he will always live in our hearts.

Yes, Papa, in your ordinary and simple ways, you have touched our hearts and make our lives pleasant. We will remember you always.

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