Archive for the ‘Family’ category

Lisbon

November 4, 2014

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This was probably one of our best family holidays. Every element of the holiday turned out to be perfect, which really was quite a feat! Weather (most important variable which can make or break a holiday!), was absolutely stunning. We arrived just in time (at the end of October) when the city was experiencing an unusual heatwave. It was 26C everyday with sunny blue skies. At night, we turned on the fans to cool us in bed. What bliss. Because it was no longer tourist season, we had the wonderful summery weather without the crazy crowds! At many tourist attractions we visited, there were less than 20 people. We stayed at a very gorgeous AirBnb apartment on a street dotted with convenience shops and affordable restaurants. Eating out was cheap and food was always good. We had fresh seafood every day. The boy was very well-behaved throughout the 5 days and really was a pleasure to be with. He’s at an age where he is able to appreciate the surroundings and enjoy different sights and attractions. It also helps that Lisbon is so staggeringly attractive. Everywhere you turn there is a photo opportunity. The place has a real rustic charm. There was nothing pretentious, and ways of life are still quite traditional and old-school, which I find really appealing. My husband asked me last night, “So, do you want to go back to Portugal?” And my answer was loud enough for my whole street to hear. “YES!!!!”

Mummy’s boy

December 16, 2013

My son will be turning 3 and a half next week, on Christmas Day in fact, and it has just hit me how much I enjoy his company at this age. For a long time I haven’t been able to say it at all, motherhood is not all fun, but at this point, I am truly enjoying being Mum to my boy.

I don’t love him more now and less before, I just think our relationship has become better.

When he was a baby, yes he was very fat and cute, but all he did was poo, pee cry and drink milk. There was very little reaffirmation of my love (at least nothing verbal). Then when he was a toddler and hit his Terrible Two, oh dear, life wasn’t so fun then. He was on the ground kicking and screaming every few minutes if he didn’t get his way. This included in public places – which then made us look like bad parents if we tried to walk away. Everything was ‘No’, followed by a tantrum. I feared taking him anywhere. Independence and immaturity are lethal together.

Things greatly improved after he turned three. He started school and learnt to be sociable and behave in a sociably acceptable way. This is especially helpful since he is an only child and has limited interaction with other children in his daily life. He’s learnt to be even more independent – looking after his own belongings, feeding himself, following rules and instructions.

These days we spent a lot of our weekends together, just me and him. I would potter around the house doing my chores or making our meals. Lucien would be happily playing with his toys. I put the telly on for him, because it’s the only time during the week he’s home during the day and can watch some cartoons. We fool around on the sofa, cuddling and I smother him with lots of kisses.We have conversations and plenty of laughter. We usually head to the park if it’s nice and sunny or to the indoor play centre if it’s raining.

Just the other day I took him out for a quick bite at the supermarket cafe before we did our weekly shopping. This usually was very stressful; no kid likes to be dragged around the shop. But he was very good at meal time. It was all very calm and civil. No running off every 2 seconds or kicking or screaming. We finished our food at the table and then did our grocery shopping. Okay, toward the end of it, the boy had quite enough so he got a little grumpy and wanted to head home. But I mean, this was one hell of a good improvement from what he used to be like.

On my drive home today I was just suddenly bombarded by these intense mushy feelings of love for my son, I just wanted to be home straightaway to give him a big squeeze.

Now I know, what’s unconditional love.

Macau

November 17, 2013

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My mother loves Macau and she kept on about wanting us to experience the city with her. And so we did, before we left for the UK. She loves the Venetian Hotel but to be honest I found it rather tasteless and tacky. The food was also extremely expensive. Yes the rooms were HUGE and extremely luxurious but the hotel just has ‘FAKE’ written all over it. We spent most of the time just hanging out in our room (since we don’t gamble) or at the pool and playground (completely deserted although the hotel has 3,000 rooms, guess where’s everyone?). I found the city centre of Macau with its colonial buildings and old streets and shops most enticing. We spent one day on our own in Hong Kong, where we dined at the Peak for lunch at a restaurant with amazing views. For a non-gambler I find the city has very little to offer for me, but at least the family got to holiday together.

Closing a chapter

October 24, 2013

I did a number of different things with my Dad’s CPF money. I felt I had to use it to repay his old debts and accumulate some merit for him.

1) My mother’s car needed spray painting. I paid for that.

2) She used some of the money to donate to various charities in his name.

3) I sent money to all my paternal cousins, all of whom helped me at the wake and funeral.

4) I ordered a load of cakes and pastries to thank his ex-colleagues, all of whom looked after him very well at work and have become his close friends.

5) I went out and bought myself jewellery – the first time in 10 years. I wanted something tangible, long-lasting and can be kept close to me, which I could remember my father by.

6) I dragged my mother out to the shops and bought her her first “branded” handbag. I then bought myself my most expensive handbag to date. The first time we didn’t go digging in the sale bargain bins.

7) I gave money to my aunts and grandmother.

Whatever that’s left, it’s sitting there in the bank.

Until I come across an old debt to repay or something meaningful I can do with the money.

Hello, Su!

October 18, 2013

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Have mixed feelings about Macau (more on that in a separate post) but perhaps the highlight of our 5-day family holiday would be our day trip to Hong Kong, where we reunited with our ex-helper, Su, where she now works. We last saw her in 2007 but recently got into contact with her again and arranged to take this rare opportunity to catch up over coffee and cake. It was a hurried meeting but nonetheless it was great to reminisce about old times and marvel at how far we have come. Fluent in Cantonese (what a feat!), Su is now a mum of a five-year-old boy who lives in Indonesia with her husband and we hope she will one day return to our household.

Losing Dad (4)

September 23, 2013

There was no space at my father’s rented house to hold the wake. It also didn’t feel like an appropriate venue. The alternatives were either at the funeral parlours downtown or at the void deck at my uncle’s residence. We decided to have it at the void deck to minimise the travelling required by my elderly relatives.

Everyday for 3 days, I travelled from one extreme end of Singapore (Pasir Ris) to the other end (Jurong West), where the wake was held. I managed to hitch a number of rides over the days to save money. My cousin kindly picked me up from home one day, and a kind elderly gentleman who works as an air-con technician at my father’s workplace drove me home on the first night.

It was very strange being in such close proximity with my paternal relatives continuously for days. Our interaction was normally restricted to 2 hours a year during Chinese New Year where we gathered at my eldest uncle’s flat for lunch. On the first evening of the wake, I sat at the dining table with some relatives to have dinner cooked by my auntie. I started crying, because I always had my father with me when I sat at that table for meals at Chinese New Year. I felt awkward, out of place and sad, to be alone with these people I hardly knew.

Oddly enough, nobody once asked me, “Are you okay?” I suppose it is the Chinese/Asian approach to just get on with things rather than openly talk about feelings. My father just died an unexpected death, and I was expected to be strong, calm and normal.

As an only child, there was a lot to be done, from organising what needed to be done, making decisions, observing and performing the rites and rituals. I was very thankful that we had an honest and helpful funeral director who made the process as quick, smooth and pain-free as possible.

On the day of the funeral, it started to rain just as the hearse was leaving. I was made to wear a pair of white socks as we accompanied the hearse on foot to the main road. Mid-way the rain pelted down. I started to laugh. This was my father alright. Always such a prankster. He wanted to see us drenched! My socks were sodden and disgusting.

After we returned from the crematorium, the funeral guys started tearing down the stands and lighting, we sat around to have a quick bite, and I took out a fat wad of cash to pay the funeral director. I was so physically and mentally tired, but there was still this constant hustle and bustle around me. All I wanted was a good lie-down.

That afternoon, we went to collect the ashes and proceeded to the temple’s columbarium. When I saw my father in the form of a pile of bones, I didn’t know what to think. My first thought was, “That’s what life boils down to. A pile of bones.” After a simple ceremony at the temple, we placed my father’s urn in his final resting place.

My father always wanted his own one-room flat, but was so choosy and picky when it came to the condition and location. He was once offered a unit by the government in the Outram Road area but he declined because he said the residents were mainly elderly. (I wonder what he thought of himself).

And so, I texted my mother. I said, “He’s finally gotten a place of his own. On a high floor, fully air-conditioned, clean, bright and spacious.” How sad that one could only get what they wished upon their death. At that point I felt even more determined to live life by the moment, seizing very opportunity to do what I wanted to do. I was never one who procrastinated, and after this episode, I felt even more motivated to live my dreams.

I didn’t want to be a pile of ashes with a million regrets.

I wanted to know I had given life a good go.

The next day I went to clear out his room. I dreaded this task, and although I knew I was going to be again deeply affected by the state of the room, I could not ask any of my relatives to go along with me. I didn’t want to subject them to the horror, and also I wanted to preserve my father’s dignity. Nobody should be allowed to see or know how he lived.

It was painful but I braced myself for it. Again by divine intervention, one of my friends invited me out for lunch via SMS that day upon hearing my dad’s passing and I instantly knew she was one I could rely on. I asked her if she could drive me to his house and help me to clear out his room. She agreed immediately without asking any questions.

We first dropped by a mini-mart to pick up some trash bags and wipes. I warned her that it was going to be messy, dirty and stinky so she could prepare herself. It took us about an hour to put everything into black bin bags. She sneezed and gagged a number of times, but was also very stoic as she had been regularly delivering food to the elderly living in one-room flats, and was used to the sight of filthy living conditions.

She said, “Wah, you look so gu niang. but you are quite tough ah! You are not bothered by the smell!”

It wasn’t so much the smell that bothered me, but more like how could anyone even live in such a place that disturbed me. “Eh, I think he didn’t stay here you know, look at the bed, didn’t look like anyone slept in there! Maybe he had a different place he went to,” my friend said to me afterward.

She seemed quite convinced and I also wanted to believe that was the truth. But I knew it wasn’t.

THIS WAS WHERE HE LIVED TILL THE DAY HE DIED. THIS MISERABLE SAD PIT OF A PLACE.

The following Sunday, on the seventh day after he died, I went to the temple to pay my respects. The moment I saw his photo at his urn I just cried uncontrollably.

I felt so sorry for this man. (end of series) 

Losing Dad (3)

September 13, 2013

After his death, I was shocked when one of my father’s colleagues turned up at the wake to ask me for the money borrowed from him. I ended up repaying my father’s debt using money from the donations. Days after, I went to three different banks to close his saving accounts. Each trip to the bank left me drained.

The TOTAL amount of money he left behind added up to the sum of S$14.14. Fourteen dollars and fourteen cents. The man was living from hand to mouth. It was saddening, but who was I to judge? I’m not much better off myself in terms of my finances. Still, I have 3 mouths to feed, so I also couldn’t understand why a monthly salary of S$1,500 was not enough for a single man without dependents or other financial obligations.

From the documents I found in his drawer, I knew he still had some money in his CPF. Only in the MediSave account in fact, the only CPF account which you weren’t able to draw the money out in cash no matter how old you get. (At this point I wanted to kowtow to the Singapore Government for implementing this rule). There was of course virtually nothing left in his other CPF accounts.

I had no idea if he had made a nomination on who would get the money. There was no way to check this information, because it was confidential. I was told by CPF that if there were no nominees, it would be up to the Public Trustee to distribute the money.

Today we got the letter from CPF.

He left his money to my mother. She was his sole beneficiary. Not me.

The woman who divorced him in 1989, who wouldn’t speak to him for 24 years.

The woman he felt so much guilt towards, the woman whom he had hoped would forgive him.

The woman he hurt so much that she couldn’t even bring herself to bade him goodbye.

If only he had learnt from his mistakes, if only he had the will to turn his life around earlier.

He was making amends for his mistakes, but it needn’t have ended this way.

Dead  – alone – poor – guilty.

It’s all terribly, terribly sad.

(to be continued…)