Family

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Grandfather’s Generous Spirit

Filed in Family, Memories

As the patriarch of the shop, he never turned anyone away who needed a meal or a temporary roof over their heads. But his generosity extended beyond the neighbourhood and was remembered by a particular young man from over the seas.

One day in the mid 1980s (I don’t have the exact date but it would have been before I went to study in England because we were still living in the family’s Chinese medicine shop), an elderly Asian man walked into our shop. He turned out to be Japanese, but with the help of a pen and piece of paper, and the fact that written Japanese was similar enough to Chinese for my parents to understand him, he wrote out the purpose of his visit.

During the Japanese Occupation, he’d been with the military patrol and assigned to our neighbourhood. Everytime he was on duty, my grandfather would invite him to eat in the shop. He never forgot my grandfather and many years later, on a visit to Malaysia, he found his way to the old neighbourhood and the shop. By then, grandfather had been dead more than 20 years, but this elderly man and my parents continued to keep in touch, mainly through annual greeting cards. Even after we moved from the neighbourhood, the annual exchange of cards continued.

One day sometime in the early 1990s, out of the blue, a taxi drove up to the gate of our new home in the suburbs. It was the ex Japanese soldier, this time armed with the new address that he gave the taxi driver who managed to find the house.

The annual exchange of cards continued after that second visit, but after a few years, they stopped. And four years ago, in 2005, my father left us. I wonder where this ex-Japanese soldier is now. He was much older than my father so perhaps he, too, had gone to the other side.

Note – there are many holes in this story, including the dates of his two visits, and particularly his name. I will need to look through my diaries for the information, but for now, the need to tell this particular story is strong so the details will have to wait. There is also a picture of him with my father in the shop, which I cannot find for now; all this will be added later on.

Family Matters

Filed in Family, Health

Mother turned 83 on Monday. I’d promised her ice cream, but then remembered she was having quite a bad cough so I brought her a slice of White Chocolate Macadamia cake from Secret Recipe. I did tell her I would still get her ice cream when she has recovered from the cough.

—–

I was preparing to send Darren a text message when I noticed father’s number is still listed in the contact list. So is my niece WY’s. It’s been a few years since they left us, and I haven’t deleted their numbers from my handphone yet. It’s not like I expect to hear from them (!). Maybe it’s my way of remembering them? But a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of them, especially WY. It’s interesting that I should think of them together today of all days – today, 3 April, is sandwiched between the two dates when they left us, WY on 31 March 2006 and father on 15 April 2005.

—–

The three of us (sister, brother and I) have just gone through some health scares. My brother was the last to get a review of his situation (I just received a text message from him about the results, and it’s good).

All three of us cleared our respective health hurdles. Mine has the most lingering effect. The latest set of bone density test results showed a deterioration in my hips, a loss of 8% over 2 years, which is more than what is allowed for someone my age.

My rheumatologist thinks it’s due to a combination of my use of prednisolone for my lupus and the fact that I just passed menopause. She said bone loss will be most noticeable between 3 to 5 years of menopause. To combat the deterioration, she’s put me on Fosamax, which has been proven to help build bone mass. It’s just one tablet a week, but must be taken on the same day every week, first thing in the morning, and no food or lying down for 30 minutes after that.

I also think the bone loss is due to my lack of mobility (read: exercise). To combat that, I have started (well, resumed, since I’ve done this before) a mild form of regular exercise, which I need to be regular about!

An out-of-body-experience

Filed in Family, Memories

In my mind, I hold this image from my childhood. In it, a young girl sleeps on the floor of a bedroom, her knees bruised and bright red. At the doorway of the bedroom, an elderly woman sits, feasting on the bright yellow fruit of a spikey, thorny fruit in front of her.

Wait. There’s an earlier image to this. The young girl and elderly woman are at a fruit stall piled high with that spikey, thorny fruit. The woman is choosing the fruit that she will be feasting on in a while. The girl is all excited and eager to help. Suddenly, the girl trips and falls onto the pile of fruits. The woman and the stall-owner help her up. Her knees are badly bruised and slightly bleeding from the contact with the spikes on the fruits. A little red lotion is applied to soothe and disinfect the bruises.

That incident did happen, and that young girl was me. That elderly woman was my nanny, and she did spend many afternoons enjoying a durian (the spikey, thorny fruit) that she would buy from the fruit stall that was located just in front of the family’s second Chinese medicine shop at 464, Batu Road, Kuala Lumpur.

The first scene is the one I remember the most, while the earlier scene would come to mind shortly after.

I see both scenes in my mind like I am just an on-looker, when in fact, I was the young girl in both scenes. How is that possible? I was telling this story to See Ming last night, and asked her the same question. Her reply – out-of-body experience.

For years, I would recount the incident as the reason why I went off liking durian. Durian is a fruit you not only like or dislike, but do so with an intense passion. Usually, it’s foreigners who dislike it, put off by its smell which stops them from venturing further to discover the taste that is the exact opposite of the smell.

I grew up loving durian. I am, after all, Malaysian. But I actually went off my love for durians much later than the bruised knees incident. I think one day, I just woke up and didn’t love it anymore. It had nothing to do with the bruised knees. But linking the two incidents together just made for a great story (not that I’m a great, or even good, story teller), so over time, they became related – I went off durians because I fell on a pile of them as a child. Over time, I might’ve come to believe this, too, except I have an elephant’s memory that would not let me forget. And so this is my confession – falling on a pile of durians as a child did not make me stop eating them.

Chinese New Year “Lucky Money”

Filed in Family

I was at the bank the other day and ahead of me in the queue to deposit money were two kids with their mother. Each of the kids held a children’s passbook (recognisable by the colourful cover) and I found myself thinking they must be depositing their Chinese New Year ang pow (red packets containing money, also called lai see, meaning “lucky money”). Having been the recipient of many an ang pow when I was young, I know how excited these two kids must be feeling – not just to have money to put into their own savings accounts but money from Chinese New Year! In my case, I remember giving all my ang pow to my mother for safe-keeping.

It’s nice to be a child during any festivity anywhere in the world. Presents during Christmas, ang pow during Chinese New Year, and new clothes, too! But it’s not so nice to be an adult, and especially a married adult, even more so, a childless married adult.

Chinese New Year “lucky money” is given by older married adults to both children and younger single adults. However, it’s not so “lucky” for childless couples as it means there’s only money going out, without none coming back in. For those with children, they can look forward to some money coming back in the ang pow their children receive. Most children are allowed to keep their ang pow money, with the older ones using, and maybe losing, it in “friendly” gambling sessions (Chinese New Year would not be Chinese New Year without such “festivities”). Some parents would try to make sure this does not happen, either by having their children hand over the money for safe-keeping (what my mother did with our ang pow money) or getting them to put the money into savings accounts (like the two kids I saw at the bank the other day).

Even though Chinese New Year “lucky money” may not be so lucky for childless married adults, some enjoy giving it, especially to the single adults, and even the ones older than themselves, as this is a sign that they are all “grown up” with the right to give ang pow – a right reserved only for married people. But these days, it’s no longer just married people who give ang pow during Chinese New Year. It’s also given by single adults as a sign of respect to the elders in their family. It was what my brother and I (both still single) gave our uncles and aunts this Chinese New Year.

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Books are not welcome during Chinese New Year

Filed in Family, Reading

So, it’s the end of another month. There were two things I did this month that I was happy with.

I showed up most days for my daily appointment with God, altho’ there were a few days I didn’t and had to play “catch up”, but I’m pleased to say I’m all caught up now, and ready for the new month with Him. This daily appointment may seem trivial, maybe even funny, to some, but it’s very important to me, because it keeps me grounded amidst all that’s going on around me, especially when I read the news.

Then, I finished reading three half-read books carried over from last year – The Camel Bookmobile (Masha Hamilton), Atonement (Ian McEwan), and A Loyal Character Dancer (Qiu Xiaolong).

Of the three, McEwan’s Atonement was easily the best read, and completely blew me away. The other two were different – non-Western settings for both (Kenya and China), and non-Western writer for A Loyal Character Dancer.

In fact, I enjoyed reading so much this month that I considered bringing a book along on our Chinese New Year visits to our uncles and aunts. Then I realised it wouldn’t be a good idea as the Chinese word for “books” sounds like the Chinese word for “lose”, a taboo word for many Chinese, especially during Chinese New Year.

I was then reminded of an incident many years ago when my third uncle was visiting us and I’d asked him to bring back a book that my cousin his son had wanted to borrow from me. Third uncle refused, and it was later, after he left, that father explained why. Third uncle was on his way to the 4D shop so he definitely didn’t want to be carrying “bad luck” (the book, or “lose”) along with him!