Family

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Chinese New Year visits resumed

Filed in Family

Since father left us four years ago, we have not visited our relatives during Chinese New Year. This year, my brother and I resumed those visits and it was good catching up with them. (My sister, as a married daughter, does not join us, but instead would visit her husband’s family.)

When we were growing up, the family medicine shop was only closed on the first day of Chinese New Year, which meant father had just that one day “annual leave” out of 365 days all year (or 366 during a leap year). As he was the youngest son in his family, it was his duty to visit his older brothers and sisters during Chinese New Year. This meant we spent his one day “annual leave” in the car travelling from one house to another. And since he only had that one free day, we also visited his younger sister. The order of visits would be from the eldest to the youngest. We didn’t mind; the visits meant we would be given ang pows from our uncles and aunties.

Since father left us, we hadn’t done the Chinese New Year visits because my brother wanted to spend as much time with mother as he could, even if it meant not visiting our uncles and aunties. This year, I decided we should; I mean, it’s been four years.

We did the visits over two days, so that we could still spend time with mother. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, we visited father’s second brother in Ampang, and his youngest sister somewhere near Batu Caves.

I took the way I was familiar with, which took us through town and allowed me to point out familiar landmarks from our childhood to my brother. He didn’t remember too many of them – he couldn’t even recognise the stretch of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in front of the former Klinik Tan Chee Khoon (now Tunes Hotel), and this was in our very own neighbourhood – and he kept commenting how things have changed.

We had lunch at our second uncle’s house before driving on in the direction of Batu Caves to visit our youngest aunt. As soon as we arrived, we were invited to lunch but declined since we’d already eaten.

After those two visits, we went home to pick up the dinner prepared for mother, and went on to the nursing home for her reunion dinner. Later, we went back to have our own reunion dinner, just the two of us, cuz we’re a small family.

The next day, the first day of Chinese New Year, we went to visit mother over lunch and had our own lunch before driving over to our third aunt’s house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. We’d actually seen her two evenings before as we’d joined her and her family for an early reunion dinner at a seafood restaurant nearby.

There was just one more uncle to visit, but before that, we made an unscheduled stop at cousin Ronnie’s house in Damansara Jaya. Everyone at third aunt’s house was going over there and we were invited along, so we went, too.

Then, the last house to visit this Chinese New Year – our fourth uncle’s in Damansara Utama – before returning to spend the evening with mother.

At every house, we met up with cousins my brother had not seen for a while. All in, it was a great time. And instead of receiving ang pows, we gave to our various uncles and aunts, as a gesture of our respect for them.

My Favourite Things

Filed in Family, Personal

Both my parents had a hand in making sure that my siblings and I did not forget our Chinese roots. Schooling wise, my sister was 100% educated in Chinese, while my brother and I, although we were 100% educated in English, were sent for Chinese classes five days a week. These were not the POL (pupil’s other language) classes taught in school, but regular classes held in a building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. But this post is not about those Chinese classes (I’ve written about them here), but about another love my mother instilled in me as a kid.

My mother had introduced me to the beauty of china porcelain many years ago. Her favourite, which she passed on to me, is the translucent rice grain against a white background design. She told me that one way to determine if the porcelain was genuine was the light shining through the rice grains when looked at up close. Another way to determine the porcelain’s authenticity was that it should remain cool to the touch even when there’s hot liquid inside.

We had a set of genuine china bowls featuring the translucent rice grain design – our version of “good china” – that mother would use only when she made bird’s nest soup for us. I think the bowls are now with my sister.

Years ago, I came across a teapot in this design and bought one for my own collection. Unfortunately, it was not the real thing as I found out after brewing some tea in it and finding the pot hot in my hands. Still, I was happy to own something that reminded me of mother. Recently, I completed the set when I bought two tea cups in the same design, but again, not the real thing. And unlike mother, who brought out the real thing to use only for special occasions, I use mine whenever I brew some Chinese tea. They are two of my favourite things in the world.

teapot and cup

Managing by Colours

Filed in Family, Health, Tech Stuff

My lupus meds are quite boring. They’re the same colour, white. Well, except for the Rocaltro which is white and orange, but it’s not really a lupus med, but a supplement. And it’s in a white foil pack until I pop two to take every other day.

In contrast, mother’s various meds include two whites that come in foil packs in their own branded boxes (so there’s no worry about getting them mixed up), as well as two other meds that are refilled loose from a bulk supply from a medical centre – Lasix, which is white, and Digoxin, which is blue. To help me differentiate the two so I don’t refill the wrong med in the wrong transparent bottle at the nursing home, I use a blue tablet container for the Digoxin (same colour) and a yellow for the Lasix (cuz there’s no white container in the set, only pink, blue, green and yellow). To make doubly sure I don’t mix up the two meds, I used my Brother labeller to make name labels to put on the containers. Like this …

It’s one of my tasks to liaise with the nursing home regarding mother’s medications. Whenever they run low, they would give me a call to bring a refill the next time I visit mother. I used to give them the full refill but the person previously in charge of medication would call to let me know only when there were very few tablets left. Some of mother’s meds require special orders, and there was at least one instance when we nearly couldn’t refill on time to make sure there was no interruption in the supply. Now, what I do is keep about two weeks’ supply on standby at home, so that when it’s time to refill, I give the nursing home the standby meds and then call the pharmacy to refill the prescription. As for the Lasix and Digoxin, I would get a three-month refill from the medical centre but give the nursing home a month’s supply at a time, so as to keep track of the meds; it’s more for my own peace of mind.

Meds are not the only area I use colours to help me manage. I also use different coloured inks for my handwritten notes. This is so that when I flip through my notes to look for something, the different ink colours help me find what I’m looking for faster. I use blue for my work notes, purple for personal notes, brown for family notes, and red for expenses.

But instead of having individual pens for each colour, I have found a multiple pen that contains three different coloured inks, and have two, the first one containing red, blue and black inks, adn the second containing purple, brown and green inks. Such pens have been available for a long time – as far back as when I was still in school – but recently, I found one with gel inks that I prefer over fountain pen or regular ballpoint pen inks.

The pen, a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto, is quite environmentally friendly as it uses refills and has a flip top that allows for the refills to be changed quite easily.

Best of all, the pen barrels and refills are available locally; I’ve seen them in two bookshops, Popular in IKANO and my preferred supplier, Cziplee in Bangsar.

The customary “annual” post

Filed in Family, Personal

When I was a kid, I remember attending 21st birthday parties given (or “thrown” was the word) by my cousin sisters. It was THE birthday, and one of the main presents would be a little “21” to be worn on a chain around the neck.

Much later, one of the uncles commented that while the girls celebrated their 21st birthdays in a grand manner, nothing much was heard of the birthdays after that.

For my 21st birthday, I didn’t have a grand party. Instead, I took my parents and my nanny out to dinner at a vegetarian restaurant. Mother had put that idea in my head, saying we should treat our parents to a meal because they were the ones who gave us life. Looking back, I think she said that because she never had a chance to treat her parents to a meal – she was given away as a baby, and had buried both her adopted parents during WWII, before she turned 21.

Instead of a “21” on a chain, my sister had given me a little diamond cross on a chain, her acknowledgement of my Christian faith.

Other memorable birthdays through the years included my 31st celebrated in San Diego. My housemates had planned a surprise party for me and started to worry when I didn’t come home that evening, and when I finally did, they were not ready and one of them had to take me out to the stores cuz she needed “to get something”.

Then, there was the birthday I visited the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC on Veterans’ Day, which happened to fall on my birthday.

More recently, there was the birthday I visited my beloved giant panda family at the San Diego Zoo. Three of them were on display that day – mummy Bai Yun, son Mei Sheng and baby Su Lin – and all three of them ignored me! That evening, I’d gone to see Janis Ian in concert. What a grand way to celebrate my 48th birthday.

And now two years later, I am half a century old. I spent the hour before the stroke of midnight reading through my previous birthday journal entries, and crying at some of them.

I have to admit I am a little nervous of turning 50, of being 50. But I have something wonderful to look forward to later today. I am spending the day with mother. She may not remember it’s my birthday, and people have asked if she still recognises me. I tell them I think she does.

She greets me with a wonderful smile whenever she sees me before her. She gives me her hand when I reach out for it, and she’s not even looking at me or my hand; somehow, she senses my hand nearby. And when I put her hand to my cheek, she pats it gently, and sometimes, more than a little “gently”.

I can’t ask for anything more than to spend time with my mother, especially on the day she gave me life.

Family Historian in the making?

Filed in Family

It’d all started when I printed two family photos with cousin JK in them, for her family. At the wake, I showed the pictures to the other cousins who were soon asking for copies for themselves. Cousin KN even offered to pay for the ink and paper. Then I told them about the mini site I’d done for the old family shop, and he said why not put up the old family photos online so they could print them themselves.

Later that night, I went to the online gallery that I’d set up a while back, and created a new album called Old Family Photos.

There are currently only 17 photos online, but it’s a start. More to come. Good reason to digitise the old family photo albums, too.

BTW, when I was showing the two photos around, cousin Lee asked if I was writing my autobiography. No, my dear cousin – not autobiography, since it’s not about me, but family history, because it’s about all of us in the family. I guess that makes me the family historian.

Oh, the photo album is here:
Old Family Photos