Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Before-Father's-Day Post (otherwise titled: My Dad makes me wanna jump off roofs)

My dad is 90 years old.

He spends all day watching cooking shows and CNN on Astro, and sometimes napping on the couch. He can still hobble around, speaks when he wants to, and eats little. I am trying to recall my best memories of dad when he was healthier, stronger, and when he could still do things with and for us.

He worked as a Division One officer at a government office. So it was pretty routine for him to come home at a fairly regular time. Which strangely enough, was the highpoint of my day. I say strangely because dad has never been the kind that is lovey-dovey, showing any kind of physical acts of hugs, no kisses, no words of endearment. Yet how is it I never felt like I lacked in any way?

One day I was up on the roof (yes, on the roof) at the back of our very large government bungalow, with my brothers and a neighbour-boy. Our age-range might have been maybe 7 -11 years old. The guys were coaxing me to jump off the ledge, on a lower part of the roof. It's a guy thing (so what was I doing there). All of them had already jumped before me, and were standing on the grass below me. "It's ok...jump! Nothing, wan! Can, wan!"

I was afraid to.

Until I heard my dad's car rounding the corner in front. Dad was home!! I was so excited, I immediately jumped. (And found I didn't die after all.) Yep, my dad makes me wanna jump off roofs.

Dad coming home was the highpoint of my day. Sometimes, he would buy me (the youngest daughter, there are 3 boys and 3 girls in our family) little things. I clearly remember an itsy bitsy, rectangular red coin purse with a golden twist knob at the top, that he probably bought from a pedlar who might have come round his office. He probably bought stuff for my brothers and sisters, too but it's hard enough trying to recall my memories here, y'know?

And almost every Sunday after church, he'd let us 3 girls persuade him to take us to what we called the "Soak Shop" to buy all those pickled fruit that were sold in humongous, glass and papaya slices, and bright-red preserved fruit that would stain our lips and tongue. It's a girl thing. And dad understood.

I'll always cherish that he made time for us to take the whole family, almost every year, to Port Dickson. As a high-ranking officer, he could rent a government bungalow by the beach, and together with a whole bunch of cousins and their parents, we'd have the most wonderful 3 or 4 days, chasing after a zillion look!-over-there! here-got-more-here-got-more hermit crabs, floating in it's-my-turn-no, it's-my turn! rubber inner-tubes of tyres, browning ourselves in the morning-afternoon-evening sun (who'd ever heard of skin cancer back then in Jurassic Park times?), stretching our swimsuit straps aside to compare and oooh-and-aaah about who got the most sunburnt, and rubbing Hazeline Snow on ouch-yikes-oooh peeling noses and shoulders and backs and getting "TOLD you to come out of the water earlier on, right? serves-you-right" from our mothers. Honestly, mothers can be collectively sympathetic at times.

My dad in his younger days was always the life of the party. There'd always be loud, singing um.."performances" when dad was at family gatherings. If you're thinking "Somewhere over the rainbow"...forget it. Some of the songs bordered on needing censorship but a number were just plain nonsense

(to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)

We're here because, we're here because, we're here, because WE'RE HERE!
We're here because, we're here because, we're here, because we're HERE....

which was repeated til forever and ever. Amen.

These days you read of dads who kick and stomp their toddler to death. Dads who rape their teenager, repeatedly for several years. Dads who imprison their children in a dungeon of sorts to use, as and how they please. Dads high on drugs, who cut off the head of their child's kitten and stuff it into their mouth to shut them up.

Yep, there are some really evil dads out there.

So with all that, can I look at my dad's flaws, mistakes, weaknesses and bad decisions and hold them against him? Wouldn't that be tunnel vision of some sort?

What do you give a dad who is ninety years old for Father's Day? He's in his pyjamas all day and nearly never goes out so it can't be an item of clothing. He only eats porridge so it can't be a treat to a restaurant nor food of any kind cos nothing appeals to him. Not a book cos he stopped reading a long time ago. Not cash cos what would he do with it? Certainly not lovey-dovey hugs or kisses.

I think the least I can do on Father's Day is tell him I'm counting my blessings. Maybe tell him I wouldn't have any other dad if I could choose. Heck, maybe read him this blog page.

And pray with him. (I've yet to meet anyone who did not benefit from prayer)

And then I'd sing him some nonsense songs.

We're here because, we're here because, we're here, because WE'RE HERE!
We're here because, we're here because, we're here, because we're HERE....

p/s Do write in if you have any comments about this post. Your comment will not appear immediately as I have to publish it. Also, I do try to answer most comments. If you have been following this blog, show some love and sign up as a follower!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Day after Mother's Day

I am sure I have told my three children already (now 24, 21 and 16 years old), but it doesn't hurt to have it down on paper (is this paper?) before it all starts to memory that is.

What a joy it was to have all three of you. None of you was an accident, a mistake, or a regret.

Joni - how your Daddy wanted a girl for a first child! And there you were, all 8pounds 6 ounces of you. As red as a lobster you were.

No....that doesn't look like you...hmmmm.. See why I have to put all this down on record somewhere as my memory starts to go?

Actually, you were all red and crumpled up like the lasagna we had last night.

And how you turned our world upside down! How any first-born turns an adult's world upside down! Joni, at probably a couple of months old.
We actually do not have a good close-up photo of newborn Joni.

As I was nursing you, I remember being overwhelmed with the idea that this little bundle of a living thing was totally dependent on me to give it sustenance. That was scary! And I remember waking up several times in the middle of the night just to check if you were still breathing.

I remember how two weeks short of your three year old birthday, you won 2nd prize in a kids' singing competition in church.

One of the three judges nearly fell off his seat, all teary-eyed, flushed and holding on to his tummy for dear life cos he was tickled pink as you sang:

In the house and out of doors
Washing shoes and scrubbing floors

Cleaning, ironing, brewing tea
Sometimes making cha-pa-ti

I do it all for Jesus

I do it all for Jesus

I do it all for Jesus

He did so much for me!

And two and a half years after you were born, came Darren - oh my! It's a boy!

How perfect! I know I tease that I wondered if you were really mine, what with all the horror baby-exchange stories that we'd heard happening in hospitals. But those eyes that you inherited from your Chinese does make one unsure.

Darren, a couple of days old

How Joni was thrilled to bits when we brought you home from the hospital. She sang "One little Indian bo-o-oy, one little Indian boy!" (to the tune of Ten Little Indian Boys) all the way home!

Joni, with her precious little brother (see that protective hand there?)

And how innovative she was to open up the wardrobe drawers so she could climb up each drawer using it as a step so she could get a clean diaper for you.

Joni and Darren (see that protective hand there?)

Joni and Darren (see that protec......ok, ok, you get the picture)

How you loved/love to eat, young man. Feeding you was no problem at all as you'd wildly flail your arms about for me to feed you faster and you'd be done with your porridge within five minutes.

And six years after Darren,

oops. wrong pictures.


A cutie pie girl! The easiest baby of all, in terms of caring for. My alarm-clock baby who'd wake up on the dot for feeds and no in-between stirrings. At least that's what I remember.

How Joni and Darren wanted to feed you from the first day you got home. "Just a little bit of bread, Mommy, can, just a beeeeeet?" And you were carefully transferred from one to the other cos they couldn't have enough of you!

Yeah, Mother's Day is a good day to reminisce. A great day to ponder, observe, be in awe.

Has it been a joy all the way? Nope. It has been many nights crying in the darkness, too.

At one ladies' gathering, as the speaker, I shared how sometimes you make me so frustrated I'd harboured thoughts (not seriously, of course) of selling you off to the glass-bottle recycling man on his bicycle.

And that started an avalanche! The other ladies started to tell of how sometimes they'd had similar horrible thoughts, too. And how relieved they were to hear they were not alone.
Let's just say I didn't feel so bad after that either (especially when one mother said her thoughts had had been to flush her kid down the toilet! ummmm...not very maternal thoughts, huh?)

Have you grown up to be the best kids? No. But I'm not exactly the best mother, either.
Do you sometimes hurt me with your words and actions? Yes. But I do that to you, too.
But forgiveness has to reign. And unconditional love. And longsuffering. See that protective hand there? Yep, that's what it's about. Kids always teach us.

Little Joni:

Aunty Wei Ling: Joanna, your baby brother is so cute! I'll take him home, ok?

Joni, to Mum, indignantly: Mummy, put Darren back into your stomach lah!

Joni, helping to wipe the windows..

Mum, did God make DIRT?

(Joni, fashion guru. Even way back then)

Joni: Mummy, you shouldn't wear that brown dress with the squares, you know.

Me: Why?

Joni: Because that one is only for old ladies - like Granny.

(Dad, giving Joni a bath)

Joni: cold lah, Daddy.

Dad: Yes, it's chilly today.

Joni: But chilli is hot!

Dad: No, chilly is cold.

Joni: No, chilli is hot!

Little Darren

Darren, concentrating hard while 'changing ' chords on guitar:

Darren (to himself): C!

Fingers move, then: C1! (meantime, Mum's starting to wonder if there's such a chord)

A little later: C2! (now Mum's sure there isn't)

Then looks around and exclaims:

No wonder! Mummmmmmmm....where's the pickle?* *pick

Darren: Mum, ants are very hardworking, right?

Mum: Yes, they are.

Darren: Then why do we kill them?

Darren: Mum, Lionel doesn't know the name of the thing where the dead person is put into, you
know. He said 'box'.

Mum: Oh, (do enlighten me) what is it then?

Darren: I told him it's a *cafe. *coffin

So, with failing memory and before I go to my "cafe", I have found my purpose to plod on, despite great difficulty, heartache, discouragement and frustrations, to continue slogging...oops. I mean blogging.

Signing off

oops. wrong picture again. can't be me.
(cos we didn't have baby potties back then)

and I'm sure it's not one of my kids.
(cos their potty was blue)