Sunday, November 14, 2010

Straight from my Heart

My Dad passed away two weeks ago. He was 91.

(I had written a blog post about my Dad on May 29th this year - "My Dad makes me wanna jump off roofs". Another related one was on Feb 13th - "Maybe that's why I'm like this"

You can read back if you're interested. No, you really should read back. I can be quite funny sometimes)

My Dad was friend-to-all-enemy-to-none. Our present Chief Minister (Dato' Khalid Ibrahim) used to live next door to my parents many, many years ago. His now-grown up daughters visited Dad when he was hospitalized in the latter weeks of his life. His wife came to the house during the wake. The doctor at the clinic nearby, many neighbours and even the barber down the road from where Dad lived (who had made a few house calls to give Dad a haircut) sent condolences. One of the staff who worked under him (bear in mind Dad had been retired for almost THIRTY FIVE years!) also turned up. This staff was 77! Dad had outlived most of his other colleagues.

My Dad in his office (Survey Department)

My Dad married my Mum in an arranged-marriage. He was about 30 and Mum, 16. That's 14 years difference!

There was frequent banter between them.

Dad: All the girls in church are looking at me. That's cos I look like Gregory Peck!
Mum: More like Gregory's Back lah.

At other times:

Dad: Such a handsome man like me - like Shashi Kapoor *
Mum: Hah! more like "chenambe kapur" (Tamil word for whitewash)

*a famous Hindustani actor

But dad really was handsome.

Way back in those days, the father is the bread-winner, the mother full-time housewife. Which meant raising the children was very much left to mum (and there are six of us).

Dad and Mum with their six children. That's me right in front, on the right!

Mum was often the disciplinarian, so rebuking was usually by her. I remember one morning I was unwilling to put the laundry out to dry, choosing instead to dilly-dally and then grumble that I had to, after Mum had ticked me off. That came with a warning that Dad was gonna hear about it. And that evening he did hear of it. And I got it good. With a broom handle.

Yah, that one.

On my bum-bum.

Boy, because Dad rarely ever spanked any of us, that was painful, and I'm not talking physically only. It went straight to the heart. It only took one word from my Mum, and Dad would be behind her to reinforce. And the impression it left on me was how united my parents were. It only served to make me feel even more secure.

My Dad was always the life of our family parties.

He loved singing ridiculous songs and his younger brothers would back him up...until one by one each was singing fill-in-the-forgotten lines as the years went by. I don't know which was funnier. The silly songs or the muffled-words-to-replace-forgotten-parts songs! And sometimes it got worse when an uncle decided to do some dance steps, too! G-o-o-d h-e-a-v-e-n-s.

He often played Christmas songs any time of the year. At his wake, someone had played really slowwww hymns and an aunt (his sister) remarked, "your dad would have said, Change the CD!"
Which was true. He loved Boney M's "By the Rivers of Babylon"!!

The other day, my Mum wore a really outdated (it looked a good 50 years old) saree to a family gathering. That took me by surprise as, over the years she has been giving away many of her sarees and you'd have thought this one would have been, too. When I queried about it, my eldest sister said "sentimental value! - Dad gave her that saree..."

How sweet is that?

I did not feel there was anything to grieve over at his funeral, or even now. There really is only rejoicing cos I know he is not having to suffer anymore. And he has lived a full life. And he was loved and respected by many. And I know where he is.

My Dad was always punctual. And I think that's why I am, too. In fact, he was often very early for any function. If he had come to pick me up from school, I could see him from my classroom, sometimes a whole period before school ended! It always made me feel assured and protected that I could count on my Dad being there if I was going to meet him.

Yesterday I was anxious about going to a gig my son's band was playing at. And I was hurrying my husband who shrugged it off, as he felt they were bound to start later than expected. And we arrived in We had missed all 5 of their earlier songs and their awesome 'opening' act. I was so mad with my husband!

Thinking back now, I think I was so mad because:

- I want to attend our children's performances.

- I hate hate hate being late because I was never raised that way.

- I hate it more when someone else has made me late.

And I think I was so mad because

I miss my Dad.

And I'm crying buckets writing this post.

p/s if you're reading my blog, do sign up as a follower if you haven't already. And leave a comment here cos I love to read your comments. They will not appear immediately but they will come to me first, then I have to 'publish' them. And I do try to reply every comment, too. If you read "this comment has been removed", it is not because I didn't like it, but I sometimes mistakenly published the same one twice, so I removed the extra one.


  1. Its great o hear that you are fine, he must have been a dad to be around hahaha spanking did you good auntie..

  2. Val, this is such a lovely post to say how great a dad he was. I did meet him once when I visited you years ago and I remember him being very jovial and talkative. He was a lively man! As you say he is in a better place and he is blessed that his daughter is telling the world about him. I'm sure he is looking at you and smiling with pride. Hope the memories give you strength to cope. Take care xx

  3. thank you for sharing your thoughts & feelings. I am blessed to have my parents around... and i dread the day when i have to say good-bye to them.
    your parents had a beautiful marriage. With his looks, he could have had a bevy of beauties around him, but he chose your mum.... a young girl to spend the rest of his life with. So lovely.

  4. Your story touched my heart ... and made me think about my late (and beloved) dad and mum too. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart ... and yes, I cried buckets too after reading it. Children are our 'live and joy', but our parents are our 'heart'! :)

  5. Wow aunty, I didn't know you were such a rebel when you were young! I remember having lunch at granny and grandpa's house after school when Darlene and I were young and we did something naughty (can't remember what we did exactly). Granny complained to grandpa about it and he came downstairs from his nap and pulled our hair! Hehe. That was the only time I ever saw him angry. And I had no idea about the saree she wore! How sweet is that? - Sheila

  6. Somehow fotos of men in black & white - in those days - make them look so handsome ... I am reminded of my late dad by the fotos ... so much can be said about someone when he is gone - to a better place ... at least we know they are not suffering anymore. Though I never knew your dad, your stories of him when he was well then ill just tickles ... May we be blessed with children who will remember us fondly as you did about your dad.

  7. ".. n you don't like me when I am mad .." poor Paul. Those are big shoes to fill.
    The memories penned .. beautiful. ;)

  8. from facebook, Mon 15 Nov 2010
    Joan Daniel

    Hey Val. Just went into your blog after a looooong time. My condolences to you and your family on the passing of your dad. You are so blessed to have your dad live until he was 91. Am sure his life was a blessed one too.

  9. from facebook

    Sarah Benedict

    My condolences... First time reading your blog...witty, warm and whimsical... me like :)
    Monday at 5:34pm

  10. from facebook, 17th Nov 2010

    Nicholas Gan

    Valerene, our condolences to you and family. You have a great dad.
    Witty and charming blog too

  11. from facebook

    Chin Yoon Poh November 17 at 10:19am Reply • Report

    Read your memoirs about your should take up journalism you are good at it..I do miss your dad..he always sent me yearly christmas cards without fail..and always appreciative when Joe and I visited him...and loved to be prayed by Joe...

  12. I read this a few days ago An. Val... =) Thought it was one of your best posts yet. Your dad was a handsome chap indeed!

  13. Dear Val, my deepest sympathy to you and your family, but it is good to knnow that he lived a long, fruitful and ... interesting life. I always enjoy reading your blogs and you never know I might just start one of my own... ;)

    GBU and thank you for sharing your life, laughs and loves with us all.


  14. Hey Auntie,thank you 4 just looking back and sharing about your life.Ups 'n dwn memory i can reli see were you got your people skills from-its in your DNA.Your Dad was an noble man indeed.
    otherwise,i believe Uncle was reli sorry U didn't pitch up in time @ the bus Company gig.He's an incredible man-pls forgive Him! ABEL

  15. from facebook

    Theresa Wong November 17 at 4:38pm
    so cool.....Valerene........Thank GOD for a lovely man like your dad....You are v. blessed.........kiss

  16. Hey Val, your dad sounds like he was a great man. I'm sorry I never got to meet him.

    I love the photo of him sitting in front of the record player. I really love all that old furniture. Makes me miss MY record player!!

    And yes, your dad was sure handsome. The family photo of all the kids together shows where your kids get their looks - they really look like you did when you were little!! CUTE!!

    Thanks for posting this. Maybe we'll all take better care to show love to our parents while we can.

  17. I am tearing as I am reading your post. Maybe because it reminded me of how much I miss and love my dad too, who's in Perak now :)
    My dad loves Boney M too! But his favourite is Beegee's...Geez....
    It's deeply encouraging to see how ur dad left a great legacy behind, and all that can be found in - you :)
    Looking fwd to ur next blog update~!
    PS: ur dad would have been 1 of the ppl in my 'Insignificantly Famous' list :) u too.

  18. Imagine me giving you a bear hug, Aunty. May God fill the void your dad left behind.

  19. from facebook:

    Brandon Cher Yeek Jeun November 20 at 8:55am Reply • Report

    Love your blog! Always filled with interesting stories and posts

  20. from facebook:

    Cheong May Foong

    Hi Val, thanks for sharing your childhood memories and your walk through life with your dad. It was so poignant - what a lovely read. Keep them coming.
    November 18 at 9:08am

  21. from facebook:

    Selvamalar Suppiah
    November 18, 2010 at 10:46pm

    Re: Straight from My Heart
    Your looked good and was he all always formally dressed. The piece you wrote was very beautiful. I do enjoy reading your pieces but don't get the time to read all the pieces.

  22. from facebook:

    Edith Macintyre November 17 at 2:08pm

    Aunty Val,

    I read your blog entry about your dad. I was crying by the end of it. I'm so sorry for your loss...but what a blessing to have had a dad like him...God bless you

  23. Hi Aunty Val,
    I think you're DAD lived his life to the fullest. He must be very witty as well, just like you are, as i remember. :) A great story to share and truly shows how much our parents life reflects ours. And just to say, ur blessed with 3 amazing talented KIDS!!..

    God Bless!

  24. from facebook:

    Vickie Chan November 27 at 9:16am

    Oh, forgot to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your piece on your Dad. He must have been so proud of his little girl (all grown up now).