On this day, Oct 23, my father died — in 2001. Eight years have passed, really like the twinkling of an eye.
Yes, he is missed. More than I imagined possible. Perhaps his last three years of ill-health hi-jinks made all his children closer to him than we intended to be.
Or perhaps we are linked by genes. Dad continues to live through us, his children. After all, how can we forget someone whose genes make up 50 per cent of the system that keeps us on the go?
No wonder they say: The King is Dead! Long live the King! Well, my Dad is dead. Yet, it is still: Long Live Dad, as long as one of his descendents remains around.
Reflecting thus, I remember how I somehow connected the measurement of my own happiness with my weekly stint of looking after Dad, or what one of my brothers called “Father sitting”. Nine of us worked out a weekly roster, always with two to spare in case of emergency or medical appointments.
I had posted it in one of my old websites, set up in 2000 when Dad was still alive and while frail seemed destined to live forever.
Little did I know he would be gone in under two years.
Here is what I wrote in that old website which Geocities would be closing on Oct 26, 2009.
“I want to share with you my thoughts on being happy, staying happy and achieving happiness.
I always think it is a shame that we realise how happy or fortunate we are only when we have someone worse placed than ourselves to compare with.
For example, I often hear people use this cliche or a version of it: I used to complain about my ill-fitting shoes until I met a man with no feet.
Why should it be like this? Why can’t we just realise how fortunate we are without having someone truly unfortunate to compare with.
Thus with this in mind, I went to baby-sit my father today, Jan 9, 2000, a Sunday, so that his Indonesian maid could have her monthly break.
Well, I could have sulked about it because if truth be told none of us children cared a lot about father.
We feel a duty towards him, perhaps some guilt, because we don’t feel naturally close to him. It doesn’t make the guilt less bad even when we realise that he did sweet nothing to cultivate closeness with his kids when we were young. But that’s another story.
The current story is that I made my father-sitting pass pleasantly enough by reflecting on how fortunate I am — especially me and those of us from my father’s second and third wives. We are over, or knocking on, 50 and yet all of us have both parents still with us.
The first wife’s children are without their mother and have done without her since her death in March 1989.
Hence, I’m more blessed than my four half-brothers in this respect, because just as my sister and I treasure our mum, I’m sure the four boys treasured theirs.
As for the other three half-brothers –the children of dad’s third wife — they are equally blessed in having both parents alive. But then, their mum is young, exactly 12 years older than me and they are all under 50.
When they turn 50 and more, will they have both parents around them like my sister and me now?
Perhaps not. Dad is already into his 80s and well, not in the best of health, at least mentally. It may be all too soon when some of my siblings will be orphans and the rest of us will join the middle-aged who can at best boast of just one living parent.
Still, compared to other families, me and my siblings are really fortunate. All except me have married and all those who married are still with their original partners, not an easy feat, given today’s high divorce rates.
Ruminating thus, the time with father went by pleasantly enough. It was helped definitely by the fact that my sister joined me in the “chore”.
And I made it pass even faster when I persuaded Dad, after lunch, to go for a ride to the nursing home where my mum’s elderly sister, whom we call Pi-pi, is staying.
Perhaps he was persuaded because he knew my mother, with whom he has been somewhat estranged for over 40 years now, will also be there. Mum had elected to visit her sister rather than join us in father-sitting.
Since this was written, Pi-pi has gone to heaven. She died on Oct 16, 2000, half-way through her 85th year. There was no weeping or gnashing of teeth. Just a dignified service with two Methodist pastors, masses of flowers and 29 friends and relatives to bid her a last farewell.
Why a Christian funeral? Because sometime during her stay at the nursing home, she was converted.