The Foolish Ones

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Two men were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus. A good 11 km walk from Jerusalem where they started. They were affected by the recent events that took place in Jerusalem and it was the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent disappearance of his body from the tomb. As they were discussing and walking, someone came by and asked them what they were talking about. One of them questioned the stranger that he must be the only one from Jerusalem who does not know what had happened, like in today’s context it would have been viral, all over the news and trending on social media.

When they related the incidents to him, they said Jesus was supposedly great and likely to be the one to redeem Israel but he was condemned to death and was crucified. They added that they were baffled by the latest report (breaking news) that just happened that day, which was the third day. They heard that the body was missing from the tomb and some women who went there witnessed that it was empty and saw visions of angels who told them that Jesus is alive.

Then the man said to the two, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The above story was taken from Luke 24:13-26 and there are two key points that I am learning from the passage and it involved both the eyes and heart of man.

Reflection

It is so easy to read and see what has happened around us but yet our hearts may not be in tune or true to what we claim to believe. Some might say, `Seeing is believing’ but this story clearly disprove this. Many have seen and experienced first hand all that has happened but many also have chosen not to believe or to remain in a state of unbelief.

The statement made of the two men; “O foolish ones” revealed their thoughts but the cause was “slow of heart to believe”. I pray and hope for my heart to burn and be true to God, and my eyes to see only the glory of God.

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Caregivers UNITE!

Anne Frank

I was catching up with three friends whom as a group, have not met for several years. We are all in our fifties and sixties. The three of us are caregivers to our mothers who have survived their husbands for some years already. The oldest in the group was not in this situation as her parents had passed on some years back but she observed that it was common to find the `burden’ falling on single daughters to look after their aged parents. Statistically, 75% in this group are looking after their mothers who are in their late 70s to 80s.

I hope by sharing some of the struggles the caregivers in this group are facing, it will divide the burdens, struggles and challenges that other caregivers face with the hope that it will bring comfort and solace, possibly giving some respite.

Our group’s conversations soon went into how our mothers faced ageing and health issues, struggling to cope with day to day living. Although we laughed at the mind-blowing and mind-boggling situations in caring for our mothers, it was also a deep and constant struggle for us to cope on a daily basis.

One shared how her mother hoarded things in the house and they were items of no use or purpose. These things or items can be considered rubbish and cluttered the house. The house needs to be kept clean and safe so they (mothers) would not stumble over things or go in a frenzy searching for things they had misplaced in the clutter (a common happening nevertheless). Another shared how her mother had faeces on her hand after going to the toilet and when she tried to get her to wash her hands, the mother scolded her for being picky and a clean freak! The one with the oldest mother find it hard to keep her occupied through the day as she would be bored quickly from watching television, to doing jigsaw puzzles and then wants to walk around the house and do something when she was not able to do so unaided. When she tried to help her walk safely, she was chided for trying to be troublesome with her.

Oh what wonderful and lovely mothers we have. No, I am not trying to be sarcastic here. This is how we single daughters cope with mothers having dementia or illnesses that have robbed them of their ability to reason, to think clearly or logically. To look beyond their failings and see the person in them that is still around in whatever ways possible. We often say we do not know whether to laugh or to cry in our struggles. We will also let it out when talking to family or close friends about how ridiculous or tough it has been as it was a form of relief but we struggle not to say too much as it is our mothers that we are talking about. Being daughters, we struggle with whether we have failed or did not do enough as we see them deteriorate, and whether we were wrong to talk about their `unsavoury’ behaviour to others.

One of the hardest illness to cope with as a caregiver, is dementia. To see your loved ones gone into a different time zone and perhaps, dimension. A dimension where human reason and logic do not exist, where confusion and abstract ideas flourish. Another world has been created in their minds and eyes. Some would be filled with suspicion, with darkness and evil forces in their thoughts. Some with utter joy at the sight of flowers, cute pets, cartoons, and balloons, much like children. Some have a combination, depending on their mood swings. And sadly, some will not remember their own flesh and blood right before their eyes, and treat them with disdain or apprehension.

I believe there are many, not just single ladies, who are struggling as caregivers of parents, grandparents, spouse or siblings. It is a very lonely and hard journey. As the person whom they care for are often unable to appreciate them or even worse, curse them and speak ill of them in front of other people. Some may ask to be killed or to let them die as they do not want to suffer. Day in and day out you hear cries such as, “Let me die!”, “Why let me suffer?”, “I am going to die!”, “Why are you so cruel to me?” Furthermore, the people around you (relatives included) may pass remarks and comments that only add to the pressure and pain of caregivers. Many of you suffer in silence.

I would like to let you know, you are not alone, and if you need to talk to someone, drop me an email and we’ll see how we can share/divide our `misery’.

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”

― C.S. Lewis

The Unseen and Unheard

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fly on the Wall.”

There were many occasions where I read in the news about a member of the governing body whether opposition or ruling, professing to carry out a cause or trying to change something. Somehow, when it has to do with the opposing party issue, you get the feeling that they were only doing it to nit-pick or find something to cause the other to fall or fail.

It is the same for almost any other country’s news about their elections or issues that one side raise would somehow aim to go against or for another power. What has this got to do with being a fly on the wall anyway?

Yes, specifically, I would like to be a “fly on the wall” at a closed meeting of both sides of the camp to hear and see what actually transpired. This is in the hope of finding out what this all really mean for the general public and how it would impact us in the long run. If both camps were to display only self-serving intentions of gaining power and control over the country without true considerations for the masses, I will come down from the wall and show the people who they really are relying on.

Well, knowing how the world is and how connected the forces of these powers are, I think the fly will face a giant electrically-charged swatter before it could even leave the wall.

FlyZapper2

Take care everyone 🙂

Candy Crush vs Angry Ball

I think there are two groups of people today. Those who play games on computers or mobile devices and those who don’t. My guess is that the group that plays these games are much larger than those who don’t. Those who do not play these games would find it harder to play other games as the numbers had shrunk and the interests in such games are fading.

I missed those times when I could play games with my fellow kampung (village) friends. There was nothing digital going on at that time and there were many situations that required improvisation and imagination to play. It involved leadership, teamwork and it built camaraderie. We grew up appreciating and respecting each other and I am grateful to still be in touch with some of these friends today. The whole kampung was our playground. The kind of games we played was simple yet fun and adventurous, at times even dangerous.

One of the games was `Police and Thief’ where half the group (thieves) will have a headstart to run and hide while the other half (police) will have to find and catch them. They need to catch and bring them to a detention place (designated before the game starts).  To win the game, the police need to catch all the thieves. The thieves who were yet to be caught could attempt to rescue those detained by running pass the guard and tapping any of the detainees to set them free. One round of game can last over an hour and can be very tiring. It seemed simple but it was an elaborate game covering an area about the size of a football field. The area had clusters of wooden houses, trees, back alleys, lumber yard, shops and huts. Each group had to come together and strategise before playing the game and leaders were appointed to make decisions and negotiate terms with the opponents along the way. This elaborate game needed quite a number of players to make it work so when the numbers were low, other games were played.

One such game was called `Hantam Bola’ (meaning `Hit with Ball’ in Malay). This was a painful game and most girls would make excuses not to play (except for hyperactive me). Why was it painful?  The ball was made of a leathery-rubber material, hollow and about the size of a tennis ball. The photo below is a close example but the ones we used had red oriental patterns on it:

Old rubber ball

This ball, when thrown at high speed and hits you, it would really hurt and sting. How was the game played? Players had to stand inside a rectangle drawn on the ground, about the size of half a basketball court. There will be a small hole dug out at one side of the court in the middle and each player will take turns to attempt to put the ball in the hole by rolling it on the ground towards the hole. The diagram below will give you a better idea of the layout (the stars represent the players):

Hantam Bola field

Once anyone managed to get the ball in, he or she would run to the ball, grab it and throw it from the position of the hole towards the other players who would be running frantically to dodge the ball. Whoever gets hit by the ball or run out of the rectangle will be out of the game. If the thrower missed hitting anyone, he or she will be out of the game. The game was a process of elimination where the last kid standing will become the champion. Can you imagine what happens when the ball gets in the hole?  It will become an angry ball indeed and you will hear the piercing, terrified screams of the players as well. Those who got hit by the ball was not only out of the game but received a souvenir in the form of the ball’s imprint wherever it landed. It will remain for a day or two.. ouch! Some were hit at the back, arm or leg and some less fortunate ones, on the face!

I believe my real school was from these games and not from formal education as I cannot recall any of those lessons today. Most of all, we were all as fit as a fiddle running around like headless chickens as we were screaming our heads off in most of the games. It was terrifying yet wonderful!

I shall leave you with what happened to fit as fiddle these days through my favourite character as usual 🙂

Snoopy's Brother

Superwoman No. 1 – Encounters with Dragon

African Grey

Photo Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_grey_parrot

[This is part of a series of adventures with Superwoman No.1 featured earlier – click here for the post.) 

In our kampung (village) life, it was not uncommon to have birds, cats, dogs, chickens and other similar creatures amongst us.  Some roam freely and some in cages. My dad was a bird lover and has kept many birds as pets in beautifully decorated cages of varying shapes and sizes depending on the species. One of the birds he decided to introduce to the family was an African Grey parrot who was named `Dragon’ for reasons unknown to me especially for the fact that he does not look any way like those dragons we see in drawings or pictures. Perhaps the only part that looks similar would be its claws.

Dragon was quite a character and he was kept in a large metal cage due to his strong beak that would tear apart wooden or plastic materials. He was often hung up high at the back of our house, between the kitchen and bathroom and toilet areas. It was quite a strategic location as he had the vantage point of the whole back section of the house and could see everyone in this area and anyone who comes in from the back entrance of the house. Come to think of it, he was able to see anyone clearly and in full monty in the bathroom or toilet as his cage was perch just above it. Yes, our bathroom and toilet were built in such a way that there were no roof so it was like a cubicle and our kampung house had a high ceiling.

Dragon would come down to the bottom of the cage to look at us going in to the bathroom or toilet and he would wolf whistle and talk to us with words like “Hello”, “Good boy” and whistle some kind of tune as if to poke fun at us. Sometimes he would mimic the sound of `peeing’ and the person in the toilet would at times burst out laughing at Dragon’s cheekiness and he would even chuckle and laugh back at us. These encounters with Dragon were not all there was as he was multi-talented and able to mimic other species of birds we had at home as well as call our pet dog `Tramp’ who always looked puzzled and wondered who was calling his name when Dragon called out his name loudly.

Mama had a distinct voice and being peranakan, she was not short of some famous swear words used by peranakans such as “cheelakah” and “yiow siew” which both closely mean “damn you”. As Mama remained mostly at the back of the house where the kitchen and back entrance were, she often had to yell out the grandchildrens’ names to get us to the kitchen to have our meals. We would be in our rooms or the living area which were at the front part of the house. So we would hear her scream out our names and we will head to the kitchen. I was often out at our neighbors so Mama would shout for me from the back door and I would be able to hear or otherwise my neighbours would join in her yelling to get me to go home.

So here Dragon had a lot of training hearing Mama yelling our names and so he had tricked us a couple of times when we went to Mama and asked her what she wanted and she said she did not call for us. After awhile, we realised it was Dragon who had mimicked her voice to call us. We were more tolerant of Dragon and found him amusing. He was also able to mimic the whistle of how my dad would call for Tramp to come back after he let him out from the backyard for his “toilet run”. There were several times when I saw Tramp standing at the open backyard door afraid to leave as it happened that he would hear dad’s whistle every time he sets off. Once again, it was Dragon and poor Tramp was clueless.

We had our house telephone positioned not too far from the kitchen, sort of in between our living room and the back of the house. Mama used the phone daily to get the results of her `chap ji kee’ (2 digit lottery) and 4D (4-digit lottery) and to arrange her mahjong sessions. So when the phone rang at routine times, Mama would briskly walk over to answer it. Of all the persons in the house, Dragon chose the wrong one to pull his pranks. He decided to mimic the sound of the phone ringing when Mama was busy writing out her betting slip so she got up and went to pick up the phone. Dragon was also smart enough to stop mimicking the ringing as soon as Mama picked up the phone and this was pure timing as where he was positioned, he could not see the phone.

When Mama picked up the phone, she said “Hello… hello… HELLO!” and realised that it was a dial tone and thought the person must have hung up when she picked it up. So she put down the phone and said, “Cheelakah!” and walked back to her betting slip preparation. You may wonder how I am able to write this in such detail… well, it was one of the rare occasions when I happened to witness what was going on from the backyard and I somehow knew what Dragon was up to. I thought it was just a one time prank and ignored what had just happened but Dragon did it again! He made the phone ringing sound and Mama grunted and got up and walked to the phone again. He did the same thing by stopping just when Mama picked up the phone and she said “HELLO” loudly and then slammed the phone down and said, “Yiow Siew!”. She then turned around and saw me laughing loudly from the back entrance and I could not help but told her what Dragon had done.

Mama was so mad she went to get her broom and then lift it up as if she wanted to sweep the roof but no… she headed straight towards Dragon who began to look nervous seeing her coming towards him. When she reached the cage, she hit it with the broom at least three times and each time she shouted “Cheelakah lu!” and Dragon fluttered his wings in fear as the cage swung with each blow of the broom. Then Mama stared at him and walked away to keep the broom and went about her work. I think that day could be one of the quietest day of Dragon after facing the wrath of Mama.

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Can you hear the scream… it’s quite close to Mama’s 🙂

Now who’s the real dragon after all ?

Superwoman No.1

Yes, it is not part 1. This is dedicated to the Number ONE superwoman in my life. She is none other than my grandmother. She was affectionately called Mama by all her children and grandchildren (including all her sons-in-law and daughter-in law). Mama lived with her eldest daughter (my mom) and my dad who never really had the chance to grow up with his biological mother so he regarded Mama like his own mother. Mama doted on my parents and us, her grandchildren even more 🙂

You see Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature `sarong kebaya’ (a batik long skirt and a delicate blouse set) as shown in the photo below:

Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature sarong kebaya

Neighbours, friends and relatives would address Mama respectfully as`Bibik’ when they greeted her. This was the title given to peranakan (straits-born chinese) women of a certain stature, including matriarchs. She was not only a wonderful and loving mother and grandmother, she was a great cook and you can read more about it in a previous post called Chicken Curry. I would like to focus on giving a background about Mama so you would understand better why she is so deeply loved and cherished.

At 16 years old, Mama was match-made to a grandfather I never knew and the little that I know of him was that he died at the age of 36 and did not really provide for the family.

Wed Mama 1e

Mama’s only wedding photo believed to be taken in 1931.

I grew up very much under Mama’s watchful eye (and hands) especially during my kampung days where I often run around and had to be yelled at to come home for meals (not very different from my dog ‘Tramp’ except that he did not get to go out as much or as long as I did). She would cook for the whole family almost everyday except when we had dinners out over the weekends. She would do almost all the household chores as my parents were working and the grandchildren would be at school or playing elsewhere.

She had the habit of having a lit cigarette hanging on her lips like an incense stick most of the time. I never recalled her puffing her cigarette and I learnt that she had this habit from the time she was married. I was often tasked to run errands for her in the kampung to buy groceries from nearby provision shops and the items would mostly be her cooking needs and cigarettes. Another errand that I ran regularly in the evenings would be to the bookies for her lottery habit known as `chap ji kee’ which means twelve numbers. It was essentially a 2-digit game of chance where you would choose 2 numbers from 1 to 12. The results would be announced via telephone from the bookies every day. This was the most popular form of lottery then and it was illegal and there were 4-digit ones that had both legal and illegal versions. Ok, by now you would know that Mama had a gambling habit and `mahjong’ was her favourite game which she would regularly go for when she had done all her cooking and chores for the day.

Mama would come home at night and would sleep late and wake up early. She said she did not need to sleep much so I had the privilege of being around Mama alone late at night quite often. Those were the times when I was able to ask her about things and matters of the past as I was curious about them. Even my parents did not relate matters of the past to me so Mama provided much of the historical information of both herself and my parents.

On one of these times, Mama reflected about the years soon after her marriage when she was pregnant and had very little provisions from her husband who hardly held down any jobs. She had to bear 8 children where only 3 survived; her first and last two children (girl, boy and girl), all in that harsh era of the1930s.  Five children in between either died at birth or at a very young age. In most of her pregnancies, she wondered whether the baby would survive as food was scarce and she was illiterate and had no money to buy milk or baby food. This is just too overwhelming for me to relate further so I shall  focus more on better times Mama had, especially when she had grandchildren like me 🙂

Things became better for Mama when her children were able to get stable jobs, a proper home to stay and proper food to eat. Life did become a bed of roses but not without all the thorns that came with it like world war, racial riots and political instabilities of those times… in Singapore. Yes, it did happen in Singapore like it did all over the world then. When times changed, Mama was able to dance and laugh and those were the times when I came into her world too as you can see her dancing and enjoying herself in the following photo:

Mama dancing

Mama dancing with Uncle Swee in 1987 at dad’s 60th birthday party.

 All the years I was with Mama, never did I hear her complain or moan about her past or the sufferings she went through. She only focused on doing her chores and cooking for us faithfully. She hardly fell ill or complained of any ailments. She would simply look after herself and was independent until her bones became too frail. I will share more about Mama especially the interesting observations and experiences I had with her. For now, it is undisputed that she is the No. 1 Superwoman.

Superhero (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1,  my dad worked at Bank of America (BOA) in Singapore in 1970s. He started as a storekeeper for their 2 large godowns (warehouses) which were huge structures overlooking the Kallang River. The BOA was already advertising their presence as they painted huge words in front of each godown with “Bank of America Godown 1” and the other Godown 2, of course. You could see it clearly from afar when going along the stretch of road or if you were at the river area. Perhaps BOA did not intend to advertise but make it obvious for the delivery trucks to have no excuse of locating them.

As a storekeeper, my dad had to ensure the goods were placed systematically in the godown (which I will refer to as the warehouse from now on). It was just a large empty space like several basketball courts with a very high ceiling. I believe he would decide where the gunny sacks of spices would go and where the bales of cloth should be positioned and there were other goods as well. He would also need to know when the trucks would deliver or collect the goods so that the organisation would make it efficient for storage and removal of these goods.

You may wonder how I would be able to perceive this when my dad never really shared with me about his work. I was also too young for him to tell me such stuff. Well, my dad had to look after me during the school holidays and to keep me out of trouble (i guess) he brought me along to his work place which was the warehouse.

Some of you may squeal hearing this as why would anyone bring a little girl to a huge warehouse filled with heavy stuff and there would be trucks moving heavy stuff in and out as well. I never thought there was any danger at all and in fact, I considered the warehouse as one of my favourite playgrounds at par with my kampung (village). I recalled jumping from one stack of gunny sack to another and when I found any that had a tear causing the contents to come out, I would quickly scoop up spices such as cloves of garlic, dried chilli, star anise, cinnamon, etc, put them in a bag to bring it back to the kampung to share. My dad allowed me to do that as it would help clear up the mess from these `leaking’ sacks. I would load it in his favourite car (volkswagon beetle seen with him in the photo below) which he had for many good years.

Dad with Beetle (2)

My Dad with his trusty Volkwagon Beetle

As I mentioned earlier, there were bales of cloth too and my dad would bring back some that were left behind. Most of these cloths were for furniture upholstery or curtains and if there were any that was actually good for human attire, it did not make it to my wardrobe. My mom was not one who would waste these cloths so she would get a seamstress to make cushion covers, curtains and of course the good cloths would be for dresses for her or my sister. I refused to wear one so my mom decided to let the leftover tougher cloths meant for curtains to be my pants or blouse! You can see a specimen of this in the following photo where I was wearing one of such pants and it seemed that I was not too happy too 🙂

Parents and 2 girls

It is pretty obvious who is the Peanut fan.

So my dad allowed me to do whatever with the spices which brought delight to my grandma and my neighbours who all loved to cook and he would please my mom with the bales of cloth for her to go to the seamstress to come up with the latest trends for that season but little did she know that she had set a trend for me to have quite a weird taste for colors and clothes in my later years too… but maybe not. My dad chose lime green as the color of the volkswagon and it made quite a stir at the kampung and on the roads at that time. It attracted lots of attention whenever he drives it around and I think there were no other car like his in Singapore then 🙂

I was and still am proud of my dad for giving me such an interesting and amazing childhood that was filled with so much fun and adventure. When you read any posts on my childhood adventures or my growing up years, you need to remember who my superhero was and always will be.

Dad's 60th BD2 (2)

Dad’s 60th Birthday (1987)