Thursday, December 11, 2008
Laughs For Love
Family is a wonderful gift. To me, my family is everything that I am. Without which I find it hard to define myself. I will have no clue as to the purpose of my being here on this earth.
Last Monday was the testament to me, what family is all.
Congregated at our parents' place in Woodlands, the whole horde of us cramped into their 3-room flat. Creating a ruckus there as we met-up, greeted and enjoyed each others' company, honoring our parents for their unconditional love and the sacrifices that they have made for their children.
We were celebration Hari Raya AidilAdha, the festival of sacrifice for the Muslim faith.
Like every year, food has always been in abundance. Pot luck from all the siblings, combined with Mom and Dad's insistence to cook us some dishes, it was definitely the most attractive focus in the room, I thought.
Unlike every year, this time both Mom and Dad were not well enough to cook. They ordered Nasi Beryani instead from the Indian Muslim food stall a block away from their flat.
Everyone was aware that Mom had always been the head chef, guiding Dad through the cooking of the main dishes every festive occasions, ignoring our request for them to just leave the food to us.
"Do you know how happy your Dad and I feel whenever we see our children eat the food we cooked for you all?" Was Mom's redirected question to us for uttering that suggestion.
I guess the food the cooked and provided for us during these special occasion is their way to feel independent, useful and still needed. Yes, Mom and Dad, we need you. We need you for as long as forever.
Unlike previous years, we did not hear a joke from Dad. Instead, we see him dozing off more often than ever, and at one time he felt so groggy he nearly stumbled upon the coffee table while making his way to the bedroom.
"The cough syrup is making me dizzy." Dad muttered as he excused himself to take a nap.
We all know that he took the cough syrup twice a day. Once in the morning and another at 6:ooPM. It was only 5:15PM then.
Everybody was trying their best to keep the conversation light and cheerful. Jokes and loud laughs... almost fake at times to make the day joyful, but it felt like everyone was wearing a happy mask with sad faces hidden inside our hearts.
Guilty as I was stealing a stare at Dad's and Mom's heavenly faces, at times, I noticed my other siblings did the same too... with bleeding hearts, I am sure.
"When I am well again, I want to make dentures for me," Dad quipped at one point "I'm missing lots of good food that I can't chew."
I nodded in agreement, "The sooner the better, Dad" I replied, "we can take you to lots of places with good food to enjoy."
Dad nodded and managed a smile.
Second Sis excused herself graciously and locked herself in the bathroom for a while. She has always been the tough sister and yet the most affected one too. She is the two extremes... like Mom, she is like a dramatist in the family. Like an open book.
Throughout the day, clusters of lively conversations ran from every corner of the the house.
From little grandchildren tumbling and running around everywhere, young ones grouped together engaged in PSP battles, to giggles of teenage nieces comparing earrings and staring through each others' colored contact lenses.
Mom totally engrossed with the mothers, clustered together sharing food recipes and catalogs and talks about the variety magazines.
Dad and the fathers hogged the LCD TV with the soccer match showing provided as the background while the talks about fishing and the ones that got away, the latest updates on the soccer idols and lots of stories of yesteryear while we all were younger and living in our village.
In our right minds, it was not the greatest idea to talk about Dad's upcoming chemo treatment and the things that we should be preparing for without either parents knowing. It was tougher to do it without their presence in the room.
At an opportune time, we got to group together anyway.
While Dad was napping in the room, Mom was having a light meal and busy chatting with her granddaughters at the dining table.
Eldest brother-in-law mooted the idea of setting-up a family emergency fund where each family contributes a small sum of money every month as an aid to fund Dad's impending cost of chemo treatments.
Second eldest brother-in-law suggested opening a bank account for this to make the contribution convenient for everybody by using funds transfer via ATM. Both great ideas which everyone agreed instantaneously.
Eldest brother requested that I be the bearer of the fund which surprised me first before feeling honored for the trust given to me. Everyone agreed and expressed their appreciation to me for being there for our parents when they could not. They also knew that Mom and Dad normally would call upon me to take them to their important appointments.
I accepted the responsibility but we needed to discuss in more detail. The place and time were just not right when Mom suddenly popped in to the room, puzzled as she asked about our covert meeting.
"What are you all talking about?" Mom suddenly popped in to the living room.
"We have decided that we'll get the chalet at Pulau Ubin during the school holiday in March." Eldest brother-in-law replied spontaneously. Quick thinking in fact.
"Yes! I love the place..." My niece replied, "I can ask hubby to book for us quickly."
"It is going to be tough getting it during the school holidays," my second youngest Sis retorted, "we'd better book it now."
The secret meeting abruptly ended and in replacement was a stealth panic to book a chalet for a family barbecue at Pulau Ubin, a rustic island north-east of the main, near Changi Beach.
Mom love the idea that we will be together again for a barbecue, but was not thrilled about going off to an island for it.
"Changi or Pasir Ris is good enough for me," Mom defended, "I don't think I dare step off a rocking boat."
Knowingly, Mom is afraid of deep water. Even so now that she cannot swim, let a lone walk without support.
The chats went on and on and actually become a topic for a real barbecue, tentatively in March next year, most probably the same Tanjung at Changi Beach Park; We will probably be camping out in our tents at Mom's and Dad's favorite spot since we were young.
Secretly, we set this Sunday afternoon to have another meeting at second Sis' place in Punggol 21. This time without our parents' presence, we should be able to discuss and finalize all that we need to do and expect once Dad starts his chemo treatment.
The evening was filled with more chats and loud laughs. At times amused at ourselves with the secrecy to avoid suspicions, but our hearts felt heavy underneath all the smiles and laughter.
We got to celebrate this auspicious occasion with both our parents, with good vibes and happy thoughts, we plan to celebrate next year's Hari Raya with them still. In the meantime, we celebrate everyday with them.