Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our Soaring Hope

After a week of mental ordeal for most of us, but a painful "secret" for Dad, I finally got a breakthrough with him.

I finally was able to persuade Dad to see the doctor for the high fever and chest congestion he had been having for three nights in the past week, but tried very hard to hide by acting normal.

I can never understand Dad and cannot imagine how painful and scared he must have been all those days when he was sick. Often in his sleep, he mumbled with arms flailing in the air and legs twitching as if he was being disturbed. It made Mom really worried about him.

I suppose Dad even hallucinated a man he thought was familiar but unsure of his identity who kept vigil by his side whenever he laid down to sleep. One time, the person smiled warmly at him and asked for his permission to pray in the house.

It freaked Dad so much that he did not sleep in his own bedroom for a few days. It scared Mom immensely, even thinking it could have been a paranormal!

Under the pretext of our casual visit, I enticed him to tag along with us for an outing. Upon his acceptance, I made Dad felt obligated to see the doctor "so that you have medicines for the common flu and fever on standby."

Wifey, Sonny and I fetched both Dad and Mom from their home to Woodlands Polyclinic for the checkup.

Fortunately, with the newly revamped clinic came even better efficiencies in the service and waiting time. Dad was in the consultation room within the hour. I showed the attending doctor Dad's prescriptions from SGH, told her about his past and present medical history as well as his recent bout of flu and high fever.

I also requested that Dad should have medications for the common illnesses that do not react adversely to Warfarin, an anti-coagulation that he is currently on.

I was totally relieved when the doctor found that Dad was no longer feverish; only a chest congestion that was not serious or life-threatening. Both Dad and Mom were equally, if not more than relieved when I explained to them later.

"We should just come here," Dad quipped when I returned from the Pharmacy with his medicines to the waiting area, "no need to go to the hospital."

I heard you, Dad.

The nagging, hard part was over. And so started, the good and memorable happenings of the day as life has intended for all of us.

Had our hearty meal at Mr. Teh Tarik - Mom's recommended eating place just across the road from the polyclinic. At one point Wifey and I thought our old folks shared a romantic moment when they shared a Black Spider drink together.

Nope. As venomous as the name suggested, it was just an innocent rip-off of the A&W Rootbeer Float drink.

Sonny left for home to cramp for his midyear exams in May while we hopped on a cab and headed to Carrefour Hypermart in Suntect City and spend the day with our folks.

On the way up the escalator at Suntec City, Dad told me something that made my day...

"You mother's stronger and brave whenever we're out with you." Dad said as we watched Mom and Wifey going up the escalator in front of us. I was holding her folded wheelchair.

"Just now she climbed the stairs to cross the road and now this." Dad continued, "She gets energetic being around you both." Referring to Wifey and me.

It is nice to know that we are able promote positive thinking on Mom... to not feel helpless but high-spirited around us. I do hope Dad feels the same way too.

Dad bought a light and portable beach chair at Carrefour. He "want to put it in the garden to relax." A good idea, since Dad spends a lot of time tending to his potted plants in his corridor garden and the plants reciprocate with displays of beautiful blooms. A private showcase that should be admired up close on a comfortable chair.

The best part of the day was when we sat by the bay at The Esplanade.

"Your father loves to look out to the sea for hours." Mom said, "He's not strong anymore."

My heart sank and I was speechless for a while, but I told Mom that I hope to be just like them with Wifey...

Married for the longest of time, sticking by and supporting one another through the darkest of times together. Blessed with many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who adore them dearly.

In their golden years, they have no worries about money. A warm and beautiful home with no mortgage to fuss over, financially independent even with some extras to go on tours! A wonderful life in a large, close-knitted family. A full life.

"We still have you both."

Mom smiled and nodded slightly, eyes looking far beyond the body of water in front of her, "I always pray for all my children to be in His care."

We saw a couple of Sea Eagles flying by and circling the waters in front of us. Majestic and graceful, the birds soared above us and dived into the water to catch its prey. It was totally awesome to witness something like that in urban Singapore. It was totally unexpected to actually see these birds in uptown financial district!

Yet, the thing that amazed me most was Dad's wisdom.

"They are usually a couple." Dad uttered, eyes tracking the birds flying above, "The nest should be near... on top of one of these buildings."

It was like National Geographic... me being the photographer while Dad, the narrator. "They are very protective of their territory." He added.

We sat and talked at the same spot for hours. Two of my favourite women in my life must have gotten into some deep conversations that lasted all those hours. Dad was silent, smiling and eyes squinting at times, his mind must have been wandering farther than the body or water.

The once scenic bay, temporarily cluttered with construction activities of the Marina Bay Sands, glimmer with the reflected light of the water from the afternoon sun. The scene gradually changed to glittering walls of colorful lights at sun down.

A quick dinner at Makan Sutra and then a stroll by the bay towards the loud rock music a live band was playing at the bay's amphitheater. It proved to be too loud for my old folks.

Stayed a while to soak in the dazzling colors by the bay before we called headed for home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

These Beautiful People

My niece called me last night, crying over the phone. It was close to midnight.

I was expecting a call from Mom or Sis, but not my niece. The fact that she cried while trying to talk made me a little shaken and panicky.

Sunday Night...

"It's about Atok..." she said with pauses in between. It made me sat-up on my bed and alert as I was already asleep around 10:30PM for work on Monday. My heart was racing, but I calmed her down, patiently waiting what news she was baring.

"I just woke up from a bad dream..." she pause and went back crying.

She dreamt of her grandparents. They were with her sitting around and chatting while eating crackers, when suddenly a dark figure appeared behind her grandfather and told her that he had little time left to live.

She woke up scared and panicky as it was as shocking a news as it was scary. She told her husband and then reached the phone to call me.

It was overwhelming for her since she had gone through it once before. The last time she dreamt of something similar, was about her Dad's mother. It was a bad omen of sorts when her grandmother turned for the worse and was admitted to ICU where she died the very same day after her dream.

She panicked when she had bits of crackers in her mouth when she woke up knowing fully that she did not eat any today. She thought it was a premonition to something bad that will happen to Dad and "I don't want this to happen to Atok!"

I was shocked, but my natural instinct was to calm her down first. I had nothing profound to say except to tell her to get a warm cup of plain water to drink to relax herself and let herself to dose off back to sleep.

"I'll call Nenek in the morning to ask how Atok is doing..." I assured her, "Atok seemed fine when I spoke to him this afternoon." Atok is Malay for grandfather and Nenek for grandmother.

I stared into the darkness for a while, trying to make sense from the call when Wifey stopped my wondering mind, asking what the call was about. She was awakened by the late night phone call and was worried.

Everyone dreads unexpected phone rings late at night.

This weekend has been a scary one to start with.

Saturday Morning...

"Did Mom call you last night about Dad?" Elder Sis asked over the phone.

Mom told her about Dad's condition the night before. He felt shortness of breath and a mild pain in his chest. Mom rubbed some ointment on his chest and back which gave him some relief.

Since Elder Sis was coming over to our parents' place that day, Mom thought she may accompany them to the family doctor if needed, but Dad was already feeling fine by lunch time.

I called Mom to ask about Dad's condition, but by that time, Mom was already calm and dismissed the night's incident as a one off thing. Dad had already recovered from the flu after taking the 1 week medication the Oncologist gave when we Dad went for his follow-up.

That Night...

"Dad's blood pressure is 114, but his heartbeat is 103..." Elder Sis informed me over the phone again. It was about 10:30PM. Wifey came to my Gym Room where I took the call... appeared worried, eyebrows lifted high "asking" me what was going on.

Elder Sis brought along a medical kit consisted of a blood pressure and heartbeat analyzer that she uses to monitor her diabetic mother-in-law's condition.

I asked to check if Dad had cold sweats and if it was hurting when he breathed in and out. I just wanted to rule out pneumonia, knowing that Dad has just recovered from flu, more importantly because of his old age and the fact that he stopped Chemo for anti-coagulation medication.

Dad had all the symptom, but his sweat was because of the hot weather. His extremities were not cold to the touch and no chest pains. "I don't want to go to the hospital." I heard Dad said in the background.

"OK then. Let's take the last reading before midnight." I suggested to her, "if the situation doesn't improve, we'll go to A&E tonight." She was staying with our parents for the night.

We were prepared to activate Youngest Brother who lives near our parents to drive Dad to Singapore General Hospital's A&E if needed. "I'll meet you guys at the hospital if it comes to this."

All was well and normal again on Saturday.

After Midnight...

Dad's vital readings had stabilized, but still not at a level we were comfortable with. His blood pressure was 119 and heartbeat at 98. Still high, but Dad insisted that he was fine since he was not in any pain.

"Mom, " I said calmly, explaining clearly what we would do if Dad felt the pain again "Younger Brother will fetch Dad to A&E if Dad feels unwell again tonight, OK?"

Mom agreed after I told her that Dad may need antibiotics if it was pneumonia. The Family doctor might only refer him to SGH because he is under Warfarin medication... being warded will be the least of our concerns.

Sunday Morning...

"Morning Mom." I called her close to 10:00AM, "How is Dad today?"

"He was OK throughout the night." Mom replied, but sounded tired, "It is me who can't get to sleep watching over him."

Apparently, Mom had dozed off on the living room sofa, while Dad was outside busy tending to his garden when I called. Dad was feeling like himself again and they just had their breakfast Elder Sis made for them.

That was really good news to me after one sleepless night thinking about Dad, wondering if we did make the right decision to just monitor instead of sending him for a check-up, expecting the phone to ring any time that night.

"That's great!" I replied and sounded chirpy for Mom, "I need to do gardening too. The Durantas are getting pretty thick and unsightly here."

I made the call short and urged Mom to get more rest. She has to take care of herself too.

Close To Midnight...

Wifey was happy that our corridor garden looked inviting again.

Thanks to Sonny who helped me gather and threw the dead branches away and swept the corridor clean while I trimmed the branches and removed the dead leaves to reveal an airy space where sunlight can reach the other potted plants placed further in the corridor.

Had a warm bath and watched scary shows "Dead Famous" and "Ghost Hunters" on AXN Beyond over channel 95 with Wifey.

Turned-in for bed midway during Ghost Hunters only to get woken-up scarred by my Niece's call.

Like a cross between an owl and a cuckoo bird, I woke up every hour on the hour, rudely awaken and looking at the land-line phone and my cell phone on the night stand, expecting a call.

Monday Morning...

Waking up on Monday morning was a groggy affair. I almost missed bidding Sonny goodbye as he left for school. Fortunately no headache, else I had to call in sick. I had a team from our neighbouring country coming for a project transfer to them today.

"How are you, Mom." I called Mom in the morning from the office. My heart was racing, expecting to hear something not so pleasant.

Elder Sis picked-up the phone instead. "Mom is good and Dad looks alert and fresh too." She replied. "He's eating well this morning. He's outside talking to Mr. Lim."

I was surprised that Elder Sis came so early in the morning bringing them breakfast and keeping them company. She is a wonderful person, my closest sibling since we were growing up.

Mr. Lim is an old man and next door neighbour who shares gardening interests with Dad. They have been trading potted plants ranging from herbs to vegetable and flowering plants since my parents moved in more than 5 years ago.

Elder Sis sounded chirpy telling me that Dad's blood pressure and heartbeat were stable. More importantly, he looked happy and alert...

Our Folks.

I was relieved to hear that from her. We are blessed to have them with us still.

Yet, there will be a time when things will get worse. This is life. I keep telling myself that.

Yet I cannot imagine how I will feel or react when the day should come to loose such wonderful people in our lives, no matter how many times and ways I go through it in my mind. I will never be fully prepared when the inevitable comes. It will be painful for everyone.

I pray to The Almighty
To give me strength and not scorn You,
When You choose to call them back.
These are beautiful people You've created,
Please keep them in Your care.

Give everyone of us strength,
To face this truth when it comes.
For The Almighty to bless our wonderful People
As we have been blessed to have them
In our lives as our Parents.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flight Of Inspiration

Pegasus in the clouds at Parents' place

"Su, Imran's here already!" Mom hollered for Dad to hurry-up. Sitting on the sofa while busy fixing her scarf. Her handbag and a plastic carrier full of Dad's medical documents in two SGH folders were ready, placed on the coffee table.

I cannot seem to remember why Mom call Dad with his nickname "Su." Was it short for Sulong - GrandDad's name or was it short for "Bungsu" - Dad being the youngest of 8 children in his family? I think it is the latter.

Dad was still in his bedroom, putting on his shirt when I saw him once I entered my parents' home.

"I have been sweating profusely nowadays, it's crazy." Dad told me as he closed the living room windows in preparation to leave the house.

I went to the kitchen to get Mom's wheelchair out and placed it at the front door. Mom was ready to inch her way out, holding the gate tightly as she went down the steps and safely sat in her waiting chariot.

Mom can walk in short distances without any aid, but she finds comfort to hold on to the walls or chairs or anything to stabilize her with every step. Once outside the house, she prefers being in a wheelchair because "it's faster to move around with you all."

Like always, once Dad locked the front door, he insisted to push Mom around in her wheelchair. Giving exceptions to steep slopes for me or any of his children to do it.

Though it has been going on for years, I cannot help but feel a tat embarrassed when passers by looked on at us with a frown. They must be thinking that I am a heartless son with no initiative to help out his own parents pushing the wheelchair for his Mom.

No matter how many times Mom told him to let their children push the wheelchair to save some stares and embarrassments, Dad always insists that he is the one to do it.

Two things that he thinks he should be the one.

One. It's his right because she is his wife.

And two. Dad doubles it as his walking stick. Without which he tends to loose his balance a little at times while walking. He refuses to use a cane.

National Cancer Centre 2nd Floor Atrium

My half day leave off work this afternoon was to accompany Dad for his first oncologist follow-up check by Dr. Loo SK at National Cancer Centre or NCC since his discharge from the Singapore General Hospital a little over a month ago.

What was to be a first routine CT Scan done after 3 complete Chemo cycles, the X-ray turned out to reveal a blood clot in his heart. Dr. Loo included and X-ray to his heart after Dad's complaints of numbness and at times, intense pins-and-needles feeling he had been having around his left shoulder region.

The blood clot could have traveled to his brain and caused a stroke! It was uncertain whether the Chemo had anything to do with the thickening of his blood, but old age was a major factor too.

"Tell the doctor what I have told you so far." Mom reminded me secretly, not letting Dad hear.

Mom has been feeding me on Dad's health and any abnormality that concerns her. Dad told her that he "don't want to tell so much... like the last time" it landed him warded in SGH for telling the doctor about the numbness he felt on his shoulder.

I do not think Dad failed to see the bigger picture here; perhaps in denial, but most importantly not the feeling of giving up. I know that he knew by "confessing" to the doctor about the pains he was suffering from, it had saved him from something more dire.

It is a blessing in disguise to get warning signs and given time to act upon it.

National Cancer Centre Clinic C Blood Test Room

Well, we reached NCC at 2:00PM for Dad's 2:30PM appointment with Dr. Loo. Instead of the usual Clinic C Room 7 on the 2nd level, today was at Clinic B Room 5 on the ground floor.

As always, a warm smile and a "Selamat... errr... petang" greetings to Dad as we entered the room. And as always, I updated her of Dad's condition and our concerns. He is still in National Heart Centre's care and under Warfarin medication.

For the past week, Dad still has runny nose, coupled with the frequent coughs during the day since he is without his cough medication during his waking hours.

To avoid the effect the cough syrup may have on his anti-coagulation medication, upon Dad's request, the Cardiologist allows him to take only once at night, before his sleep.

NCC Pharmacy Registration

Though Dad feels fine and alert during his waking hours, he cannot help but cough incessantly during the day. Lots of phlegm too, with small traces of blood. This concerns Dad and definitely us too.

Dr. Loo was able to put our minds at ease - the anti-coagulation medication tends to make Dad bleeds easily whenever he strains while coughing. Moreover, without the usual three-times-a-day dosage to suppress, the coughs and chances of him straining are even more frequent.

"Nothing much to worry about..." Dr. Loo explained, "we still can do his blood test to find out more." She arranged for Dad's blood to be drawn right after the consultation.

"I'll call you if there is anything abnormal." She assured.

NCC Pharmacy medicine collection

No news is good news. Dr Loo did not call after we had Dad drawn blood at Clinic C and collected 8 weeks of cough syrups and laxatives, plus a week's medication for his runny nose which totaled up to about S$25.00. Another S$25.00 was for the blood test and the consultation fee.

Both journeys between Woodlands and NCC by cab cost S$19.80 each direction.

Had our early dinner at Banquet in Causeway Point Shopping Mall and did some grocery shopping at NTUC Fairprice in Civic Centre.

We spent the rest the afternoon with more talking at my parents' place until going home time.

I was tired and the journey home from Woodlands to Tampines was a long one on board bus Service 168, but it was worth spending that half day with my old folks anyhow.

From the chats, the jokes, their concerns and their contentions, they inspire me with their resilience and patience, insights and faith they navigate all through their lives.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Kaleidoscope In Cactus

A trip to the Singapore Botanic Garden was a treat for me especially to practice my budding interest in photography.

The best subjects for photography are the still ones... trees and flowers are wonderful, but cactus are the very best. Simply, these plants are hardy and do not sway with the wind. Perfect still-life subjects for these shaky hands... and for my stubbornness of not wanting to put the camera on a tripod. A quick snap and I was onto the next subject.

Navigating and discovering the fantastic features of the camera, I shot these few out of the many other subjects I came across and had the pleasure of taking photo shots throughout the 52 hectares of this 150 year old garden. Well, I actually got to explore only about half of the tropical garden. Opportunities abound for my next trip.

With the help of iMac's iPhoto software, I was able to make my photos a little more dramatic than usual and with the help of a free-to-download AutoResizer program to reduce the size of each photo to a manageable size for the web upload and still decently retains its details.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TGIF; Loving It

To All My Christian Friends
May This Good Friday
Bring The Joy of Spring
Back To Your Life

Monday, April 06, 2009

There's A Time

I met a customer on my way back home last night.

He is a friendly customer who seldom, if not at all to my recollection, uses his position and authority as customer to his advantage. He has always worked with us in a calm and friendly manner towards a win-win situation. He is very nice as a person.

When we met yesterday, he showed interest to talk longer than just a casual "Hi, how are you?" greetings. We stood by the side of the road for a good 15 minutes, just talking. He was pouring out the grievances from the day's ordeal.

The multinational company he is working for has retrenched its employees again today. Talk about Monday blues...

It was not so much of a shocker to them, since "the buzz has been around since Chinese New Year" in February, but what surprised them most was the selection of people that were retrenched.

He was fortunately spared the axe, but not so lucky were the three people in his team we have worked with all along in several projects together. They still have no clue as to the selection criteria... “redundancy, poor performance, or what?” at a time of economic downturn and aggressive restructuring. A more accurate word is downsizing.

All these while, I had the thinking that multinationals treat their employees better off than local businesses when it comes to downsizing. They are still better as compared to local companies.

It is a surprise to me that this multinational acted exactly like a local business would... the cheapest possible way. Nothing prestigious and happy stories of windfall, but just lots of resentments from the affected people.

Capping the retrenchment benefit at 12 months maximum, those that have worked more than 12 years and those that may have reached their retirement age, have lost out on their fullest extent of severance payable from what used to be, the industrial standard of 26 months maximum payout plus 2 months of notice and severance.

Gone are the days when multinationals have "prestigious severance payouts" that are exemplary and envious to others, especially to employees working in local businesses.

While talking and with deep regrets felt, I cannot help but thought that one of the people he mentioned, in my mind... deserved to be retrenched. It was like payback time, but with little pay for him.

He was the unpleasant one, if nasty is too strong a word, of the lot. We had a difficult time working with him, mostly with his tantrums… at times humiliating too, but we endured because he had the upper-hand of being our customer. Not just to us as his supplier, but to his own team too.

It is a nasty thing to think this way, but I cannot help it. It is like karma, finally.

I would elaborate the nasty instances that have stayed in my mind, but it will become too personal and too accurate a description of that person I am talking about.

Suffice to say, no one is indispensable.

I was told that the other people affected took it in their stride, though unfortunate and upset, but this guy was furious. He received a rude shock. It must be devastating to think of oneself so highly capable and thus untouchable but selected nonetheless for this round of retrenchment… with a “clause of not being eligible for a rehire within a 2-year period!”

I am not going to relish on someone else’s misfortune. It is just too cruel and vindictive. Mine is coming anyway.

Like their projects that have become idle and made them redundant, so am I. With my many projects nearly finished being transferred to our other low-cost factory across the causeway, I am preparing to close the chapter of my work and career in this present company and line respectively.

I may have mentioned before in one of my previous posts, I think I am prepared for the retrenchment, but I will only know how it feels when that day comes.

I do not blame the company or anyone, this is a business after all and bottom line is crucial, but I do hope this company compensates properly for the pure dedication I, and I know many others like me, have given to the company all these years… 17 years of my personal attention to my work.

We parted ways, but not before we shook hands and hoped for the best for one another, sincerely.

There is a time and a place for everything.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Are You Game?

With lots of enthusiasm from me, instead of Sonny, he finally owns his own Gamer PC.

Since we promised him that he could upgrade from his Acer Pentium4 PC to a Gamer PC when he became first in class in his final exams in Secondary 1, he has been nagging Wifey to let him buy his dream PC during the school holidays in December 2008.

After much reminders from Sonny, we set forth in search for that Gamer PC directly at Sim Lim Square - the PC haven for all gadget-geeks in Singapore. Yes, I am a gadget-geek, Sonny is too, looks like it.

We hunted right from the 6th storey and all the way down to the ground floor and up again.

With the info of what is the best and latest hardware to D.I.Y. a Gamer PC, we finally came to a shop on the 6th floor with the right offer. That was after comparing the prices with the same configurations that Sonny wanted.

We came to TradePac with the cheapest deal at S$1,590.00. There, we also learned about the different categories of Power Supplies and DDR RAMs as true-blue geeks should know.

With only the last action to take... to say "we'll take it!" Wifey was able to dissuade Sonny... and myself, to wait and think about it further at home.

Disappointed Sonny... and me, we got home and rechecked and recalculated all the items and prices from all the various shops again from the flyers that we collected there. TradePac came up tops again and made us decide to go with it for the purchase on our next trip.

The next trip proved to be 3 months later... after months of whining and nagging between Sonny and Wifey. As for me, I had a relax state of mind after rewarding Sonny with S$500.00 for doing a brilliant job on his finals.

During the one-week March school holidays, Sonny was nominated by his school to go for numerous activities and competitions.

Him, being busy going back to school and other places for the trainings and other computer-related preparations, his holidays proved to be an extramural endeavor instead, but he liked it. So that is good.

With the most of the activities recognized as being computer-related, Wifey finally gave in to Sonny to have his dream Gamer PC to own, that would double as his tool for his related school projects.

Sonny had saved up over a thousand dollars for the hardware over the months. So, combining it with my monetary reward, he is looking at the latest, and fastest souped-up PC that rivals Acer's Predator... well, in the processing department, that is.

Acer's Predator looks awesomely alien, nothing can beat the looks, anytime soon!

Just for my own records, the following lists his Gamer PC configuration:
  • Motherboard - Asus P5Q Deluxe (SLI x3)
  • Processor - Intel Core2 Quad Q9650
  • Graphics - NVidia Q9800 GXT Plus
  • RAM - Kingston DDR2 Hyper-X 4GB
  • Harddisk - Hitachi SATA 500GB
  • Player - Samsung DVD Writer 22x 2-Layer
  • Casing - NVidia Cooler Master 650
  • Power - Real Power 550W
Together with the hardware installation service of $20.00, the total Gamer PC cost is S$1,600.00.

Sonny is using back the following items from the old PC:
  • Windows XP Professional OS
  • Samsung 26 Inch TV Monitor
  • Microsoft Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
So, last Saturday, Sonny and I were busy installing the OS and updating it to Service Pack 3, along with other installation and more Windows' latest updates. That is why I am a Mac convert.

"Look, Ayah!" Sonny quipped with excitement, " No lagging whatsoever!"

I have to admit, the colors are brilliant and yes, the CPU is running at less than 30% capacity with the intense graphics from the online SPORE game.

"Keep up with your good scores at school." I reminded Sonny, "See how things fall nicely into place when you balance your studies and play, right?"

He nodded, while his eyes were glued to the brilliant colors on the screen and the green, alien-like light emanated from his latest NVidia tower.

"Thanks Ayah!" Sonny's face was as brilliant as his Gamer PC.

Another happiest weekend of his life for sure!