Saturday, October 31, 2009

Welcome Back Sonny!

With all that is going on in my life right now, I have to face the fact that Sonny is already a young man and is going places.

He left for student exchange programme last Tuesday, 27th October 2009. Departed on Garuda Air from Changi International Airport for a week at a school called Santa Laurensia in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Wifey was at a loss without her beloved only child the first night he was not around. Indeed, the house became so quiet... no boom-beat resonance emanating from his room. No little chat-chats with her son, no little "disagreements" heard between them for the past week.

Wifey broke her daily longing for Sonny with long distance calls to his hotel room every night. After 10:00PM Singapore time, the students would have retired to their respective rooms, back from their day's activities. Indonesia is an hour behind us.

Straight after our Dunman Supportive Parents' group or DSP meeting ended at Sonny's school at 4:30PM, Wifey and I left for the Changi T1 airport. There, we met other parents, obviously anxious too and waiting for their beloved children's return.

GA830 was the flight number. It departed Jakarta, Indonesia at 2:55PM and arrived on time at 5:30PM Singapore time.

Sonny was to first to come out from the arrival hall to the baggage claim. Spotting a new black T-shirt and a black military-like shirt over it, he looked so tall and all grown-up when we saw him from afar.

"Look!" Wifey quipped. "He chose and bought his own clothes there..." she continued "He has good taste like me." She said jokingly to me. She is so proud of Sonny. I know I am too.

Eyes searching the outside for us as he waited for his luggage to come out from the conveyor, he waved at us as soon as he spotted us behind the glass wall. Apparently, Wifey was waving frantically at him... so it was hard not to notice her, I guess.

He gave us a big smile, somewhat a relieved one. Most probably he missed us too. That smile made Wifey's longing for past week all worth while.

Spotting dark glasses hung on his T-shirt, Sonny was like a tourist coming back from a seaside resort or a overseas jig. One thing is for sure... he had his PSP portable held in his hand, like always. He never leaves home... in fact anywhere, without it!

Once he came out, Wifey hugged him so tightly and planted numerous kisses on him like he had gone away for years. It made Sonny a little embarrassed but at the same time happy that he was missed.

"5 days is such a long time!" Wifey said.

We went straight home. Sonny has so much things to share with us, especially with his Mom. Wifey will make for lost time with long chats with Sonny since the long school holidays have just started.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dad's Coming Home

A call I received this morning had made my day.

It has been an arduous period for the whole family...the reason I was so preoccupied and not having any time at all to check my blog, let alone surf to others.

Dad is being discharged this evening from Tan Tock Seng Hospital or TTSH for short.

He was admitted last week Wednesday, 21st October 2009 after having much difficulty breathing. He had that problem, only milder, since Monday but kept it from Mom and everyone else until it was at the point of panic!

Mom called me that day, just before lunch time and sounded desperate. Dad was slouching at the sofa, gasping for air.

Elder Sis was immediately there after Mom told her, upon which we decided to call for the ambulance. "Dad's face is pale! He can't even stand up!" She told me, apparently shaken and fearful of Dad's life.

I took leave off work for the other half part of the day and rushed to the hospital. Our request for Dad to be sent to Singapore General Hospital or SGH for short, where Dad has been taken care of and had been warded several times before was turned down.

Understandably, it is their policy to send the patient to the nearest hospital to save life. TTSH was nearest to my parents' place in Woodlands.

Dad was still in Resuscitation at Accident & Emergency when I reached the hospital. Dad's name was not registered in their system when I tried to check at the A&E registry upon my arrival.

I was called a while later to Admission counter and did all the same routine of in-processing as I had done several times before this for Dad at SGH.

Dad came out looking frail, propped on the hospital bed with an oxygen mask on his face... yet he was brave enough to carve a smile for me as if to say "I'm alright now."

I smiled back, squeezed his cold hand as he was wheeled to the isolation ward on the 12th floor. We parted ways at the lift. I had to register myself now before I could enter the ward... a routine screening for Swine Flu or H1N1 Influenza, I had to go through the second time after I had one at the A&E.

Again, a series of checks by the ward nurses to get him settled with his medical history questions I had fill them in... fortunately I had them typed-in and stored in my iPhone's notepad.

And yes, fortunately too, things are much simpler since the two hospitals can share Dad's electronic medical records... TTSH retrieved them from SGH files.

Dad's condition got worse into the night. A warning came true by the attending lady doctor, Dr. Tan.

It was the most unsettling night I had ever encountered! Everyone was there, heeding the doctor's advice that it was the crucial night for Dad to get over. She termed Dad as DIL patient and advised to call family members to keep a bedside vigil.

With his BP still unstable, Dad was already falling in and out of consciousness. Numerous times, he was gasping for air and at times moaned with his hands flailing up into the air. Those moments, we thought we would loose Dad.

Everyone's lips were filled with murmuring prayers for Dad. Everyone's eyes filled with tears not wanting Dad to go.

Mom was the most devastated of all but she was much calmer than she was before, when Dad fell into unconsciousness several times while recovering after his colorectal tumor removed some 4 years ago. She cried the loudest then... "Su, don't leave." I can still remember.

True to the hero Dad is against this disease, he pulled through. Though his BP was still on the low side, he was improving every hour when the nurses checked.

A stark and frightful, most different situation several hours before when the doctors kept coming in and out of his room trying to stablise his vital signs. We felt helpless, just as bystanders then. We could only offer Dad our prayers.

By midnight, Dad's condition had significantly improved. Dad had gone through his ordeal. He was able to breathe even better each time when Ventolin was administered every 4 hours; amongst other medications like antibiotics via IV.

We finally got to see Dad opened his eyes and being alert and aware that we were there in the morning. Everyone was drained-out from last night. Both physically but mostly emotionally. Yet that morning was one of our happiest moments.

Like the sunrise through the bay window, Dad woke up and faintly asked "Where's your mother?"

Mom sad at his bedside and held his hand. They held hands for the longest time... until Dad fell back to sleep. This time a little smile on his face. I saw heaven working for them, for us.

Thank You...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Corner On 4th

Well, I have survived this far...

One week to be exact but I hope I will continue on for as long as they need me.

Since the company's restructuring as a reaction to the world economy's downturn, a long arduous one in fact, everyone that are still standing, has been holding their breath for as long as possible.

Everyone tried their best to hold their ground during the storm of global recession. It has affected many lives here too, in many ways than I can ever articulate to do any justice to their often painful stories.

I am not faulting the company, at the end of the day, it is business as usual. Singapore is not immune to this financial crisis, being one of the financial powerhouse in Southeast Asia and depending on manufacturing as one of many of its services, without natural resource to cushion the impact, many lives were affected... changed.

Everyone here was battered with the sudden "heavy storm" that came with it. Many succumbed and "drowned" but many more persevered and survived.

The many efforts by our government to revive the drowning victims were quite successful if the newspapers were to be trusted. Those that survived have kept their own belts tightened and thread the waters cautiously still.

After enduring pay cuts since early this year to sustain and keep the ship sailing strong, many of my workmates had to be transferred to other facilities either on this island or to plants across the causeway.

Many too left on their own with new or without jobs waiting for them. Yet many too have success stories to tell. They found new jobs that are in fact, with better pay and position.

I am just so happy for them and hope for their success at their new place. It provides hope and a light at the end of a very dark tunnel under a dark sky.

I have been fortunate all this while. Though not totally unscathed, I have been spared from having to make drastic changes to my workplace and job nature. I have been transferred to another department but is manageable and am progressively learning my new job skills to quite a confident level.

The dark and stormy clouds seem to be slowly clearing to reveal brighter days ahead.

I got an apple from the company yesterday. All employees will get their free apples on Thursdays to keep the workplace healthy. It is heeding the government's "An apple a day keeps the doctors away" campaign.

It gives a human feel to an otherwise faceless business entity.

Everyone received an email from HR that our pay will be reinstated to its full amount in November 2009 onwards. That is truly a welcomed news.

Alone and with no familiar friends of more than 15 years from 2nd floor, I have survived for a week at my new cubicle in the corner, on the 4th floor!

I have met a few new neighbors and I had some old friends visited me at my new desk during the week.

Though I envy them still in the same department and with the whole lot moving to a new place and still be together, we are still a phone call away... a Skype click away and most importantly, we are still breakfast and lunch buddies as always.

Life is dynamic... always changing, always evolving. Yet one thing remains true and the same... our friendship bond is still going strong!

Maybe I get a plant for my desk. It will keep me company and will relieve me of any residual stresses I have with the changes that is going on while I adapt to the new environment.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Grand Celebration

I received a call from Auntie Z and it was good news.

It was more like a redemption of sorts and it felt good that I received her call this time around and was available to be around too.

Well, it all started on Sunday evening...

All three of us had our once-a-month family dinner out... "rejoicing the paycheck" I receive every month... a family bonding time I like to do with them.

Sonny came back home to continue his revisions for his final year exams preparations. Wifey and I continued with our monthly grocery shopping at Giant Hypermart in Tampines Retail Park.

We only realized that I had four miss calls from Auntie Z on my cell phone when Sonny told us upon reaching home. She called Wifey's cell phone too, but Wifey left it charging in her study. Putting my cell phone in Wifey's purse was a bad idea.

"We'll do it next time, OK?" was Auntie Z's text message reply to me when I tried calling her after 10:30PM.

Auntie Z was with her family, taking Grandma whom we passionately call "Tok," for Raya visits.

Tok is not our maternal Grandma, a second wife to our late Grandfather from Mom's side of the family. Grandfather remarried when his first wife passed on due to poor health amid a non-existent healthcare system then during the Japanese Occupation in the second world war.

Mom lost her failing health mother at an innocent and tender young age of eight. Mom has a younger brother who lives in Malaysia with his large family but we seldom see him. He spends most of his life on a ship crossing vast oceans somewhere... following his father's footsteps.

Grandfather was a ship's captain, a high ranking position, much admired by many.

Mom recounted that she was so scared to gain a stepmother initially.

Yet Tok was nothing like the nasty and evil stepmothers the movies have long stereotyped them to be. Instead, she was the total opposite.

She was a loving and nurturing mother to Mom and surprisingly during those olden days, Tok was even like a friend to Mom... unheard of in Asian culture those days, I think.

Mom's years of ordeal and "slavery" living with other adoptive families while Grandfather was away in high seas finally ended when Tok became family. The ladies took care of each other since then.

They both love each other and are close even today. Watching them embraced each other when Mom went to visit her at her home was touching and endearing. They longed to see one another it seemed.

The miracle of telecommunication bridges these two wheelchair-bound ladies close that otherwise would not be possible since they are both apart geographically, at each end of the island.

Coming back to my celebration...

I am fortunate to have Tok to visit our home every year because we both live in Tampines. My other siblings would regard themselves blessed if Tok were to visit their home during Hari Raya visits because it is way off her usual route while visiting her siblings and own children.

To miss Tok this year was quite disheartening... until Auntie Z called on Tuesday to inform that she was coming with Tok.

In fact, Tok insisted that they come to my home before Auntie Z sent her back to her home with Auntie A, who like me, does not have our own car.

"Tok insisted that I send her to your home tonight before I can send her back." Auntie Z said over the phone laughing in disbelief that Tok put her foot down, insisting.

I was overjoyed and so honored upon hearing that. My Grandma insisted to make the visit that night instead of next year!

Wifey was thrilled to received them because it showed how much she misses us and likes our company.

Auntie A came along too upon learning Tok's request.

We served Chicken Murtabak... an Indian version of a pizza. We prepared fruit and vegetable salad among the many Raya cakes and cookies for them.

Bridging the year's gap, we chatted, told lots of jokes and enjoyed each others' company for the whole two hours that they were here.

I did not wait long to tell Mom all about it the next day.

It was such an honor, a Grand-ma celebration this Hari Raya.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bus-loads Of Celebrations

Blessed to have Mom & Dad celebrating with their children

The Raya celebrations continue...

Just like previous years, just like other Malay families I have seen too, we chartered a coach for the whole day to haul our large families to visit homes of one another like a marathon which proved to be an "Amazing Race" every year.

Meeting point at my Eldest Brother's place, the bus started picking-up the families in Tampines first. We moved off to Bedok North to pick up 2nd Elder Brother before moving off to Punggol to pick up 2nd and 3rd Sis' families.

That completed the the families living in the eastern part of Singapore.

Went off on a longer journey via TPE highway to Woodlands and picked up two more families - 4th Sis' and Youngest Brother's. Mom and Dad were traveling with our Niece's family since she has difficulties climbing the steps on the coach.

That then completed hauling of the families living in the north of this island.

1st Home. Breakfast at Eldest Sis' home at Jurong West

Next destination: Eldest Sis' place in Jurong West, the western of this island. Her place was our first Raya visit this year and it was Nasi Lemak breakfast there... a very delicious Malay dish that has become very popular and has been adopted by all other races here.

Once our parents arrived we started our day-long Raya feasting, followed by a tradition of Raya family portraits at each home before we left for the next one.

Limiting ourselves to about 30 to 45 minutes per home, we were able to cover about 9 homes within the same day, like marathons we did on previous years.

2nd Home. Bunch at Youngest Brother's home at Woodlands Drive 16

It is interesting to observe the moods everyone both adults and children, throughout the entire day. We always started off happy, cheerful and so energetic in the morning. Lively chats and endless doses of jokes broke out everywhere... while in the coach, at the lift landing, everywhere.

Though the enthusiasm remained the high, the energy level wanes off significantly especially come sun down. It is not so much the sunlight that gives the energy boost, but more of the energy is concentrated to digest the loads of food we feasted throughout the day.

Endearing moment captured

Each home made their own Raya home-cooked dish specially for this visit, so after the 7th home to the last 9th, everyone has not enough blood running in the brain. The blood is mostly concentrated and working hard in the stomach area.

All that weight lost as a result of the month-long fasting during Ramadan, we manage to get it most back during this day! Loading on carbohydrates day!

The visiting route a reverse from the pick-up. After Elder Sis' home, her family joined us to visit our next sibling at Woodlands and then Tampines. Lastly, Bedok North which ended half and hour before midnight.

Visited Grandma at Tampines Ave 10

We used-up 15 hours of charter which accumulated to S$525.00, at S$35.00 an hour charge. Each family shared the cost which amounted to S$58.30, handed over to Eldest Sis who was the last to be sent home.

All in all, the day can never be traded for any other because we love to be together as one super-large family, ever stronger bonding and ever happy to be in each other company.

Ever so blessed that we still have both our parents celebrating this auspicious day this year with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren... after so much ordeal they had to endure with the health.

This Aidilfitri is extra special and will be increasingly so every coming year.

Selamat Hari Raya,
Maaf zahir batin.

3rd Home. Rojak Tahu at 4th Sis' home at Woodlands Ave 4

4th Home. Noodle lunch at 3rd Sis' home at Sengkang

5th Home. Light snacks at 2nd Sis' home at Punggol 21

6th Home. First of our Niece's home

7th Home. Eldest Brother at Tampines St 22

8th Home. My home at Tampines St 71

9th & last home. 2nd Eldest Brother's home at Bedok North