October 4 each year was a special day. Yet most of us did not remember that day except for a few, especially for my sister Bee. But this year 2011 we would meet to commemorate the death anniversary of our beloved father who was gone since Oct 4, 1981.
Sadly we had not celebrated his death anniversary until now. So it had been 30 years since we remembered this occasion. It was not that we had forgotten him. But it was because we had never been close to him during his lifetime but more closer to our late mum.
My late father spent more time outside the home than with us. When at home, he liked to do his own things and to be in his own world, pursuing his many hobbies ranging from music, to reading, to collecting smoking pipes and fountain pens and also much into photography.
Now with both parents gone and with the Lord, we felt the loss greater than before. Thus we would put in more effort to meet and to help each other with their passing.
This year we took the effort to meet partly because we just had the first year memorial service for our late mum this July who passed on last year. It was therefore appropriate to reminisce about our late father too.
The weekend night of October 1 started with a potluck dinner where everyone brought their favorite dishes to my sister’s house in the East. After the simple home cook food, we gathered around in the living room to talk about our father’s life in an informal chat chit setting. We sang his favorite hymns and some Christian songs.
Earlier I took out my personal collection of his numerous b/w photos which I stored up for event such like this. Some of the photos were only being viewed in the public by us for the first time.
When we saw ourselves in the photos, we laughed and joked of ourselves when we saw what we looked like 30 years back. We could not recognize some of us but we surely could recognize our handsome father from his legendary photo. It showed a slight Caucasian appearance of a handsome young and trim Oriental man, which all of us would proudly exhibited to others.
For the older ones, they remembered him as one who liked photography and had taken many photos in black and white with his many cameras. It seemed that at that time of his craze, we were living in a 2 rooms’ single storey government house in Henderson Walk which had since been demolished.
Though the only bedroom meant for relaxation for his growing brood of children and for our parents themselves, he would improvise the tiny room into a suitable photographic dark room to develop his latest photos.
In addition, he also possessed several cameras in his personal collection which I still owned one.
My late father was a man who liked cars, so he took us often for ‘ Jalan- jalan’ or ' makan angin' to Changi Beach, Katong beach , the Esplanade, and the Botanic Gardens where one elder brother would walked unwittingly into the huge landscaped pond and had to be rescued by my father. This subject was a classic tale since.
Of all the places we frequented together when young, I enjoyed the rainbow neon lights adorning the multi-storey levels of the 10 storey apartment at Katong Beach most. I also liked watching the Katong lion statue at the end of the long highway bridge.
For Changi Beach, I remembered playing with coarse sand on the beach in hot afternoon sun, collecting white and pretty sea shells whilst my parents took shelter under the Angsana tree.
Though my late father did not pursue a formal education because of the World War, he loved Chinese classics and would read widely. He was a gifted self- taught scholar at heart and he knew many legendary and famous Chinese literatures of ancient times.
Similarly though he was not brought up in a musical environment, he loved music passionately, especially classical music. He enjoyed the love for music of all kinds, which ranged from pop to contemporary .Yet in particular, he had an immense obsession for classical music.
My knowledge of the classical music world came from him. I would savor his vast collection of musical records of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky and read the contents of the records intensely. My early lesson of famous music composers was learnt at home because of him, not during music class at school.
He would buy musical records after records, in spite of frequent nagging from my late mum. I remembered him sneaking the latest purchase through the louvered window of our 2 bedrooms’ flat in Jalan Klinik and then signaled to whoever who saw him not to expose him. Then he would walk in through the main door of the living room, acting innocent and natural to avoid scolding from his other half. Maybe my late mum knew by then about his little trick and just had to close one eye since she knew how much he simply loved all those music.As a child, I remembered sleeping at night in our apartment in Margaret Drive in the living room, probably at 6 years old when he would turned on the record player for the love song of “ Bengawan Solo”, a romantic Indonesian love classic song.
He would then dance waltz leisurely with my mum. I would act as if I was sleeping but would peep slyly with one eye opened to observe them dancing away amidst the soft hue lighting in such a romantic setting. When he noticed me awake, he would signal me to go to sleep. Sigh!
On top of his vast personal interest and hobbies, he also liked collecting smoking pipes as he smoked a lot at one stage but gave them up in the later part of his life. Then all smoked pipes were ignored and given away. He also collected many types of fountain pens which he would displayed and cleaned with his prized collection of smoked pipes.
He would clean both of them religiously and passionately until his interest declined in due time.
My deepest impression of him was that he was an honest man. My late mother often related this true story to me about him who during the World War had found a load of valuable goods which he could easily sell them for a high profit. At that time during the War, such windfall would be most welcomed yet he chose to return them to the rightful owner. That’s the type of fine personality my late father had!
When his boss at his long standing job as a trading clerk whom he worked from the day of his marriage till death, asked him about his then salary as to whether they were sufficient for the growing needs of his increasing brood of children. He would reply naively that he had enough for his needs at home, though the home could do with more!
It had never crossed his mind to ask for extra pay even if he deserved it. But then again was this type of fine character he possessed throughout his life!
He had escaped death once in his life during the Japanese Occupation, when the Japanese took him imprisoned and then tortured him by stomping on his bloated stomach of enforced water. Though he was eventually ferried to Changi beach to be executed, for some strange reasons, he was the only one who was spared the firing squad and went home to live on.
That alone was a miracle from God who spared his life, for without it; we would not have been here at all.
Towards the end of his life, for eight long years, he suffered a lot in sickness when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Even in the remaining last eight years of his lifespan of 63, he was mostly alone as he was throughout his life.
He was a loner at heart, he liked to be in his own world, pursuing his own dreams and doing all the thinking he wanted. He had very few friends.
When he was called home to the Lord on 4 October 1981, he was already a Christian for a few years, having being baptized in a small Anglican church at Queenstown.
Though he became a Christian at a late age in life, he would go alone, sometime with daughter Bee, to an Anglican church against the wishes of his wife until she later also became one many years after his death.
I could also remembered the baptism service when I also witnessed that memorable day when he was willing to show his commitment to the world of his new found faith as against his deep beliefs of his youth in other pagan religions. Thank God for this new faith In God the Father because he was in Heaven since his death, and must be waiting for my late mum until she was eventually called home to be with him and with the Lord 29 years later.
All in all, we concluded that he was a good and simple father who took much effort and did his best to bring in the bread and butter for his large family. He would bestow gifts on all his children in spite of his miserable income. When he would go shopping, he would buy one item at a time, one time for one child. Each time, he would buy another new item until every child had their turn of receiving his gift.
So though the anniversary was brief and informal, it also marked the beginning of a new era to us all. Why? Because we had recently found our long lost relatives in China, our late father’s sisters and their children!
So in the next few months, we as a family would travel there to visit our new found double first cousins, whom we had not met or even knew.
We would travel to meet a group of unknown people whom we never knew they existed until recently. How they looked like, what they were like, all these questions could not be answered until we would meet them soon. We just had no idea or had any clue at all!
But we were to meet some total strangers unknown to us, but men and women whom we were all bonded and intertwined by the bloodlines of our forefathers and of the generations for thousands of years in mainland China. Sounded amazing and exciting, wasn’t it?
That’s why this 30th anniversary of our late father was unique and a tribute to what he was, especially that we had now found our long lost first cousins from our father’s side. It was an significant milestone to all of us and of our lives! Hooray!!!
For all these, we were so glad for what God had done to grant us the impossibility to be a possibility to meet our late father’s relatives in China. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord. Thank God again for the touching lifestory of my late father! My late father indeed deserved this chronicle of his amazing life!