Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Heavenly Father

It has been a very long while since I last blogged. Life has been busy with work,Bible Studies both BSF and cell group. God has been very patient with me and even with numerous warnings, I was still too numb-skulled to get His message, which is to let go of my 'idols' and follow Him faithfully. God's reproof is never sweet honey but bitter pills to swallow. Yet God is merciful and His plans for us are always for the best. Meanwhile, I have to keep still and wait for His directions instead of running ahead of Him which I often do. I have often reminded myself of God's fruit of the Spirit- Love, Joy, Peace, Patience,kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness,Gentleness and Self- Control. Out of my disobedience, I have fallen miserably and all I could think of was my disobedience, shame and disgrace. I have always felt that I am a reasonably good person without evil thoughts but that is not enough for our righteous God. Everything is but filthy rags in His eyes. Yet, in spite of all, my Lord has not abandoned me.He encouraged me with His loving words in the Bible. 'For whom He loves He reproves'. He knows our weakness yet He has created us in His image.He loves us so unconditionally, when even I cannot love myself.He has loved us from the start and all He wants us is to depend on Him for He has redeemed us with the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ. I am not going to wallow in self- pity nor will I succumb to the Evil One. I know I belong to my loving Father in Heaven. Regardless of how heavy and frequent my falls, I will stand up tall and strong because I know that my Heavenly Father is with me, in the past,now and always. Amen!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sitting in a pottie early in the morning and entertaining herself with self-created songs and acts was the first image I remembered my sister seven years my junior. Even as a young child, Soo was creative and imaginative. With trimmings from the lanterns for the Chinese lantern festival, she had used these colourful trimmings as decorative hair adornments.There she was, on the pottie every morning, talking to herself,she spun yarns to entertain herself and her unseen friends. When she visited elder sister who lived with her newly wedded husband some blocks away, she would be meticulously, arranging the clogs neatly in front of the flat every time she visited them. Neighbours too had often commented on her resourcefulness, bailing scoops of water into pails for use the next day when we had water rationing for the afternoons. In spite of her puny size at six year old, she just climbed up and down to fill up the pails for the next day’s use. Even though she was not quite schooled to write yet, she was already writing pieces of notes to throw into neighbour’s house whenever she had squabbles with her young friends. When she entered school, she was just as enthusiastic in her work. The moment she returned home from preschool which she attended in the evening, she would settle down to do her homework the moment she put down her bag. Neighbours used to call her ‘chilli padi’- the fiery hot capsicum used in preparation of spicy dishes. Her calligraphy and painting were displayed in exhibition in the early years of the primary school. Her creative spirit was further developed when she joined the art house when she was in the secondary school. After a tired day at school, she still had the energy to attend performance classes and was actively involved in rehearsals and putting up public performances. The young people in her group were often involved in raising funds for the Art House. The communal spirit and living together had given her much experience in organization and having an entrepreurnial mindset. In spite of having a Chinese education, she continued to try to improve in English by learning the language on her own. Two years into teaching, she decided that with a Chinese education background, she would not go very far. When some of her friends decided to go over to the States, she too, made plans to explore an uncharted territory. After borrowing money from some big conglomerate organization, she managed to fund herself to go to the States in pursuit of a new and exciting life. My gungho sister worked in restaurants, as babysitters and tutors and other jobs before she graduated from University, majoring in Math and Music. Ever the hope and pride of the family, she left us as she made that journey many would hesitate to take.My aged parents had pleaded with me to talk her out of the whole idea. However, as her elder sister, I felt that what she was doing was really something she should not live to regret if she wavered and changed her mind. My parents had since passed on but I know that they would have wanted the best for my sister who had been brave to pursue her dreams.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leaving a legacy

My love with the written word began in the earliest part of my life. As a lonely child, I used to spend a lot of time going to a neighbour’s house to devour the reading material available there- mainly movie magazines with juicy news about some movie stars. Later, I assuaged my reading appetite whenever my mother took me to visit her Peranakan relative. As I could not comprehend their conversation as they spoke in Malay, I buried my nose in some forgotten magazines and books. Later, my reading appetite was fed when I went to a friend’s place where lots of reading materials were available as her brother was then in the university. So far, my reading materials were all in Chinese. So when I went to an English school, I had difficulty reading English. It was only later on, when I did my further studies in English Literature that I began to fall in love with the English word. In no time, I was devouring all reading materials in English and the National Library had become my second home. Yet, despite my great appetite in reading, I had not really developed my writing skill. I remembered my secondary school teachers’ comments in my writing assignments. “Have good ideas but unable to write smoothly.” The writing I did over the years was my diary which I started when I started my teaching career at the age of eighteen. I continued to write since then and had accumulated seven to eight volumes. The writing captured my years on this earth but mainly my emotional state as I went from one relationship to another. Another book that I used to keep was my reflections on reading that I have done. Quite recently, I decided to put my past behind me and throw away my diaries. Before doing such a silly act, I managed to condense all these musings into a few pages in my more recent diaries. As I grow older, I have learnt to be more reflective and my interest has also led me to write quite differently. However, I realize that I have mostly recorded events rather than my reflections and learning from them. Furthermore, I realize that I am getting on in age and it is time to capture some of my experiences in print. Perhaps, it could be my way of sharing my experience or leaving a legacy behind. Well, it does not matter if I will ever become a writer and publish my writing but the learning experience has been good. It will be a good way to spend my time anyway as I learn to express myself more succinctly and effectively.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


My Mum

My memories of Mum had not always been positive. I remember those days when she had no time for us as she hurried through the household chores to go out for her daily mahjong games. It was indeed like some kind of evil addiction that gripped her and she was totally immersed in it without thoughts for food or drinks, let alone anything that took her away from it.
I remember saying harsh words to her- “I will bury your dead body with the set of mahjong tiles.” I really resented her when I thought of her addiction and that was when I fully agreed with my paternal grandmother how unworthy she was as a mother and a wife.

Yet, there were times when I felt sorry for the hard life and difficult childhood that Mum had. She had over time, shared with me how she was given up for adoption even as a very young child. The woman, who adopted her, did so, not out of sympathy but more for practical reasons.

She was a maid, fanning the mistress when she had her meals, and slapped with silver chopsticks on her hand when she so much dared to reach out for some choice morsels of meat.
She recounted how she had to get up early in the morning to wait for the night soil man to come and collect the waste bins.
She remembered the time too when she hid in the smelly and irksome toilet to have forty winks.

Mum’s adopted mother was somebody’s mistress, the man who had sworn eternal love for her at the sea goddess’s temple before he married his betrothed.
The mistress had neither the money nor the rightful position of a wedded wife and what little money that she got after his death was soon squandered on lavish meals on her numerous godsons and goddaughters who fawned on her.

With the fast depletion of the little money that she inherited, the godchildren showed their true colour and soon disappeared altogether when they realized that the old lady had nothing more for them to exploit.

The widow soon found that she had to go out to earn her own keep and for that, it would be inconvenient for her to bring a young child along. Mum was soon passed on to some relatives to take care of.
Mum was never given any form of education and as she was passed along from one family to another, she was treated just like a maidservant wherever she went.

She recalled the time when she returned from an errand late as she stopped at an iced-drink stall. She was sat upon by an overweight aunt and lashed by both the stout woman and her bullying son.
One day, she was on her way to submit some illegal bets and was arrested by the police. She was then placed in an institution for wayward girls and young prostitutes.
Here, she finally tasted some personal space and given more humane treatment. She picked up some skills and after a year or so, was given the option to marry one of the poor men who came to the institution for wives or to enter the job market.

She did some manual jobs and saved some money before she got wind of her adopted mother who was then placed in an asylum for the mentally unstable. She visited the old lady in the asylum and bought her favourite snacks as often as she could till her death.

Mum shared too the time of the Japanese Occupation. She was working in a restaurant when she was picked out one day when some Japanese soldiers patronized the place. Unhappy with my Mum’s slack attention, he slapped her and placed his sword at Mum’s neck. Mum thought that that would mean the end of her mortal life. She closed her eyes tightly, not wanting to know her fate. The drunkard soldier withdrew his sword and Mum’s life was spared.

Some years later, Mum met the man who took her breath away. Soon, Mum became his woman and for the first time in her life, she found bliss and happiness. Dreamily, she often recounted the time when she had no cares of the world but to nestle in his loving arms, visiting the Great World and New World City to watch movies, the main source of entertainment at that time.
Mum spoke of that romantic man often, recalling those happy days when he spoke kindly and softly in affection and would blow kisses when he left her for work every morning.

Mum adopted two children at that time. Both children- a boy and a girl were also from families that could not afford to have them as they already had many mouths to feed.

Mum spoke of the two other children who were Mr. K’s children with his legally married wife. The first wife and her two children accepted Mum and her adopted children.

As the Chinese saying goes, good times do not last. The wonderful man who loved Mum so deeply died of a heart attack when the couple was both young and loving. No wonder, Mum could not get over him even after so many years and often reminisced of the time they were together.

Mum now had to rely on her resourcefulness to keep herself and her two children alive.
She went back to working as a hostess in a restaurant.

Being a young widow, she attracted some suitors to herself. However,being rational, Mum was careful not to fall in love so easily.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Mum met the rogue who later became my father. The handsome rogue was charming and persuasive as all rogues are. His ardent pursuit soon won my mother over. She succumbed to his pursuit to her regrets later on.

Dad was then married but Mum had won his heart with her beauty. Before long, she surrendered completely and the result was my birth.

I was the beautiful baby, born with pink and fair complexion and the glue that cemented their otherwise tempestuous relationship.

As all sons were in that era, Dad was used to a life of comfort and spoilt by his mother. Yet, for our sake, he had gone out to earn a living as a bus driver.

Dad had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Together with his brother and his brother’s family, they set up a shop on an island off Johor. They set up a shoe shop adjoining a hair dressing salon run by my aunt and assisted by Mum. Dad and uncle worked as camera men too at a photo studio just behind the shoe shop. The businesses failed miserably and everybody had to return to Singapore not only without making a fortune but debts to clear. Mum had to sell all the jewellery that she had accumulated and given to her by her romantic ex-husband. Mum was resentful of Dad and thereafter,began the unending friction between the two. I was then under two and came home to Singapore none the worse except for the marks left by mosquito bites.

Life in Singapore continued to be a struggle for both my parents and Mum had suggested that she helped financially by going out to work. Being a male chauvinist, Dad would not agree to have my mum worked in a complex environment, often surrounded by men with ulterior and dishonourable motives. This is my father’s perverted view of his kind.

Dad often returned home with a meagre salary and whatever he had, Mum had to share it with my grandmother.

The only thing that linked mum and dad was their love for me. Once, Mum actually left us but when she returned to visit, she was perturbed when I complained that Aunt had threatened to throw out all my clothes. Reluctant to leave her precious daughter to be ill-treated, Mum finally decided to return to us.
Seven years later, Mum had another child, my sister, who consolidated our parents’ relationship.
Dad’s charming ways had resulted in some undesirable attention from other women especially when he worked as a taxi driver.
Dad and Mum often quarreled over these unwelcome female attention and encounters, as well as money matters.
They continued to squabble the rest of their lives together and I remember having often to act as the mediator between them. Sometimes, I just wished that they had not continued living together.

In their old age, Mum had to take care of Dad because of his chronic arthritis which resulted in his immobility. For our sakes, Mum continued to take care of him until one day, unable to stand it any longer, she sent him to an old folks’ home. Within a month, dad passed away.

Years later, Mum became senile and the decline of her mental capacity was heartbreaking to say the least.

The Scar

It had been a great afternoon lunch with my friends to celebrate my promotion at work.
Isn’t that Mrs. Lee at the common corridor? She seemed to be waiting for me.

I remember the muffled sounds of argument coming from her unit some nights before and I wonder if she wants to confide her problems in me.

“Have you had lunch, Mrs.Ong? She held my hands gently. I have some news for you.”
There have been some accidents….. baby is scalded…. In hospital.”
I can’t make sense of what she is saying as I picked up certain terrifying words. Accident? my baby of nine months?

I can’t understand how I could still be standing there, looking at Mrs. Lee stupidly.

I finally made sense of what she was saying and hopped into a taxi that took me to the hospital where my baby was warded.

I could not get to see her until later. Hubby was looking miserable as he tried to embrace me.

How and what has happened? I wish I had not gone for that lunch to celebrate what success?

Days followed with afternoon and evening at the hospital, and tears flowed incessantly before we could finally fall exhausted after each visit. Even parents are not allowed to stay behind in the ward as it is a burnt ward and contacts were kept to the minimum to prevent any infection.

Baby was crying miserably but what could I do? We just continue to live from lunch to dinner visitations.

She survived that horrible accident with only a big ugly scar on the back of her bottom. Praise God it was not the face that had been scarred.

It was never to be forgotten, that terrible accident that scarred my baby.
Had it been so many years before? The poor child is now a grown up adult. The only thing that reminded me of her accident is the scar that is hidden from view but not from my memory. Thank and praise God for sparing us of worse consequences that would mar and destroy her future.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It is my birthday!

Children look forward to their birthdays when their parents celebrate their birthdays with gifts and usually a birthday cake.
In my family of four, our birthdays stretched out over the four quarters of the year.For each of us, we go out as a family to have a meal and also usually end the occasion with a birthday cake.
My birthday falls over a period when we are quite busy with school examinations etc.I remember years when my birthday was not celebrated and in one particular year, I was particularly disappointed when family seemed too busy to even remember it. However, good friends reminded me to remain cheerful.
This year, I was particularly touched when friends and family members remember.
I received sms from my two sisters in law all the way in India, as well as from those nearer home.
The two girls have been busy all week with their work but in the morning, they gave me a birthday kiss on the cheeks and arranged for a dinner in the evening somewhere in town.
It is wonderful to be loved and appreciated.I remember to be grateful and thank God for His abundant blessings.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Dad

I remember my father as a very devoted son to his parents and a caring brother to his siblings. He likes to chat with our friends when they visit and both my sister Soo’s and my friends enjoy talking to him.
I remember my father’s devotion to his daughters especially when I was young and always demanded to be carried. The only time that he was angry with me was when I once refused to walk and wanted to be carried. When he did not do so, I insulted his mother and was given a tight slap on my face.
I remember the day when my grandfather passed away and Dad was sobbing silently while a long line of mucus emerged from his nostrils which he did not wipe away.
Once when we dropped a ping pong ball outside the window and it landed on the parapet. Without thinking, Dad jumped out of the window with his clogs on, to retrieve the ball. He landed one storey down and landed on the ground floor, dazed and only recovered sufficiently to return to the apartment miraculously unharmed.
Dad had a checkered childhood which mum never failed to share with us. He was always into some kind of trouble and was constantly punished by my stern grandfather.
Once a monk came for a visit and was having tea with Grandpa in the visitors’ hall downstairs. From the floor above, my father could see the monk’s head as he looked down through a peep hole. He found it so irresistible that he spat right on target at the bald head of the poor unsuspecting Holy One deep in conversation with Grandpa.
On another occasion, he passed by some wonderfully washed and gleaming white linens hung out in the warm sunlight. Using his water gun which he filled with black ink, he aimed at the gleaming sheets and formed his creative patterns on those canvases.

Once he took me to my night class and to his dismay and horror,discovered that the English teacher in the classroom had been his deadliest childhood enemy. Without hesitation, he bid a hasty retreat, leaving the clueless man wonder why my father took off so quickly as though some mysterious powers had driven him!
Later, my father disclosed to me that he had many combats with the man who spoke only in English, something deserving of my father’s disdain.

Dad was the eldest son by my second grandmother when the first grandmother passed away leaving two sons behind. My father began a long line of brothers and sisters after him.
One evening, my grandfather was invited to attend a birthday dinner and before he left, he reminded his errant son, my father, to keep out of trouble as he was always into some mischief or another. No sooner, had the old man left, that my father could not resist the opportunity to go out to have some fun of his own. The billiard hall was just five minutes down the road and magnetic to the hot-blooded teenager.
My grandfather happened to return early that evening because of a stomach upset and on his return, was aggrieved to know that his wayward son had disobeyed his strict order and gone into the forbidden billiard room. My father was summoned back immediately with the old man bristling with fury. He lay out the butcher knife used for cutting meat and would have chopped off my father’s two hands had not for the pleas of grandmother and his younger siblings.

I remember how devoted Dad was to his almost religious fervour for mainland China whom he called his motherland.
Every evening at six pm sharp, the noisily and poorly tuned radio would rasp and come to life with the Chinese national anthems in bursts of loud and soft sounds.
Dad would not miss a single of those broadcasts, singing praises of Chairman Mao, the steer hand that steers the great Motherland. Father was drunk by the propagandas.
When the day came for Dad to visit his village in Swatow and also to get cures for his arthritis, he was filled with hopes and exhilaration.
Yet, a month later, when he returned to Singapore, he brought home a pair of stone lions silently,without much enthusiasm to share the experience of his long-dreamt for trip.

Dad had great hopes for his two daughters as Mum had not given him a son.
He longed for the day when I could be the prestigious lawyer as he believes what boys can do, so can the girls. Alas, I did not take up that honorable profession envisioned by Dad, only to end up as a school teacher.
However, Dad was still proud of me and wished that one day I would become a school principal.

I did not fulfill even that hope of my Dad, but dearest Dad, I did become a good teacher. By the way, my daughter Sarah has just completed law school and she is now the deputy public prosecutor/ state counsel in the government chamber of law. May your soul rest in peace, Dad.