Sunday, October 29, 2017

Until We Meet Again

Having more than your share of siblings doesn't dull the pain of losing one of them. We said goodbye to another brother a few days ago. One day he was fine and the next day he was gone forever. The suddenness shocked us but we don't want to wallow in grief or regret for things undone, for words unsaid.

So we celebrate Morris's life and treasure the precious memories we share. We thank God for sending us this amazing person to be part of our family.

He was a middle child and was born one month before I turned six. I remember carrying him in a sarong strapped onto my back. I remember watching him him sleep and making sure the bigger kids didn't disturb him.

Whereas most babies normally crawl before walking, Morris never did. He just sat on the floor and used his legs to drag his bum forward so he could go exploring all over our one-room home. One day nobody noticed he was missing from the house. A car (which was very rare those long-ago days) honked on the dirt road in front of the Penampang Police Station where we lived. We all stuck our heads out the single front window of our house.  And there was Morris toddling alone on the road. At the grand age of two he was on his first real adventure!

There were many adventures after that first one. School was one long adventure. Like all of us older siblings, Morris was sent away from home to live with relatives so we could have a 'better' education than what our kampung school could offer.

When he had passed the SPM he went on another adventure. This time it was across the South China Sea to study Radiography. On his first visit home he surprised me with a huge, framed batik painting and a beautiful fruit bowl--- I still have both today--- to show his gratitude ( I had always thought) for having given him some money before leaving that first time.

Morris was the not-talkative one among us siblings. He did things quietly, without fanfare, without expecting pats on the back. He saw things that needed to be done and he frequently did them quietly: giving a loan so a relative could go to college; donating his blood to a family member; chiding a farmhand for poor work etc.

He sat as Chairman in our Family Meetings and never complained that he was tired of the added responsibility he had been holding forever... unlike me who complained that seven years was too long to be the family Treasurer.

At 61 he had enjoyed but one year of retirement after serving the community in various government hospitals. There is still so much to look forward to. He was going to build a house nestled in the trees on a hill so far from the city that he'd wake up to misty mornings. He was going to meet the members of our extended family and trace our paternal family tree up to our great-grandfather, the mysterious Laksamana Dulamit. His son had just left to continue his education on the other side of the world. He was going on more picnics and adventures with family and friends. He was going to be more relaxed and feel comfortable sharing silly jokes and singing funny Dusun songs... It's a long list.

Although we mourn his passing we celebrate our brother's life and remind ourselves that almost 20 years ago he had a serious health issue. He fought the beast and won. We will remember him with fondness and try to emulate his example: be good, be generous and charitable, don't pass the buck, persevere when faced with life's challenges, be humble.

Until we meet again...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Note to Aunt Edwina

Dear Aunt Edwina, I am sorry you found my four-year-old grandkid's behaviour annoying when we attended that family dinner at your house, an occasion to mark and celebrate a family event. The kid has been ill and was still on medication but we went to your dinner anyway, to show our support and to make the party 'merrier'.

The toddler already had her dinner at home. I knew she didn't want to stuff herself more at your house so we took a few things to keep her occupied and to prevent her from running around and tempting your dog to sample bits of her. I thought it was a good idea to let her do the activities and quizzes in her book.

I'm sorry she couldn't be persuaded to sit all by herself on the floor but insisted on sitting at the dinner table with the grownups. It was just unfortunate that she sat between me and your VIP dinner guest and that she somehow managed to 'hog' his attention just by inviting him to participate in the activities she was doing. I thought he was very sweet and accommodating... but maybe you thought the toddler was bullying him.

How was I to know you had taken offence? Why didn't you immediately tell me that the toddler's behaviour was unacceptable? I could have removed her from the dinner party and we could have continued with the kiddie activities in your sitting room. Or we could have gone home instead of lingering where the little kid was expected to act like a mini adult.

As it was, I found out only on the next day (after having poured good thoughts on you the whole evening) that my 4-year-old grandkid is "biadab and kurang ajar". And all because she had been talking to and engaging her neighbour-- your VIP dinner guest-- with the activities in her book. She hadn't been talking in an overly loud voice. She hadn't been jumping up and down on her stool. She didn't try to sit on anybody's lap. She didn't reach for any of the food on the table.

She didn't misbehave, Aunt Edwina. She behaved... like a toddler.

You don't have to believe me but she had been on her best behaviour that evening. For a child who can't keep still for two minutes, sitting on that stool throughout that dinner was an amazing accomplishment.

You see, she is a hyperactive kid. She was just born that way... just as some kids are born quiet and docile; or shy and timid; or autistic... you get the picture ?... she was born bursting with excess energy.

This child needs to run around, skip and hop, sing at the top of her voice, spin and twirl, laugh and giggle. She can't keep still. It's not her fault and it's not because she 'tidak kena ajar' like you said. I understand that that is how she learns so even when her behaviour wears me down, I don't condemn her or force her to sit still and keep quiet. I provide her with opportunities to shed some of her energy.

If she talks to adults naturally and without reservation it is because I encourage her to have conversations with adults... so she can learn new stuff, including how to converse, how to get her ideas across in a friendly manner. I strongly feel that kids should not be expected to keep quiet just because they are in the company of adults.

Therefore, if you say the child is ill-mannered and badly brought up, you need to talk to me... face to face... because it is me and my parenting style that you are judging... and condemning. You don't have to criticize the innocent kid.

Such a shame you missed that point, Aunt Edwina.