I wrote this just as we returned from the funeral of Angie’s Grandma. It’s particularly depressing as her departure coincided with Chinese New Year…On our way back from the crematorium, we could see droves of families packing their cars in the driveway, ready for the annual reunions or road-trips home.
I think we can all agree that Grandparents have a special place in our hearts. For me, I know that no matter how old I am, I will always be a child in my Grandparents’ eyes. This is also the reason I look forward to the annual CNY homecoming – for those 2 or 3 days, all decisions, big or small are made by the adults – the other adults (i.e. our own parents, aunts, uncles etc). It’s one of those rare occasions where I could happily assume the role of a ‘minor’, sit on the same sofa I’ve been sitting on since pre-puberty, watch mindless adverts and endless replays of kung fu shows on TV while chomping on CNY snacks with my cousins. What was REALLY special though, was the fact that no matter how old I am, that voice that calls my name, the way my Ma-Ma (Grandma) calls it, that look whenever she sees me after a long period away, is always the same.
Which is why when my beloved Ma-Ma passed away couple of years back, I lamented to myself that I won’t be a child again in someone else’s eyes (as all my other Grandparents had passed on before her). But that thought was rebutted as I remember that we still had a Grandma in Angie’s Grandma. Hooray! I’m a child still and it helped that Angie’s Grandma dotted on us, having cared and raised Angie as her own. Soon when Dana and Buddy came along, Grandma also lavished her love on them and Dana grew to be particularly fond of her Great Grandmother (whom she addresses as Lao Ma). Each time we visit or bring Lao Ma out, Dana would eagerly attempt to spout some basic Teochew phrases to interact with Lao Ma. In recent years, when Lao Ma was getting on in years and no longer mobile, Dana would show her affections by kissing Lao Ma’s cheeks. Lao Ma would often converse in Teochew with us and Dana’s smattering of Teochew would inadvertently spark off peals of laughter across the living room.
But now Lao Ma is gone…along with that, the reality that no one will ever see and endear us as a child like Grandparents would…and for Dana and Buddy, their one and only chance to be loved as someone’s Great Grandchildren…
As Angie and I I try to come to terms with this sense of loss, herein lies a greater truth behind the feelings of wanting to be a child again.
Grandparents (or our significant elders) play important functional roles in our lives by dotting on us and imparting family values. There’s a timeless and irreplaceable spot in all of us for our grandparents. Particularly in fast paced Singapore where landscapes (and cityscape) are constantly changing, where buildings, roads or even schools do not remain long enough to remind us of our heritage, our history and our roots. So, it is the people and in this case our elders, who will evoke and imbue in us that sense of tradition, belonging and rootedness.
Another aspect is that in this complex world, how I wish, like a child, we can all find significance in the simple things…Things that would push meaningless strife, politics and protocols aside and embrace the breadth and depth which life’s rich experiences offer. Like a child who is content with the pursuit of what truly matters – fun, family, friendships.
Oh to be a child again, to see others as who they really are – brothers, sisters, family, fellow sojourners on this journey of life, not as competitors or rivals, so that we can press on and encourage each other. Oh, to be a child again, where conversations are peppered with laughter and hope not cynicism and gossips. Oh to be a child again where meetings are greeted with warmth and collegiality, not camouflaged with agenda and pretense. Oh to be a child again, where life’s beautiful moments are seen through the beauty of simple joys.
As our Grandparents pass on, we who are parents now inherit their mission. We owe it to our children (and our Grandchildren, if God willing) to help them love and live life in the best way possible – through the innocent eyes of a child. So that whenever they are in our presence, like how we were with our own Grandparents, regardless of what the world tell them, they know that they always loved and that there’s always a place in our home and our hearts for them…to be a child, always.
This post is dedicated to our Grandparents whom we’ve lost and dearly miss:
– My Gung-Gung aka Maternal Grandfather: Mr. Foong Wu Mei – who taught me to do the simple tasks well and with whom I miss riding pillion with through the sleepy village town of Sitiawan, Perak on his motorbikeas we venture out early to buy breakfast for the whole family every CNY morn. A practice I try to do for my own family every weekend.
– My Ma-Ma aka Maternal Grandma: Mdm Su Mei Ing – whose endearing voice and smile I miss so dearly. Hearing her call my name always warms my heart like none other would. She christened me with my nickname ‘安安 ‘, and possibly, bestowed me with the its peace-loving characteristics.
– Our Ah Ma (Dana’s Lao Ma aka Great-Grandma), Mdm. Goh Wee Kheng – How we miss her smile and joyful disposition. Truly, whenever we visit her, for that few hours, her cheerfulness and laughter would liberate us from our worldly concerns and make us feel like children all over again.
“Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
~Giacomo Leopardi, 19th century Italian poet.