Monday, March 27, 2006

Family




I spent some time with my brothers and their family this weekend. My youngest brother and his wife recently became first time parents! My little nephew was born on Tuesday, 21 March, so I brought my whole kampung to see the baby for the first time last Saturday. My other brother and his family came along as well. Then on Sunday, we did the Qing Ming rituals for our father who passed away in 1989.

We are quite pathetic with this Qing Ming business. I'd prepared flowers, huat kueh and fruits for the prayers. Other families had food which looked more like a banquet and carried bags after bags of paper offerings to be burned. First, I must say we are Buddhist and not Taoist so do not believe in burning paper offerings. I forgot to bring tea wor! Fortunately, there was a stall nearby so we offered chrysanthemum tea to our father instead LOL

I'm the eldest in the family and the only girl. I would love to say my brothers and I are really close but that won't be true. We do not dislike each other or fought a lot when we were kids. Just the usual, "Mama, he took my toy!" or "Mama, he/she beat me!" We were not an expressive family. In fact, my parents were quite conservative. What is worse is, we're almost indifferent about each other. We hardly know what is going on with each other's life.

My 2nd bro and I used to be really close once. One of our bro died when he was 9. We still do not know and I guess will never know what he died of. I was waken up one morning when we were in Ipoh by some commotion. I opened my eyes and saw my brother being escorted down the stairs. He was delirious and mumbling incoherently. My aunt assured me everything was ok and since I was very sleepy, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't know then that that was the last time I would ever see him. Later that day, the grown-ups came home and my mother was inconsolable. The grown-ups mumbled something or other and I didn't dare ask any questions as they looked really disturbed. Later, my mother told us that my brother needed special care so he had to stay back with the doctor. That night, I dreamed of my brother who told me to take care of my parents. He apologized that he won't be able to do that now as he had to go. I was puzzled by that dream. I never told anyone. Only months later we were told he had died.

Coming from a family with parents who basically gave the message, "Shut up and sit down. Just do as I say", we didn't ask any questions. My parents were distraught but we didn't know why. My 2nd bro and I turned to each other for answers. I was 11 and he was 8. My youngest brother was only 4 then. We stayed up all night without our parents knowing, just talking and trying to figure out what was going on. We expected the worst but did not dare ask anyone.

After our brother's death, I noticed a difference in our home. Our mother became more short tempered. She was already very short fused but she was more of a tyrant now! I was also a rebellious teenager who joined lots of activities in school so I didn't have to go home early. My brothers also became very active in school, so we hardly saw each other. Our father worked long hours. His daily routine was - leave for work early in the morning and got home just before 7pm. Take a short nap before dinner. After dinner, we all sat to watch TV. Not much conversation went on in our home. Then it's off to bed when we were sleepy. Most weekends, my father slept in. When he woke up, he read the newspaper. I do not remember spending much quality time with my father, except a trip to Jaya Supermarket once in a while.

When my father passed away in 1989 after a long illness, I realised I hardly knew the man. I worshipped him but I knew very little about him. I knew he was someone who loved life because I have photos of him at parties, with his friends on trips to waterfalls and I knew he loved to play poker and mahjong. He loved the char kuey teow in Seaview Restaurant and the Kampar jue cheong fun in Sect 14, PJ. He died too early, which meant I didn't have a chance to sit and chat with him. I didn't get to hear about his childhood antics and about his youth. I didn't get the chance to play mahjong with him. I didn't get the chance to find out what made him tick. My father was quite a good cook but rarely cooked. Occasionally, he would make fried beehoon or his other specialty, omelette. My father's idea of cooking was to get my mother to prepare all the ingredients, including heating up the wok! When the wok was heating up, my mother would shout, "Tnia juak liao!" (The wok is hot now!) He would saunter into the kitchen, fry up the beehoon, make a royal mess then he turned off the flame and walked out. Then we all trooped into the kitchen with our plates to serve ourselves. My mother would clean up afterwards. My mother didn't like cleaning up after him but she never told him.

My mother had a martyr syndrome. She felt she had to do everything for the family because it was her job but she didn't feel appreciated. She was frustrated and was constantly angry. Unfortunately, I do not think she made known to my father how she felt. So, my father was oblivious to all she was going through. Years after my father died, my mother felt she could have girly talks with me since I was married myself. She vented to me her frustration and disatisfaction with my father. It was very difficult for me to hear negative things about my father whom in my mind could do no wrong. Finally, I asked my mother if she talked about her feelings with my father. That set off a string of "You think you know everything lah", "Ya lah, grown up already, now you're more clever than me", "Boe tua boe seh" (that I was being rude). I can't help thinking sometimes that my mother had forgotten how to be happy.

I deviated a bit about my relationship with my brothers. Both my brothers are married with children now. I have two beautiful sisters-in-law. My brothers are quite hopeless about keeping in touch. If not for one sister-in-law who calls me occasionally, I think we would probably be in touch less. The best thing my brother has done is to marry this sister-in-law who has the sweetest disposition. I've not spent as much time with my youngest sister-in-law and hope we will have more time together. Some time in the course of growing up we had grown apart. Now I hope we'll be able to get closer to each other but do not think I can do it all by myself. How to get my brothers to make an effort also ah?

14 Comments:

Blogger mumsgather said...

Through your sisters-in-law perhaps? ;) This is a beautiful post BTW.

9:46 am  
Blogger Siao Cha Bor said...

heartwarming post

i have to agree with mommy...oops, sorry, mumsgather

worm into ur sis in law

12:30 pm  
Blogger Min said...

Thanks, mumsgather.

Through my sis-in-law is an excellent idea!

1:21 pm  
Anonymous chih said...

I started reading your blog only recently.Somehow I find myself coming back for more ...You are so brave to talk openly about matters so close to heart..I suppose we all have our fair shares of " unresolved grudges " .. I really like the part about your dad in the kitchen, it s so funny ! somehow I seem to be able to identify myself in many of your stories..
Take care

10:56 am  
Blogger Min said...

Chih, thanks for visiting! I have often wondered if my family was different from other families. As I've found out, we were not. Keeping this blog is a way my children is able to a side of me which I may otherwise not share with them.

2:33 pm  
Anonymous Kat said...

I constantly remind myself not to be like my parents in my marriage. My being a SAHM is also partly because of that (my mum worked). How influenced are you by your mother's attitude to marriage?

I am not close to my sisters at all. Like your family, we are not very expressive either (but I am very demonstrative with dh and children). We are all married with children, and still not close. And I don't have sweet SILs to help..I also want to ask, how-ah??

1:48 am  
Blogger Min said...

Kat, funny how we strive NOT to be like our parents :D My mother was a SAHM. However, I do not think if it's a case of being a working mom or a SAHM. It was the martyr syndrome which did her in. Doesn't mean that being a SAHM equates to NO LIFE right?

My parents marriage is a big influence! Thanks to my mother, I learn what NOT to be LOL

11:04 am  
Blogger Lian said...

Wow Min, what great insights into your life.
I am also one who is trying to right all my mother's wrongs. It's like I'm going all out to do all the things that I wished my mom had done for me. The major one being never to get pulled into mahjong like she did. That was the root of all evil in my home. Of course I also acknowledge her many good points.
Anyway, it is my observation that more and more parents today realize the ineffectiveness of traditional chinese families. We are now more aware that building family relationships through good communication is what being a family is all about. Good luck with your brothers. Can't offer much advice as I need the same luck with my brothers. Hahahah.

5:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there

I chanced upon your site today and it brought back memories of my childhood. I'm not sure if you remember me, I was very young then, living next door to you.

You've got two very cute kids.

Su-Lynn

ps- can be contacted at sulynn@westnet.com.au

11:16 pm  
Blogger Min said...

What a pleasant surprise to hear from Su-Lynn who used to live next door to my family when she was just a little girl. Yes, I do remember you!

1:17 am  
Anonymous bonda said...

Hi there Min,

For the very first time i read your work of words, make my heart go deeply emphatize and realize that how lucky i'm i having 2 great person as a ma and pa in my life.

You have a very good touch of words!

11:16 pm  
Anonymous Mei Wan said...

Hi Sis! Of course I love to spend more time together with u guys. Guess you don't really know your younger brother that well. Actually he LOVES to spend time with his family.He gets very excited everytime there's a family gathering.
The only limitation so far is - "time".Everyone seems to be busy wit their career!
One thing for sure, we really look forward to Dec's Lone Pine Gathering and please...please.. remember to bring "Jue Hu Char"!(did i type it correctly?hmm..)
Yum! Yum!

11:28 am  
Blogger Min said...

Hi Mei Wan, thanks for visiting! Yes, our family needs more quality time together. What about making a conscious effort to meet at least once a month on a Sunday? So our kids can play together (when Jien Ming is older lah), etc. I'll make some jew hoo char xthe next time we meet lah. No need to wait until December! LOL

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Mei Wan said...

Hi,
That's a COOL idea! Especially the Jew Hoo Char Idea!! Hahaha Yes, we shud meet up and HL will be so happy about it!

2:36 pm  

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