PART III – THAT SIX MINUTES


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I have been longing to write about this. I just couldn’t find the right time. Too busy? Naa. I don’t wanna find excuses for it. But I really want to make sure that I am all ready to bear the pain telling stories over the year and spit all out here at one go. I don’t want to miss out anything. Before I forget anything about Dad.

PART III – THAT SIX MINUTES

Although I’m always updated with Dad’s condition by Sis, I never really knew his actual condition until I met him in the summer. For the very first time, I went to the hospital with Sis and Dad for medical appointment. Sis told me that Dad needs to do a few tests and check-ups during the visit and Dad knows exactly what to do step-by-step. All I needed to do was just to keep him company.

We woke up early and drove to the hospital, just to make sure that we were the first few patients there. Jeez, I really can’t stand how the whole system is operating in the hospital. It’s totally unorganised, inconvenient for patients and not to forget - unfriendly nurses (just some of them). Basically, everyone gets the fking same time for appointment, and first come first served. Oh dear. Anyways, Dad is kinda used to the system already. We were like the second patient registered on that day.

After registering at the counter, we sat down and waited – to be honest I don’t know what the hell we were waiting for, probably for them nurses to get their ass into their job positions (roll my eyes). Dad did not even get to use the oxygen supply until 10 ish and had to use our own oxygen tank instead. Pfft. Alright, I should stop moaning about these and get to the point.

The very first test was a breathing test – spirometry, if not mistaken. Honestly, I never thought that I would cry my eyes out after witnessing Dad going through the test. The nurse seems to know Dad quite well already after so many times coming in for check-ups. She asked Dad to take a deep breath, and put a clip over Dad’s nose while he was blowing air into a tube. I think my heart was bleeding, watching Dad doing the test. That must hurt a lot for Dad. :( I mean, he can barely talk, and now we’re talking about blowing air into the tube continuously for like 10 seconds, or more. Not just once. Three times. What’s worse? Dad was requested to keep redoing it because he couldn’t get proper readings for second or third blow. Dad coughed when he got too breathless and irritated his lungs. And he had to redo it from the top all over again. Jeez.

I tried so hard to hold my tears in the examination room. I handed him over some warm (I would say boiling hot, really) water before redoing the tests. Dad’s face gone all red. He craved for oxygen and needed his breathing tube immediately every time after he finished one cycle. I was really, really upset with what I saw in the room, and helpless at the same time. For the very first time, I realised that Dad is very, very ill. More than I ever thought.

The other test was a walking test. We were brought to a hallway. There were little flags at each ends, marking the distance to be walked. So basically, Dad needs to walk for 6 minutes, non-stop, with an oximeter on his hand. Normally, the nurse would push Dad’s oxygen tank for him while he’s doing the walk. But this time, she would wait at the starting point and I’ll walk with Dad for that 6 minutes, pushing his oxygen tank trolley. I did not expect Dad would walk that fast during the test, because he told me that he was not going to do so just right before the test. But he was power-walking for that 6 minutes, even I, the healthy one, felt a bit breathless catching up with his speed.

At the beginning of the test, the reading on the oximeter was 98-99. As Dad was trying to maintain his speed, I could hear him breathing cautiously beside me. I followed his steps carefully, holding my tears once again. I never walked beside Dad like this before. Like, side by side, for more than 5 minutes. Maybe I did, but probably long, long time ago, since forever. It was obvious that it was getting harder and harder for Dad to breathe, but he did not even slow down. When the time was up, the nurse quickly recorded the distance Dad had walked and the readings on the oximeter. It was around 34-ish. I was totally heartbroken. Dad’s face did not go red like it did in the examination room, it went kinda purple-black instead. He was exhausted, taking deep breaths non-stop. After a few minutes, the reading went back up to 99. But my heart did not mend just yet.

That is the longest and the most emotional 6 minutes in my life. All them thoughts came into my head – things that I wanted to do with Dad for the rest of the Summer, things that I wanted to say to him before it’s too late. I wish I can walk with you like this forever, Dad. We don’t have to chat during the walk, just let me walk with you, side by side. And that’s more than enough.

I can never repay you for everything you’ve done for me, and our family. I love you, Dad. (I know you know it already, but I still need a cliché but good ending for this post.)

:’)

Happy New Year, to whoever is reading this.

2017, brand new year!

Great year ahead, guys.


Cheers.

Here's our most recent picture together. You insisted to send me off at the airport even though you were not feeling quite well. You're so sweet, but a lil too stubborn, Dad. And it's clear that I got that bit from you. :')



PART II - THE INTERVIEW


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I have been longing to write about this. I just couldn’t find the right time. Too busy? Naa. I don’t wanna find excuses for it. But I really want to make sure that I am all ready to bear the pain telling stories over the year and spit all out here at one go. I don’t want to miss out anything. Before I forget anything about Dad.

PART II - THE INTERVIEW

I spent the whole summer at home with Dad and Mum. I am really glad that Sis was sticking around and went through ups and downs with me. She is strong, genuinely strong. Only God knows how much pain she has been borne and how much pain she has put in since that life-changing event. Not just Dad’s lifestyle changing, you see. Ours did, too. But we have to understand that life goes on, and dreams remain. Too cliché? I know it might sound a little harsh and selfish, but we can’t stop moving forward just because Dad is ill, and Mum needs us more than ever.

The very last night before leaving for the UK, I interviewed Dad. For the first time, I had the longest conversation with Dad in my life, ever. I wished I could have done this a little bit earlier, but that’s how forgetful people are. We fear to lose only when the uncertainties come. We start to appreciate more only when the end is near.

Well, what’s the last thing you want when you just finished interviewing your dad for over an hour and that might be the very last face-to-face conversation with him? Lost the footage. Correct. I lost the fking footage. That was two months ago. I tried to recover it from softwares online, but I did not succeed. I was desperate to get it recovered. But it was too expensive for me to send it to get it done professionally. And, I trust no one to do the job (KRAI). I didn’t want to tell Mum about this, she was quite looking forward to that video I would say. After a week or so, I told Sis. She didn’t say things like “you can’t value that with money, just get it done at the shop no matter how much it cost …” Instead, she said, why don’t you write it down while you can still remember most of it.

Q: What do you remember most about your parents (grandma and granda)?

A: I don’t really remember my father anymore. He died when I was only 7. And Grandma raised us kids alone. She’s a very strict mother, beat me up sometimes. Memories are vague, but I can remember I was working for her most of the time. Feeding the animals, rubber tapping… Just because I’m the eldest son in the family. My younger brothers didn’t really need to work as much. What is happening today, does bother me a lot. I mean, I’m not hoping for a payback for what I’ve done. I’m just simply hoping for fairness.

Q: How did you meet Mum and know she was the one?

(I’ve been told about stories with different versions: Sports Day in high school because Mum was the prettiest athlete; Dad was Mum’s brother’s classmate when they were in Standard One (WTH, when they were 7?) I am always feeling sceptical about them, but I just couldn’t figure it out how the hell they met. And finally, Dad spit it out haha.)

A: Well, there’s one day, your (late) Aunt’s husband came to me and told me that there’s a very pretty girl came to the rubber trees farm with her big brother. There you go. HAHAHA Then we started to write to each other. (OKAY, this bit is real sweet. Letters! Old school way of lovey-dovey huh. I still remember when I was quite young, Mum always hide those letters from us.) I can still remember them feelings when you sent out a letter and waiting for her reply anxiously, although you know that would probably takes at least a month to happen. But that excitement is something that can’t be replaced with technology nowadays. (Alright Dad, I got your point here.)

(I mean… Real life HIMYM huh? Haha. I was expecting a really, really romantic incident tho. Oh well.)

Q: How did you choose your career and what was your favourite part about it?

A: I was clueless that time, tbh. People in the village are not well-educated. No one could give me useful guidance about my future career. I even thought of living as a farmer for my whole life in the village. But luckily I had your Mum. I went to the institution, left the small village and had a new life. If it wasn’t your Mum, we’re probably still living in that small, dusty village, have no life visions and that’s gonna be our whole life.

Being a teacher is a really fruitful journey to me. I taught in so many different places, met so many different colleagues and students. Their life stories taught me lessons too. And I guess, that’s the favourite part of it. Gosh, it’s been almost … 33 years of teaching. And now, I’m finally retired. A little bit earlier than I expected, but that’s life, it’s always unexpected.

Q: When you think about Mum, how would you describe her? What message do you have for Mum that you want her to always keep in mind?

A: Mum is naggy. I can’t deny this, but I know her good intentions behind those nags. She is very caring and works very hard for our family. She is a very strong woman. I still remember the first day after we got married, she had to feed the duck early in the morning and did all the household chores. I did feel bad for her but I am very glad that we managed to move away from the small village and start our own family life in Bahau. We’ve been married for almost 30 years. There is too much to say about her. But I am very grateful to have her as my wife. Never regret a single moment in my life. I want to thank her for taking care of our home and kids for so many years. And for taking care of me when I am ill. Patients are suffering, but the primary carers bear the most pain in fact. She did a really great job in taking care of me for the past 6 months. Maybe she is the reason why I am still breathing today.

My message to her … Don’t be too upset when I leave one day. Life goes on. I hope you will still be happy as ever without me. Go and visit the kids. In the UK, or Singapore. Travel around with them. Do more charity/volunteering if you want to, if that makes you happy. We had a really decent life together for the past 28 years. And all I want for my life, is to see you and the kids to live a healthy and happy life. Nothing much. Don’t worry too much about money. Sell the properties if you or the kids need money. That’s the reason why I worked so hard for the past years. Thank you for everything, and I love you.

Q: Were you ever scared to be a parent? What message do you have for me, Sis and Bro that you want us to always keep in mind?

A: Scared? No, never. I always try my best to give my children the best education and best life. You, Sis and Bro are my highest achievement in my life. Look at you guys. Two doctors and a lawyer in making. I cannot be more proud of you.

Messages: Don’t be too upset when I leave too. I lost my father when I was 7. Well, I couldn’t remember how it felt like, but I am sure you can pull it through. You are all strong kids, you know. You’ve been to boarding schools since 16, and now you’re even living overseas, alone! That’s very independent. Daddy always wish for the best for your future, no matter I’m still here, or not. I hope Bro and Sis can get married soon, have a happy and stable family foundation. And you, I hope you can find someone who can really love you with all his heart and take care of you. When you are about to make any big decisions, think of the people around you, talk to us, and think it through. No matter what decision you have to make, be ready to bear the consequences, no matter good or bad, that’s life. And take care of Mummy for me. She is strong, but she can’t really stand loneliness. Sometimes she nags, just because she needs someone to talk to. I know her well. Call her more if you can’t come home too often. That would make her really happy.

(I did not reveal the whole message here. Well, some of the messages are meant to be kept in my heart.)

Q: What were the best decisions you’ve ever made?

A: Firstly, married to your Mum. It really changed my life. We left the village and start our own life in the town. She is a really good wife. She is the one who stayed with me for so many years. We’d been through ups and downs together. I am really happy to have her. Life companion is very important. Choose your life partner wisely, okay.

Second, education plan for my children. Me and your Mum didn’t have much money back then, but we wanted to give you the best. We spent a lot on children encyclopaedias, bought a very expensive piano, sent three of you to piano classes for 10 years (Jeez, that’s hell lot of money, and with all them exam fees). And that’s what made you today! My children are excellent. Scholarships, graduated from top university in the country, have/going to have excellent degrees … I couldn’t ask for more.

Lastly, those good investments I’ve made. Those investments did make me worry less when I am ill. Because I know I will not have zero income once I stop working.

Q: What were the worst decisions you’ve ever made?

A: I made bad investments too, of course. The goats … I mean, we keep trying new things in life, you see. When you fail, people might laugh at you but you don’t give up. You stand back up and keep trying.

I’m not sure if smoking is the main cause of my illness. I mean, non-smokers get this illness too. But I know it’s a really bad habit. Maybe smoking kinda worsen my condition. Maybe, if I wasn’t a smoker, maybe, I’ll have 10 more years of life. Maybe. I’ve been smoking for years. Mum had been nagging for years. Of course I thought of quitting at times, but I never really did. That’s my worst decision I’ve ever made in my life, I guess.

Q: What have you learned in life?

A: People look up to rich ones and give no shit to the rest. That’s the ugly truth. I had friends around me when I was doing quite well. And they all disappeared all of sudden after events. I never go out with Uncle X and Y for a very long time since forever, you must have noticed that. Make good friends, know their background, and keep good connections. Your coursemates or friends you’re making now, they might be your colleagues or even bosses in future. Be kind and always do the right things.

I was poor. I grew up in a very poor family. We had only sandy floor in our house, no joke. I am scared to be poor for my whole life. So I worked very hard to make sure that my family will not have to worry about money. It is very important that you meet the correct people during the process. I’ve tried almost everything. I did investments in different things. But you have to keep trying, you see. Failures are lessons. Do not give up easily. Keep trying while you’re still young. I did bad investments, of course. But I did very good ones too. You know which is my best? The investments in three of you.

Planning is important. Mum and I had plans for our family. Our 5-year-plan, 10-year-plan. We always try to plan ahead. But you know what, we never planned for this. It is ironic. Remember the uncle live next to us? He has been coughing the day when we move in. He has been coughing for over 27 years! And I am the one who get this illness after coughing for 3 months. We need to plan ahead, but always be positive to any unexpected changes. Daddy is very positive, you see. But time is limited. If there’s something you want to do, do it while you can.

Q: What are you most thankful for?

A: You might be surprised. I am thankful for getting this illness, instead of other kind of diseases that I could just die in days. It’s not fun to live as a ticking bomb. But I am grateful that I have time to reflect and appreciate people and things around me more before I leave this world behind. I was shocked when I was first diagnosed, Prof told me that my time left was gonna be counted by months. First thought in my head was, things that I haven’t done in my life. But now, I’m feeling very positive towards this. I’d achieved great things in life – my family, children and career. I am satisfied with what I’ve done, and I will enjoy the rest of my life, no matter how much time is left.

After over an hour and a half, I walked out from Dad’s room with a teary face and saw Mum falling asleep in the couch. I woke her up and told her the interview was over. I carefully put my GoPro in my bag, and continued to pack my luggage to get ready to fly back to the UK.

Well, not too careful handling the footage, but as Dad said, 'always be positive to unexpected changes'. Maybe the actual conversation is meant to be kept in my heart as a memory. And here I am, trying to trace the feelings back through expressing them out with words, based on my memory. They might not be as accurate as it was, but I know, one day when I re-read this, I'm sure that I'll find them feelings crystal clear again, just like how I'm feeling right now. :')

Here's a picture of me and Dad when we both look our best. :) (Before family portrait shooting)