When I was a small girl, one of my wishes was to own my granny’s 3-rm HDB flat in Jalan Batu. Didn’t matter that it was old and small and was on the 2nd floor. Small matter that it had the occasional cockroach infestation when there was fumigation going on, or that it was right next to 2 petrol stations. I only saw the good things, such as its proximity to the hawker centre and shops, how quick it was to get downstairs to play with my friends, how everyone was watching out for each other. Most of all, I wanted the flat because my granny was such an integral part of my life, and all the memories that tied me to her were formed in that flat.
My granny was left a widow at the age of 46. With 4 kids left solely to her, the youngest being only 12 years old, she had to contend with survival issues on top of the heartache of losing my Ah Gong.
To add on to that, Ah Ma was cheated out of a large sum of money that Ah Gong had deposited with a trusted friend for safekeeping should anything untoward happen to him. The friend not only kept the money for himself, but his wife went on to cheat Ah Ma out of the $2,000 that was left to her after Ah Gong’s wake. Ah Ma was supposedly quite the feisty lady in her youth, but for all these years, she kept this story to herself and practised forgiveness instead, all the while struggling to make money to raise my mum and her siblings. Even on her deathbed, she was exhorting us to forgive and made us promise not to pursue the matter.
Ah Ma would often call me up to share about how this and that person had said something which hurt her, but she would always end off with “Aiyah, buay yao geen lah. Suah suah ki. Mai ga ee nang gong ah (Sigh, it’s okay lah, forget about it. Don’t tell the rest okay).” And she would never stand up for herself, so from a young age, I became her advocate. And that was how I wormed my way into her heart. I had to, you see, because she favoured my bro from young. Haha. We always teased her on how she is biased towards the boys … my uncles, my bro, and even my hubby has his special prawn dish every Mon when she comes over to cook dinner for us.
But recently, we found her notebooks, which were a mish-mash of her daily expenditure records and sermon notes and her feelings.
And more than once, she wrote about how her two daughters were so filial. And how she was so glad to be able to come to our house to cook and eat dinner with us.
She also wrote on other things, such as how she didn’t like one of her maids, and was glad when she left. And how she was heartbroken when her eldest son was in and out of hospital. She recorded when I left for Perth, and everytime I came back and left again.
And she thanked God for being able to live through another Chinese New Year, and birthday this year.
Ever since she outlived the ages at which her mum and older brother had passed on, she had reckoned she was living on borrowed time, and she was thankful for each year after that.
I asked to keep these booklets, because they were so full of randomness; they were so her. There is so much to talk about this lovable lady, that I won’t be able to condense it into one post, hence this is just Part 1. I will be back with Part 2 soon, hopefully.