November 08, 2006

Dad, in loving rememberance

Dad was born in Kuala Lumpur on April 26, 1944 to a Special Branch Detective father and a homemaker mother. He grew up without a father figure as grandpa requested to be posted away to Mentakab to avoid the constant squabbles with grandma. Grandma then raised dad and his only sister in her maternal home in Tronoh. Despite the unstable domestic situation, dad had a happy childhood. He always regaled us with tales of his naughty antics of skipping school, stealing neighbours' rambutans, swimming in forbidden abandoned mining pools and getting a good beating from grandma for all these. Dad wasn't a particularly bright student and upon completing his secondary education in Batu Gajah, he took up a course in typing and shorthand.

He started his career with the Malaysian Mining Corporation (MMC), which owned many tin mines around the country back then. He had a short stint at Sungai Besi Tin Mines before being posted to Bidor Malaya Tin, where he spent nearly 25 years of his life. He married mum and brought up his four children in Bidor with his meager salary as a store clerk. I remember his last drawn salary, before he was retrenched due to the collapse of the mining industry in 1995, was only around RM800. We got by with mum chipping in by working as a canteen helper. It also helped that the company provided free housing and utilities for its staff. Because of the hardships, dad instilled in us the importance of education and from very early on, we excelled in our studies. We also knew that dad couldn't afford to send us for higher education overseas or in private colleges so we worked very hard to enter the local universities, with three of us securing scholarships along the way.

Dad was a good father to us. He would try to take us on trips most weekends in his old, trusty Datsun 120Y, which was upgraded years later to another old, trusty Nissan Sunny. We would either be splashing in the cool waters of the waterfalls in Kampung Poh or Kuala Woh, or sightseeing around Perak visiting the cave temples, Kellie's Castle, or the then famed Taman Tema Air of Batu Gajah. Or we could be found enjoying seafood dinner followed by shopping in the two departmental stores in Teluk Intan. Occasionally, we would go picnicking at Teluk Batik, Lumut or Pangkor Island with home-made sandwiches, chicken curry, fried meehoon and boiled eggs. We also made many trips to Ipoh, Menglembu and Tronoh to visit relatives. These simple trips and outings were so much fun for us children and I must thank dad for giving me such fond memories of my childhood.

Following his retrenchment from MMC in 1994, dad got a job in Ipoh and our family moved to Menglembu. I just started varsity then, as did elder sis. Several years later after the three of us elder siblings started working, we bought the family house. Dad had always worried about us buying the house as we had other commitments here in PJ. He always said that he would pay off the house loan if only he could strike the lottery.

Dad retired at the end of 2003 at the age of 59. Since then, he spent his time at leisure playing mahjong with friends, and helping mum take care of Yihao. Mum and dad had also taken several short trips to Bangkok, Haadyai, Betong, Langkawi and Pulau Ketam. They had also been to Guangzhou and Kunming together. We took a family to Phuket in 2004 and were planning another one to Hanoi in January next year. Dad was very much looking forward to the Hanoi trip as he had been talking about visiting Vietnam for the past two years but alas…

Dad was a simple man who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. Among his favourite food were roast pork, stir fried bitter gourd with pork, stewed pork with salted fish, steamed ikan kembung with bean paste, steamed/boiled peanuts and ais kacang. He also loved the popiah sold at the pasar malam near our house every Friday night. What amuses us is that he would always buy two pieces even though he knew he wouldn't be able to finish. His rationale is that he felt awkward buying just one piece from the vendor. So mum would end up having to share the popiah with him even though she doesn't really fancy it. He also particularly loved iced cham (coffee plus tea with milk) and never failed to take it at breakfast at the neighbourhood coffee shop. Whenever I see these foods nowadays, it would invariably remind me of dad.

I'm glad I spent my confinement months at home after I gave birth last year. That was the longest I've ever spent at home since leaving to KL for further studies and subsequently work. During those precious months, I got to spend quality time with mum and dad, having meals together and just while away our time as we pleased.

I know I have not been as filial a daughter as I'd like to be. I can recall the times I got impatient with his nagging and sometimes seemingly redundant questions and requests. And each time, I'd feel guilty and promised myself that I'd make it up to him on the next trip home. I am guilty of taking him for granted and thinking that dad would still be home the next time. I am guilty for not telling him that I love him. I hope he knew that deep down in my heart, I loved him a lot and I hope he was proud and happy to have me as his daughter.

I shall keep him close in my heart, now and forever…

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