Monday, September 28, 2009

Family...it's bitter sweet

Alert: These are random thoughts. Paragraphs may not flow.

In a span of three days, I stepped foot in Canberra, Sydney, Spore, Nilai, KL, Klang, and Taiping. That’s as to close to teleportation as I can ever get, I think. It feels very special when you’re busy with uni life in Canberra today and find yourself eating crab for dinner the next day in Nilai, listening to your parents reminding you to take Vitamin C, and hearing David Tao’s latest single from your sister’s playlist. For the past two years, I’ve always given myself a grace period of a few weeks (after my final exam) before flying back during summer, so the mindset is there, “I’m going back home.” But this time, I was pretty drowned with not so much studies, but performance, editorial work, etc. Before I knew it, I was spending a wonderful time enjoying (making fun of) the performances in China Night with Tim and Daryl on Thurs night, then appreciating the sound of mahjong bricks and family chats two days after. It’s special, really. As aforementioned, it definitely feels like I just teleported.

While I enjoy the food and company back home, reality slapped me right on the face. Not that it reminded me of the 3 assignments I have yet to touch. It was about the differences in mindset between my family and I, or more generally, between the younger and the older generation. We love each other despite the lack of physical expression. They watched me grow and have helped me in countless ways. My life would’ve never been the same without their love and care. It is not surprising that throughout my 3 years in Australia, the thing I miss about home (besides the food that is) is definitely the family atmosphere. Many times, halfway through lecture, I wish to be teleported right to the mahjong desk in my uncle’s place or to the Chinese New Year eve gathering dinner in my tua ee’s house.

Now that I find myself in that actually position, I’m happy, but far from contented. Language has been a great barrier when connecting with my family.. My tua ee took good care of my sister and I when my parents were busy teaching. She loves us a lot and well, she does show some physical affection. Eg before giving out Ang Pow during Chinese New Year, she kisses both of us. Every year, I see her white hair conquering a larger proportion of her head. I realised that I should treasure the time I have with her but I’m lost for words each time I try to start a conversation. My Hokkien is just too basic for any deeper conversation. There’s a lot that I wish to share with her but till today, I failed miserably. The only things I’ve done so far were standing/sitting beside her for a few minutes and getting her water while she works her magic at mahjong.

Even with my nephews and nieces, I wanna sit down and talk to them, about studies, friendship, etc. I wish to share with them the things that they can expect from the outside world upon completing school. Not that they can’t understand English, but it may feel a bit weird speaking English with them because Hokkien and Mandarin are the two mediums of conversation we used all this while. Also, it’s difficult to find the right setting.

Since heart to heart talk doesn’t really exist between the younger and older generations in my family, the elderly tends to judge us, teenagers too quickly, based on everything physical ie appearance, actions, etc. More often than not, we keep quiet despite the wrong impression that they have on us either because we’re too lazy to defend ourselves, doing so make us desperate, or we choose to ignore how they feel about us. To make matters worse, it’s too normal for human to remember more of the negative things that others do to them instead of the good. I don’t know, perhaps bad incidents just leave a longer-lasting scar in human heart. There may never be a practical solution. And we don’t choose our family members. Fortunately enough for me, the fact that majority of my family members are kind-hearted lots over-shadowed this problem. Hey, even friendships have their own set of conflicts.

Two days ago, I saw my sick 4th aunt. As I turned the doorknob, I kept saying, “This is it. This is it.” My sister a couple of days ago updated me about her situation just so I wouldn’t be too shocked when I see her face to face. It feels very painful to see one of the most kind-hearted women I know who appears to be fine in the beginning of this year but is now so frail. I can’t stop picturing her normal self. It’s just too difficult to digest the fact that cancer has consumed her terribly quickly within less than a year. The pain that she has gone through is beyond my scope of imagination. It’s scary to even think about it. Everybody questioned God. Everyone thought God picked the wrong person. But none of this can help heal her. For the past few weeks, we’ve been praying, releasing animals, and asking for spiritual help. During this trying time, the norm has been challenged. Priorities were shuffled. I’m glad everyone is sticking together.

To my dear aunt, you are the most selfless person I’ve ever met and I hope God quickly remembers that.

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