Thursday, 20 March 2008

Parents+Child+20 years(or more)=Best Friends

I was reading hissychick's blog and her mention of wanting to be her daughter's best friend, a darling threenager, but that's a really hard trick to pull off.

So I thought of how my parents and I became like best friends.

Before we were teenagers, my parents were just mostly instructive and acted as disciplinarians. They also provide physical care and other necessary external stimuli to help us grow intellectually and socially. Of course we'd sit and listen to them talk to their friends at dinners, etc. and get a bit more clue of what they are like and how they have good friends.

Dad was a lot more easier to talk to, with his sense of humour and his love to tell us stories of his bachelor days, catching butterflies, swimming in the mountain streams, going for camping trips with friends, etc. He learned to play the guitar to serenade to the girls as well as to sing all the pop songs that he liked. Until the day he died, almost blind due to his sickness, he still played the guitar to entertain himself and us. He never stop telling us all sorts of stories of the past. Gave us a love for nature and adventure as well as pretty good idea of our family roots too.

Mom was scarier (she's now so mild compared to those days we were growing up). She was the very-strict and no-nonsense kind. She was of course not beyond reasoning, but we always felt a lump in our throat if we ever needed to reason something with her. She is a lot more traditional than Dad, but ever supportive of our school activities. You know you can go to her if you needed any help last minute. She can cook and sew and she'll do either burning the mid-night oil to save your skin in school. (Btw, she worked too.)

Anyway, I remember very clearly when I was studying like mad for STPM (Pre-U) and one of those times I complained to her that it was just too tough, I was actually surprised by her response, "It's ok if you can't manage. Don't take it if you can't." I had walked into the kitchen with those words of complain spewing out of my mouth and suddenly I was stumped and speechless. All our lives she had nagged us about the importance of studies and we should never be lazy or distracted by friends and fun. And suddenly this?! I went back to my studies that evening, somewhat relief by her "no-pressure" statement.

It was later that I recalled how one of my childhood friends, and my mom knows her mom, actually had a nervous breakdown preparing for this exam the year before. She must have feared I would lose it too, knowing me to be the more "obsessive" one of her 5 children. Anyway, those were the days that my parents (and I myself too) were surprised at my not wanting to go out to the mall with the rest of the family so that I could study at home in peace. Hmmm... actually growing to be more mature and responsible...

Later in University, my mom surprised me again by showing her care and love for us by cooking me fish every weekend when I came back. I stayed in the hostel where food was provided, but I could never take the fish there. Somehow I found the fish too "fishy" or that it tasted like plastic. One complain of that (just in passing actually, and with no ulterior motive) and mom made most wonderful fish dishes every weekend, steamed (done in a few varieties), fried with "rempah" (spicy paste) stuffed inside or curry fish head. Those were the times I knew for certain my mom loves us, and did not just care for us out of a sense of duty all our growing years.

Then my father fell terribly sick. He had kidney failure and had to undergo dialysis. She and I became the primary care giver: Me the chauffeur and nurse, she his constant moral support and now the main breadwinner. Those years were somewhat the most painful years for me because I had to change my role almost overnight. I was no longer a child to be pampered and cared for, but had to be an adult and be the care giver. I assumed the very serious role of making sure my father's health was maintained.

The 5 years I took care of my father were the years that really changed my outlook in life. I changed from a total goal-getter to one who sits and watched the season change absorbing everything. I watched my father "managed" health deterioration, emotional despair and trying to see hope in the midst of darkness. That was very painful for me. That also made me a lot more human than I had ever been. That's what makes me treasure everyday that I have now with the people I love around me, even in the most mundane.

The 5 years I took care of my father were the 5 years I grew the closest to my parents. Many times the relationships were blurred. We were not always father and child or mother and child.
We were sometimes friends, sharing a meal and gossiping about people in high places that they have personal encounters with.
I was sometimes the nurse scolding my father for not following his diet.
He was sometimes my boss ordering me to take him into the heart of the city for a certain noodle at a particular shop he wanted. Everyday we drove out to have a meal of his choice at different parts of the city.
Mom and Dad confided in me regarding legal matters of their property as well as personal worries of certain siblings.
Dad told me his life's love stories.

Today Mom and I talk all the time about her friends, my kids, her other kids (my siblings), her dogs, her neighbours, my in-laws, my friends, food, some Chinese drama she's watching on TV, her concerns about her appearance, her concerns about my appearance, etc.
We are each other's sounding board.
We buy stuff for each other, more she for me and my family than I for her due to my two tag-a-longs.
I still play chauffeur for her occasionally, with and/or without my tag-a-longs+grandma.

It took a lot of time. A lot of pain, a lot of growing up and change for us all.
So now, in may ways we are best of friends.

p/s- This is with thought of you and A, hissychick.

p/p/s- Hope to scan a photo in soon. Just for the record.


U.Lee said...

Hi Kathie, wow! What a beautiful, heart warming story of you and your family.
I regret to read of your dad's passing away. How old was he then?
I bet he sure had some fabulous oldies stories too, huh?
And reading of your wonderful mom, not many like her.
But I do know lots of mothers here behave like sisters to their teenage daughters, even exchanging clothes too. We have a lady friend who wears her mom's clothes and vice versa as both same height and figure, ha ha.
It sure is nice to have parents around. My wife and I are now orphans as both our parents gone to the happy hunting grounds long ago.
I had to rush back a year after we arrived here when my father took ill.
I being the only son, all my sisters from overseas had arrived first...I arrived two days later. He was on his last days too, cancer...but somehow held on that 10 days I was with him in GH, KL.
It was tough having to say goodbye to him knowing it will be the last I see him.
I returned to Canada, he passed away a week later.
My wife's mom same thing too. We rushed back...then on our return here, next morning received a call, she had passed on.
I can imagine what you experienced before, you now passing it on to your children.
I have been reading your many eloquent postings Kathie, you are a good woman.
By the way, thanks for dropping by my place...I had just posted a new story when you left. Drop in when free.
You have a nice day, Kathie, Lee.

hissychick said...

Hi Kathie,

I'm touched that you dedicated such a special post to me.

What an amazing story and what an incredible bond between you and your parents. And for you to be a carer to your Dad for five years: wow. You're amazing too.

I too am lucky to have a close and loving relationship with my parents, one that has changed in dynamics and even more so now that I am a mother myself.

I keep trying to remind myself of the bigger picture and how it is all worth it whenever I am dealing with a threenage rage. Although it is hard to picture that the little person throwing a tantrum because she is not allowed to watch another episode of Playschool will one day be someone with whom i can discuss the meaning of life!

Anyway take care, and thanks again.


neomesuff said...

lurve this doubt u become a very good mother now as yr mom has gave u the strong basic..salute!

Kathie "Moomykin" Yeoh said...

Hi, u.lee.

My dad was a month shy of turning 56 when he passed away in his sleep. It was very sudden and we had a shock. I missed the most when Micah was born. Micah was only 2 weeks old and it was my hubby's first father's day.

Well, my mom dresses appropriately for her age,while I an mostly in jeans and a tee. That's why mom complains about my appearance. She'd rather I be more fashion conscious, but I'd rather be ready to run after my boys. :)

So we are in the same "orphan" boat. No one knows for real what it's like to lose a parent unless have lost one. It's like losing a big part of you that connects you to all your past and a whole treasure of knowledge. Kinda like losing a compass.

Ok, will drop by and see what's your latest "flash back". :)

p/s- it's been a pleasure "visiting" you. :)

Kathie "Moomykin" Yeoh said...


Glad you are close to your folks too.

I think if we can remember all the troubles and sleeplessness we have caused our parents and yet how we can arrive at where we are, we can also pray and hope that they'll grow to be good citizens of planet earth. :)

Our kids surprise us all the time. we should allow ourselves all the thrills we can get on this journey of parenthood. :)



Thanks. You also terror-maa, handling 3 kids on your own. Plus working, cooking and house keeping.

JLow said...

I echo the earlier comment of "salute".

I hear stories of how people look after their parents the way you had/do, and can never imagine what it would be like going thru it... I am lucky not to have experienced anything like that... (I don't want to use the word "yet")

My two older sisters try their hardest to be friends with my mum. Not that they have any repenting to do- they just want to play that part. Since I (the youngest) started schooling overseas, mum's been "free" of a lot of the parenting burden and have somewhat relaxed and slowed her pace, to the extent of now being traffic phobia (where in the past she'd be battling the KL traffic shuttling between the various schools). Subsequently she's starting to not have too many friends...

As from what I can see, it's going well. One older sister is pretty much a Singaporean resident already, but whenever her gang are in town, the 3 ladies would make it a point to do soemthing together- shopping, lunch, etc. Other times the "local" pediatrician sister would be the sole one doing it.

It's something I'd like to see repeated in my kids. I realise we generally think of our own upbringing / household as being the "way it should be", but I would much rather prefer my upbringing's experience compared to Wife's where her closeness to her own mum is "unique", where "only they would understand"...

Kathie "Moomykin" Yeoh said...


Thanks. It's good to hear of your sisters and mom being in a close and happy relationship. It's true how parents and children become inter-dependable as we all become adults.

I am glad I got the chance to take care of my father, although there were days it was very emotionally draining. But I think if I did not I would have missed a very important "event" in my life.

At that time my older sister was working mostly in Hong Kong and then got married and moved to Singapore. One brother was working in Penang (still there now) and the other was staying in TARC campus. It was mostly my younger sister (she was then a librarian in an international school) and I who were at home with my parents at that time.
Myself, I was doing my MA and tutoring part time so I was very "free" and could do all the luncheons and hospital visits with my parents.