|A mirror selfie with Ah Por - our first!|
Since I was a kid, CNY had been the all important festival and I looked forward to it every single year, missing it only once when I went abroad to study. I never quite grew out of it, despite my worse teenage rebellious drama years (where I wore black on Day 1 just to annoy the hell out of everyone) Oh gawd!! I must be such a nightmare back then!!! LMAO 😁😁😁
Anyway, whilst it's been a happy CNY with the family and even my mother-in-law came over, there had been some pretty not-so-good-news just when I arrived back to the village as well. One of it happens to be the deteriorating state of my Ah Por. Before I write further, I want to say that my biggest problem is my attachment to people and things. And I'm emotional AF.
Really, I guess, there are some things that I myself am trying to understand, and I'm trying to be as honest as possible with myself too. But my Ah Por have been growing increasingly depressed over the last few years and she's lost her feisty self. The one who is quick and witty with her remarks and comebacks. That strong woman who scolded me and asked me to stand aside as she lifted 2 pails of water just like that while I struggled with one and spilled water everywhere (back in the day, we had to go fetch water from the river because no water from the government pipes). The one who always, always told me that no matter what, the most important thing is your health and your happiness. The money is meaningless without those 2 elements.
In place, is a bitter woman, who is telling me that no matter what, the most important thing is to be rich. "If I am rich, do you think everyone will leave me alone and not care about me??! Do you think they will scold me and speak to me so loudly??" The problem is, I come from a family who communicates terribly - in other words, they don't communicate. And when they do, they don't communicate well. We were never brought up to express ourselves or our feelings (as for me - I think it's just the writer and dreamer in me that got all these out). And worse of all - I come from a family who is quick-tempered (That's right. Where do you think I got THAT from 😝😝😝) It's a family who believes that scolding is a sign of love.
To be honest, I'm in tears writing this because I'm in a dilemma. Ah Por is 92 years old. She is being difficult. BUT, can you imagine or not? She won't listen because she's been doing all those prayer stuff, climb up, climb down, carrying pails of water, boiling soup for as long as she could till she fell and broke her legs. To tell her, "Haiya!!! No need to do anymore lahhh!" is just causing her to feel really uneasy. She wants to clean the altar. We scream at her "STOP!!!!! Can you sit down or not???!!!" because for us, we don't want her to fall and she will really not be able to walk then. Then what happens? She's forgetful, but she can't eat outside food because it is not the taste she is used to. She tries to cook and she forgets to turn off the stove and we all know how that ends. So again, we scream and say "AHHHHHH can you just NOT COOK????!! Just eat whatever is prepared for you!!" When we take her out to eat, she can't finish her soup noodle because she eats very little now. And she wants to pack the remaining back and we say "Aiyooo !! How can you eat that when you pack it back???!!!" For her, it's wasteful. For us, it's not good for her to eat that. Just the other night, she told me to move the josstick holder onto a chair. I said no need, we can leave it on the table as it is shaded. She refused to sleep because the thing was just not done as per her request. Fearing that she would go and do it by herself and risk a fall, I did it anyway. I went to shower, I came out and there she was, struggling to move the chair, all because I did not put it at a right angle. I just got so mad because I already did it. Why would she do it and what happens if she fell? I was just beyond mad. I knew that it was all of these behaviours of hers that was driving everyone else mad and not wanting to take care of her or see her much.
I've tried to reason with her. But a 92 year-old woman who raised a family almost single-handedly although she can't even read a single alphabet will always be right. There's no reasoning with her. Because of that, she's become an annoyance to everyone. If I have to use the word, it will be "burden". Because she's being difficult.
And because of this "difficulty" and she feels everyone is abandoning her, she's turned into a kid trying to get attention. She's unhappy. To draw out a smile or a laugh from her these days is difficult. She's playing the pity card and I know it works on me. As I only have one grandma left. Wednesday, when I leave, I would leave with such a heavy heart, afraid that this is the last CNY I will get with her. So I try my best to cheer her up and have conversations with her and all that. But it's difficult because all she talks about to me is "no money, no money, no money". And I get annoyed. Our family is not rich. We've never been rich. This had never been an issue before. I really don't understand why she is so hung-up about the money now. She hides her money everywhere and she keeps counting and recounting her money. I'm beyond crazy looking at that. I just feel a big stab in my heart. Why, Ah Por? Why? We are all taking care of you the best that we can. But I also know that part of her "no money" complains also stem from the fact that out of her 6 children, 5 are no longer working. Everyone is over 65 years old!!! In her 92-year-old simple mind, not working = no income. If so, how to be taking care of her? Doctors are not cheap these days.
On the other side of things, are her children and grandchildren. We all have our shit to do and get to. Everyone has their own lives and stuff to do. To rush to buy her a meal and then rush back off to work only to hear her say she doesn't want to eat that is also a crazy thing to happen, isn't it? Or to have driven her to the clinic and sent her home and driven all the 45-min way back only to get a phone call to say she wants to go to the clinic again is also absolute madness isn't it? I got it easy since I'm not around. Once, I took her out to eat, and we were already in the restaurant and I had already ordered the food. She said she didn't want to eat those food. So, I asked her what she wanted to eat? She said chicken rice. I ran across to buy her chicken rice and came back and she said she doesn't like chicken rice. I really didn't know what to do. When she asks you to do something, no matter how ridiculous, you better do it right there and then, like switching off the refrigerator even though you still have something cooling in the fridge and you try to tell her that. Otherwise, she will go and try to tip toe on her bad legs and switch it off and she will be struggling and losing balance. And we don't understand her and she doesn't understand us. Nobody wants to understand each other's feelings. There's a huge-ass generation gap, made worse by one being uneducated and old-fashioned and the others being educated and equally stubborn. Everyone is right.
This CNY, I find myself missing my Ah Por alot. The one who was witty with all those feisty comebacks. No matter how much I sat down to try to provoke her or disturb her, she will still go on about how so and so's children takes care of their parents by giving their parents x amount of money each month. I used to tuck her into bed and we would chat and laugh before good night. The past year and more, she has been shooing me off because she said it's not good luck to be so close to someone who is going to die. Or else, she would talk about the so and so's children and the no money situation again and I just do not want to listen to that. I did managed to get some laughs out of her, but just fleeting moments. Like, she just removed her dentures and I am asking her to smile. That was cute. We shared a laugh together and I'm holding my camera ready to take her pix and she said I can stand there and wait all night she will not open her mouth to smile.
I want this woman back. I don't want to remember her as the bitter, unhappy Ah Por that she is right now.
Her situation has made me think about a lot of things. What happens when we all grow old and become a little more "unable"? I spoke to my sailor-man cousin uncle and turned out his Mom was exactly the same. More friends of friends' moms were almost similar, if not worse (think about packing the food back and the Mom throws it into the sink because she's not yet hungry, why force her to eat now??) Maybe it's a cycle - from a baby to teen, to adult, to old person and then back to a kid. And what happens when the people we once worshiped as heroes and heroines become this, this,... sad little "unable" bundle? What happens when the Mama you used to rely on who could find anything, and I mean anything in the house can no longer even button her own blouse? What about the Papa who drove you in and out and was your bodyguard at banks cannot even walk anymore? What happens when they become a bitter, unhappy kid because of whatever the situation may be? We all think we would age gracefully, we hope to age gracefully. My gawd, I sprained my ankle for three weeks and couldn't get to do things I loved doing so I was bitching like a MOFO. I was driving MOH up the walls. How strong are our spirit when we face situations like that, like as simple as growing old and unable?
Is money going to solve all of these problems? Would it have been any easier AND happier if we had money to afford first-class facilities to take care of the old folks when they become "unable"? Would the issue of convenience be solved? When we don't want Ah Por to fall and really be not able to walk, is it because we don't want the extra worry / stress / burden (cos obviously it's easier taking care of someone who can still hobble around and bathe herself as opposed to someone who is bed-ridden?) I don't get it. I just always thought things were just as simple as the old people just want to see their loved ones more often since they too know their days are numbered. I didn't think anything beyond that. Don't get me wrong. As much as I can, I would give my family the world. I will never stinge on them. But it also all has to be within my means, right? We hate when the old folks scold and nag. One day, we might go home and there will be no one to nag and scold us. But then again, we also don't want the parting memories to be full of scolding and nagging.
Don't mind me. I am just ranting. I guess, nothing a good night's sleep and a good morning run won't settle.
But for now, I pray, as I have always prayed since my maternal grandpa passed away, that everyone will outlive me. My prayers are not answered fully since I've had to bid farewell to my paternal grandpa and later, my maternal grandma as well. Still, one can keep praying.
And that is the whole problem with me. Attached and I can't let go either.