So, the man in black is my Uncle, Dad’s oldest bro, Dad being the one in white, extreme right and mum sandwiched between both. We kids addressed him as Ah Pak (local dialect for father actually..), not sure exactly why but I think it is because he was the Godfather to my brother and we littleler ones just followed.
Many times my mum (to this day) would wistfully comment, “he was a very kind man”..again, don’t exactly know why and my mum sometimes just does not want to elaborate…one thing though, she told me he was the one that found her abandoned in the corridor of the hospital after the birth of my brother!
He was sort of a ne’er-do-well, a small time gangster of sorts…held down odd jobs…had girls who wanted him but he never got married, worked as office boy here and there till he retired..always looking like a million bucks though! He was a talker and happily optimistic..as far as I can recall, I don’t remember him being down or sad…mmm..or was I too young to know? His last job was a lift attendant for the Tong Building in Orchard Road owned by the Tong family. He used to tell us how nice the Tong daughter was, always stopped by, had some kind words for him everyday, and when he was sick and hospitalised, the Tong daughter was concerned and insisted on picking up the full tab, although as I recall, my uncle told me he didn’t do much and was always taking naps :), I was in awe, someone so rich and so up there had the time to look in on my Uncle and insisted on paying the bill! Well, when the daughter stepped off the business and the Tong son took over..the first person he laid off was my Uncle…hrmpphh
My Uncle was always lucky in that way, he was never out of a job though he was never the best of workers, I think he saved the day because he always had a laugh on him and stories to spin. Even when he was old, ever so independent, he miraculously found himself an folks home to check into (Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens), on full charity…how amazing is that? :)..he arranged everything himself! One day, my Dad went check on him at his one-room rented flat (coz he did not come round like he always did for one night) and found him lying on the floor for more than 24 hours, after he as out of hospital, he just checked himself into the home which he had pre-arranged, no hassling or cloying neediness.
In those days when he was at the Home, I was just getting somewhere with my little business, used to clear my paperwork on Saturday and then would take a drive in my Alfa over to the home to visit him as often as I could. Don’t know how and if these visits had an impact on him coz he was already quite senile..I used to stare in amazement at all these old folks, especially at my Uncle’s side table, parked next to his bed…all he had was consolidated into a small cupboard?! Me with my bikes, shoes, books, bbq pits and whatever.. just kept thinking..so this is it, at the end you need just a single change of clothes?
When he passed on one night, I went with my Dad to settle matters, cleared out his cupboard, arranged the funeral stuff and so on, my Dad passed me all his little belongings, note-book, some gold chains and so on..I put them away in one on my MANY cupboards at home.. Some months later, I took out his little notebook and flipped through and I found, in the scrawl of an old man, a few lines of how surprised he was and how pleased he was with my visits, and that he bequeathed whatever he has to me (which was nothing, not that I minded). I wasn’t particularly the favourite niece to him when young, but, I can imagine what it is like to be lonely and for that reason, I put the time aside to see him…time well spent.