A Surprise Birthday Party


I got into Tullmarine last night. We’ve had a wonderful week in Klang, surprising my mum and celebrating her birthday together with her siblings and their families. Enoch and his wife flew in from Singapore. Enoch has a really busy practice (as a urologist) so having him do this was special. David and Jean were the chief plotter. They planned everything, down to keeping mum at home and only leaving home in time to get to the restaurant where everyone had been waiting.

Kiddo and Mic flew in from Canberra on Thursday night and we met them at the airport. They managed to get to the check-in queue when we were there so we checked in together. We got into Klang on Friday morning and caught a cab to Tress’ parents’ home. From there we went for a very hearty bah kut teh brekky before checking into our Air BnB condo unit as the crow flies from Tress’ parents’ home.

The surprise dinner party was on Saturday night so we had to wait to see mum. So after unpacking and freshening up at the condo, we waited to see my brother David and Jean his wife later that arvo at a local “drive-in” and had more stuff to eat. Then later that night it was back to Tress’ parents’ home for some home made popiah dinner.

On Saturday, we drove to a shopping mall nearby (Setia Mall) to get a lego set for Eunice, Victor’s eldest daughter. Eunice is only a year younger than Kiddo but due to a neurological disorder when she was very young, her intellectual development had been stunted and she remains very young intellectually. She asked us for lego sets everytime she sees us so that is our go-to prezzie for her. We decided however to only get it in Malaysia as it costs the same if we got it here and getting it there saves us the trouble of carting it on board the flight with us.

At Setia Mall, we bumped into Timmy and his wife. The we-fie he took didn’t make it into social media as we asked him to keep the pic under wraps to avoid spoiling the surprise. We got the lego set, as well as some other stuff and then got back to the condo to rendezvous with my siblings before the surprise dinner that night. Sim and Daniel drove up from Penang and it was great to see her again. We had received news of her cancer diagnosis just as a week earlier. Thankfully the diagnosis was early and treatment could be scheduled pretty quickly. So this dinner party and our being there for it, were very fortuituous and we were very grateful to be able to see her before treatment began today.

At the dinner, we had a wonderful time of catching up with mum’s side of the family. The family hadn’t been together to this extent for a very long time. It was probably the most complete reunion we’ve had for years. Certainly for our immediate family, with Kiddo and Mic also there, it was the most complete reunion todate for us. We also had Ah Kim, my late Ah Ku’s estranged wife, at the dinner and as I talked to her and reminisced those days when she was working in my late grandfather’s coffee shop tending a “chee cheong fun” stall, those days of toiling in the old coffee shop brought only fond memories. Somehow, the hard times (they must have been the prevalent occurences) had been almost completely shaded. When I said to her my fondness for chee cheong fun was birthed there, I could see the joy in her face. It was good just to see her again, as her estrangement from my uncle had meant we hadn’t seen her for many years. To see the joy on her face, on her realisation she brought joy to another all those years ago, was a big fat bonus.

It was just as rewarding talking to each of my other aunties and uncle that night, as with my cousins and their children. All the pesky experiences of getting past immigration/customs at both Tulla and KLIA, the humid conditions, the battling through Klang traffic, the niggling bits and pieces about the condo – none of those elements mattered as I mingled, talked, at and drank and took pictures with everyone that night. Tress, Kiddo and Mic looked like they enjoyed the occasion as much as I did and so I guess the chat with David several weeks ago which lead to our plans to come together, had all been worth the while. All I hope (and pray for) now is that Sim’s surgery and the rest of her treatment will be effective and she will recover from this illness in no time.

Back at the condo after the dinner way past midnight, we turned on our mobiles and exchanged pics and only went to bed well after 1am. We still managed, somehow, to make our way to KCMC the next day. We caught up with more people there. KCMC was different each time I was back there. This time, the main hall, which had become the meeting hall of the English speaking congregation, had had a makeover. It now felt more like a theatre. Personally I liked it less, as there is now no natural light streaming in, like it used to before. Maybe the path to all air-conditioned settings had brought this about, but it felt far too insulated from everything else. It felt as though the church was cloistered, and disconnected from its surroudings.

After KCMC, we went to a local restaurant and met again with the family, joined this time by Tibby, the only one from my late dad’s side of my family we met this trip. We had also bumped into TL and his family, who had moved to NZ over a year ago. They too, were back in Klang for a break. Later that night we had dinner with Tress’ family and then went back for a family pic. That dinner was in a fancy restaurant with delicacies and gourmet soups but the family pic was again, something special.

On Monday Tress’ dad and the both of us went to a bank to sort out some accounts held by Tress’ dad but which he had – casually – designated us as beneficiaries. We/he had to sign wads of papers and in between all those meetings and signings, we had lunch in a local coffee shop. That night, David organised for us all to meet at a “mamak” stall near mum’s house and Kiddo and Mic treated us to a dinner of roti’s and teh tariks and all sorts of accoutrements that came with that cuisine…

On Tuesday we had a quieter day. We caught a movie (“A Quiet Place”) as we noticed movies cost about RM10 a person, whereas the local Hoyts usuall charged about AUD20 each. We also did some shopping at the same mall, and later that arvo we had lunch at mum’s where May prepared a really good home cooked meal. Goh had also been home for a couple of weeks as he was in between jobs so it was a good lunch together. Later that night we had dinner with Tress’ family again and then we said our goodbyes as we were leaving early the next day.

As I zipped through Tim Winton’s “The Riders” on the plane yesterday, I thought about how fortunate we’ve been these past few days. As they always do, these holidays made me think about what-if’s. Had I not made the move all those years ago, I wondered how the present would have turned out. I’m not sure there was any regrets necessarily, but I wondered none the less.

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