Sim et al (and a tale of Two Tua Yees)

Tress and I went back to Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. Sim, my sister who has lived in Penang since she and Daniel got married more than 20 years ago, had moved into their new home nearly 20 years ago. We hadn’t been to their new home, as they moved in around the time we came over to Melbourne. Sim has been unwell and has recently been advised to change her chemo treatments.

We got into Klang early Saturday on 16 Nov. We took a cab to Tress’ parents’ home. A couple of days later, Tress and I got on a coach and traveled up north to Penang and spent the next few days with Sim and Daniel. Isaac, their younger son who had only recently started his university course, had also come home. He had chosen a university in Hong Kong and events there meant he, like most other students on his campus, left for home.

For a few nights, Sim and Daniel and Tress and I sat around their beautiful round table with a marble top, in their “dry” kitchen, and chatted. By the second night, Daniel started opening up more and to hear him articulate the turmoils within, that are well camouflaged on the outside, was to know and connect with him and Sim, on a deeper level. The visit, which until then had  only had a theoretical reason, then made a whole lot more sense. All that flight time, coach travel, heat, noise, humidity and everything else that often stamp a trip to Malaysia, made sense for those conversations and time spent with Sim, Daniel and Isaac. Isaac too, has become a sensible, articulate and responsible adult. It was sheer joy to listen to him talk about his campus experience, even thought it had only been a short journey for him thus far.

We returned to Klang with Sim and Daniel and Isaac. They were going to help Nicole pack and clear out from her campus lodgings. She had been at Monash Sunway the past couple of years and was going to continue her medical course in another state next year. We learned that she too, had had a rough few months. A model student like her brother, she had probably not, hitherto, experienced any risks of failure in her studies. But her mum’s illness had been rough on her, particularly as her studies were on a subject that a direct relation to that illness. For the first time, she feared an adverse outcome to her finals. At this point, she is probably ok and I have continued to keep her, along with Daniel, Sim and Isaac, in my prayers every day.

The next day after returning from Penang, the whole family on my mum’s side, celebrated a birthday. My Tua Yee had turned 80 and the whole mob got together in a local restaurant to celebrate the occasion. Enoch, my cousin who has been in Singapore for yonks, came back with his family to celebrate his mum’s big bash. It was wonderful to catch up with them and everyone else.

The day after the big bash, Daniel and Sim were going to return to Penang. So we all – Tress and I, Sim and family, my brother David and his wife, and Mei my sister and Goh her hubby YJ, their younger son –  huddled at my mum’s and chatted for a bit. TIB, my uncle, came along too. That arvo, soon before the Penangites took off, we heard Tress’ Tua Yee, who had been unwell and had been at an intensive care unit, would not last the day. So we decided to tag along with Tress’ brother to go see her.

On the way there however (she lived a distance away, about an hour from Tress’ parent’s home) we learned she had passed on. When we got to the house, many of her family had gathered. We stayed a while.

We attended the wake service the next evening, as well the funeral on the next day. We were to return to Melbourne on a flight later that night so to be immersed in a funeral that had all the Buddhist/Taoist rites, was quite an experience that reminded me of the complex community I had grown up in.

We came back last Thursday and after surfing on the momentum of unpacking and cleaning up, we finally had time to rest up and clear our minds on Saturday. Back in St Alf’s on Sunday, I started to feel I was home again.

Trips to Malaysia always bring mixed feelings. I like our life in Melbourne. It is now our home. It has been for the last 15 years. I never stopped missing however, the times we have with the extended family in Malaysia.