Sunday, December 09, 2007

Impending Death.

You know, the month of December isn't usually associated with bad news. At least not for me. The month of December has always been recognized as the month of giving, family ties, love, joy and all warm and fuzzy. It's Christmas, isn't it always been like that? Ever since I was a kid. December is the month of Christmas and also the last month of the year. Family get-togethers celebrating Christmas, choir practice, shopping, gift wrapping, attending parties, baking cookies and what not. All the pondering of another year coming to an end and of the things to come pretty much fills your heart with a tinge of nostalgia, not to mention, the Christmas wish list and New Year resolution. Sadly, all that is about to change. December this year would be my very first year of receiving news accepting the fact about the impending death of a grandmother. Which explains my occasional blanking out and brooding moments, as if to have reality sinking in.

It's almost a week now that she's been lying in the hospital, bed-ridden (after the fall at her own apartment), with a condition which neither looks promising nor improving, after suffering from a fall at her own home. Things happened pretty fast, coming in after one another, crashing on us like a speeding car onto a concrete wall. Diagnosis showed failing lungs as well, after the admission and through the hush talks from the adults, things will only get worse from there. See, the Chinese have this uncanny ability to recognize tell-tale signs when death is creeping up on a person, especially with the antics displayed by the person on the death bed like the calling of deceased relatives or mindless muttering or the lost of recognization of living relatives. As superficial as it is, I have seen the predictions coming pretty true myself, even without the doctor's word. Which is why there is no reason for me to elude myself about the inevitable death of amah. What with dad already asking whether if I have a picture of her, just as a subject of conversations.

Amah is losing consciousness by the day, slowly slipping away, that sometimes, she barely even recognizes the person visiting her. Not that she's on life support or anything, but by the looks of it (from the numerous back and forth trip from home to the hospital) her condition is undoubtedly deteriorating. Even as I'm typing here, she's resting in the hospital bed. She hasn't been eating well and most of the time, she's sleeping with the occasional strange utterance of matters which are unrelated or acting up like a child, so as mom says. Of course, I only get news of amah's behaviour from (as I mentioned before) the hushed conversations between adults which usually ends with words like "be prepared". That was also if I was eavesdropping - intentionally or not. In matters as such the adults still remain as adults, doing their best to protect us from the harsh realities of life, and of course, coupled with one or two popular beliefs.

In the Asian culture, these things are better left handled by the adults and as far as a child's responsibility is concerned, it only stretches as far as hopsital visits. We children pretty much remain in the household, just waiting for crucial news while we laze around like zombies with the news of an impending death of a family member hanging over our shoulders to harbour around. Although, jie and I do try our best to keep the atmosphere as light as possible with activities that can take our minds off things. Think Channel E! on the regular, with a few movies thrown in and catching up on a few episodes of TV series to help us steer our minds away. Sometimes, I even resort to excessive cleaning (of the house) to keep my mind fresh. I mean, it's the only few ways to keep me away from staring at the telephone for hours and jumping at every ring, all the time embracing myself for the news to come from the other end of the telephone. At this point, every phone call is such a source of intolerable fear, able to stop me dead in my tracks. I can get quite paranoid when the situation calls for it. You'll never know!

Other than that, jie and I will usually joke about death, as a general subject. It does help in facing the true fact, I guess. For the past week, we've even come up with calling amah the "grand old lady" awaiting for the right time to make her exit out of this world. After all, from our mental calculations and judging from the deaths trailing up the family tree, since our forefathers grandfather, this family has been quite notorious with their elaborate exits from earth. Their deaths usually catches us off-guard, dropping like a bombshell on us relatives, almost like dropping bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Take one incident for instance, we were rushed back home from our holiday in KL with the news of impending death of the late grandfather (which we did almost immediately!). Why should amah, known for liking the attention, pull something off any less elaborate right? I just hope I'm prepared when the time comes. Bad news knows no timing.

Furthermore, the death plague is around. The death plague was created by me, something I've given a name to when the number of wakes arises in town and when funeral homes are filled to the brink. It's weird, really. From my observations, it comes and goes like a season. One moment, funeral homes and undertaking companies seemed to be almost out of business and another moment, boom, there's not enough space to even hold wakes anymore. It's also obvious with the rise in the amount of wake which can be seen held at homes, extending to the roadside as we take a drive downtown. I've seen the death plague quite a number of times while growing up in town up till today. Observations are clear from the to and fro journey from home to the hospital. Even one of jie's distant friend passed away recently in a car accident, whose wake she attended yesterday, accompanied by me. And yes, the funeral homes were all occupied.

Well, with everything being said, I don't think December will ever be the same this year (or the years to come for that matter). Things are certainly looking more gloomy than I've ever remembered. Initially, I thought the exams were going to dampen the mood of December but I've been proven wrong. Amah is currently, as described by aunts, like a ticking time-bomb, getting everybody on the edge of their seats with its ticking. It may explode tomorrow, or the day after, or even tonight itself, only God knows. It's a painful process, but I'm certainly looking forward to God's graces to help me pull through this episode. Until it happens, jie and I are still going to keep asking, "Has the grand old lady made her grand exit yet?" Not that we are hoping, but it's strictly aimed at sugarcoating the reality. At least it helps, for me. Who knows what blow this impending death might bring.

Odd though, jie is still positive that it's not amah's time yet, constantly arguing that she can still hold on. Wonder what makes her says that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Back for Christmas.

It's been a while, obviously, but I'm back. Yes, I did unanimously stopped myself from blogging about 5 months back for numerous reasons, examinations being one of them, with the occasional blog hop to keep myself updated. I do plan, however, to spill about the period of time I was away - not in one day, but in times to come. It might be quite a handful to handle given my sudden disappearance without prior notice and now, my sudden reappearance. I wouldn't attempt to fill you in or even dare think of an explanation (cause I definitely don't owe anyone one) to clear me from my charges. I mean, c'mon, I haven't been writing anything for so long (except for English or Bahasa Malaysia essays for the untimely exams), God knows my writing (and I mean, the one that I get to express my thoughts) skills have been reduced to mud. Plus, I was getting so unfamiliar with blogging that I even had trouble accessing into the blog - couldn't quite remember how things were with all those space in the mind used up to store facts for exams.

Bottom line is, I'm back. Not entirely though. Not yet, at least. But I'm back to assure myself that I'm still committed and I have not given up on this yet. There's been a lot going through my mind - the events I wanna blog about, the thoughts and opinions as well as issues happening currently in life. 5 months unable to actually talk wrench out about the strange revelation of events and thought provoking moments has quite taken its toll on me. Oh, the changes, the stories and the experiences! Unfortunately, as much as I wish it would, it doesn't come spluttering out from my mouth like emptying a can of baked beans. But I'm sure it'll come to me and when that happens, I'll have something to talk about, wouldn't I? I hope. Well, I think I'm done with the unspectacular monologue and get back to where I left off. No, not the durians and the dumplings. C'mon, it's December! The month of Christmas, my favourite time of the year!

This year, our tradition saw new light in the form of a new tree, after a year long of persuasion and pestering and after 8 years of being stuck with a 3 feet tall Christmas tree with stands made out of plastics and suffering from several fractured branches. Thank God! The joys of purchasing a new tree, made out of a completely different material, 5 feet tall and metal stands which gives the tree a promising and sturdy look, standing from the ground and not supported by some hideous antique chair. I guess this is the true side of celebrating Christmas in a country with a climate which disallows the operation of a scotch pine farm, or even with people much in anticipation into celebrating Christmas at all, for that matter. So tree hunting for this family of 5 was done at the nearby supermarket with the constant need for us to withstand skeptical gazes from passersby and where choices were left between different heights of manufactured trees. Oh, and it was raining outside too, at that time. Not that it brings much difference to in-store shopping.

Anyway, we managed to get the tree up by the 1st of December, only a day later than last year, if it wasn't for the crazy stuff that was taking place then, take my examinations for one. We did it with lesser people this year - only the three of us siblings and an additional apoh as a house guest. Well, to be honest, we were all tired by that time of the day, taking in account that we spent the entire day spring cleaning the all the corners of the house (there are still little crooks and crannies that still requires thorough cleaning) just to make it in time to put the tree up. No matter, the Christmas spirit and joy was overwhelming amongst us and we managed to have a knocking time completing the job. I mean, with the ongoing bickering about which ornaments to hang and where to hang and about how the tree was supposed to look like between three siblings and a grandma who is anything but shy when it comes to giving opinions, what's not to enjoy? And I think this is the best Christmas tree we've ever had since as far as I can recall.

Not so much bickering eh?

"I think this belongs here."
Let's see, the first Christmas tree we've ever had as a family (or rather, the first one I can remember now) was a white, completely-made-out-of-plastic, 3 feet tall tree. Oh, I used to loathe that one as a kid. In fact, I still don't quite grasp the entire idea of a white tree. It's bad enough we Asians need to live with plastic trees right out from the factory, I cannot understand why would anyone still want something that doesn't the least resemble a Christmas tree, let alone a tree covered in snow. It's ridiculous. I don't even know how mine got there - it was just there for as long as I can remember. Which is why dad bought us a new tree by the time I was 8, I think. A short little green coloured tree of the same height as the previous, recycling ornaments from the previous tree. I guess that tree outlived its live expectancy as it's still standing with a twisted branch or two and a broken leg, plastered together sloppily. Until this year, where we finally got what we wanted and so far, deemed as the perfect tree.
Lighted up!

Scotch pine tree.
Everything else on the tree was from last year's tree, expect the baubles and the bells since jie insisted on getting some new ornaments, seeing the sad state the present ones were in (the usual faded paint and gloss). Even the lights were from last year. We're still missing one thing though, a rightful star to be placed on the rightful branch of the tree. Nothing seems to fit - Nothing from the stores or the one from last year - that we're beginning to feel comfortable without it and was just considering about doing away with the star. Jie protested against the formidable angle perched on top of the tree and mentioned that one of the Barbie Dolls from her collection would do the job better than some sub-standard plastic angel with cheap clothing. And the bottom of the tree's been decorated with presents already, seeing that we had to cover up the unusually long legs of the new tree. Presents for the cousins and ourselves will be below the tree till Christmas comes. Speaking of which, I've still got a million things to get done by the time arrives - so much work, so much preparations.