November is here already. Just 9 more weekends and then we’ll be saying hello to 2017. My goodness. Time really flows by quickly.
Loads of memorable things has happened so far since the start of the year. For 2016, I wanted to be stronger so for a start, I’ve embarked on a plant based diet, and have taken up crossfit (I’m still not sure if I like it or not)
I’d like to get my cartoons to a higher level. I’m still clueless at how merchandising works, but so far, friends seem genuinely excited at the small little knickknacks that I’ve done. That gives me the motivation to continue and do more.
The past months we visited Vienna which was absolutely gorgeous in the Spring. Then Padova, where I participated in my first Obstacle Challenge. And then Cologne, where I wished I could spend more time in. I think the pièce de résistance was when we visited the Carnival in Viareggio with a Singaporean TV Crew. The episode was out last night, so you can imagine how excited my family was, watching it. I thought I couldn’t watch since it was aired in Singapore, but am pleasantly surprised to find that I could watch it online.
And yet 2016 contains one of the most painful memory for me too. My aunt passed away two weeks ago. I still remember the moment clearly. It was Friday morning and I had just woken up and checked my messages. My mom wrote, “Mak Oteh is gone” and I stared at the message. Stunned and then felt a deep, hollow pain and bellowed out. I couldn’t stop crying.
It was a pain that I’ve never felt before.
Growing up, our families lived close to each other. So I’d be dropped at her house while my parents went to work or when I was done with primary school. I still remember her mashing up chillies using her Batu Giling at the old-old house at Taman Jurong. This was the time when the houses were 5 stories high, if I’m not wrong. I don’t remember it having elevators.
And then my aunts and my grandfather moved closer to our old house, sharing the same block. I remember her giving me snacks of soda biscuits eaten with canned tuna flavoured with chopped onions and green chilli. I remember us sitting on the floor, watching Cinderella or American Werewolf in London or Indonesian horror movies which freaked me out.
Then when we had to move again because our blocks were to be demolished, about 15 years ago to where my parents are currently staying and Mak Oteh chose to live in the same block together.
As I started to go to tertiary education and then started to work, I didn’t manage to spend as much time with her. Nevertheless our families try to do a lot of reunions together. Not one Hari Raya would we miss going to each other’s house and I’d eat her delicious food. I’d always look forward to eating her Mee Hoon Goreng Putih.
And I remember us spending vacations together. The time when we got stranded and our extended family had to stay in a really seedy hotel. And then the time when we stayed in little huts somewhere near Terengganu where we caught sea snails and then she managed to de-shell them and then turn them into a nice sambal. Or the time when we went to Kuala Lumpur together and woke up to the sound of chickens.
I still remember.
Mak Oteh was a good person. She has this way of making people around her feel special and while she can be naggy, she always had a kind word for me and advice. I feel loved when I’m with her and I feel like she’s my other mom, since we spent so much time together.
While she didn’t like to exercise, she was a hard worker and would do something with commitment. Which is why I felt such honour when she volunteered to cook for our wedding. It’s not at all an easy thing or glamorous thing to do to feed over thousands of guests.
I remember her saying in her relaxed, bright voice that she’ll come running to Rome as soon as she finds out that I’m pregnant…
The last time that I saw her was in January while we were in Singapore. She was visibly thinner compared to the regular Mak Oteh. I should have seen it coming when my brother was recounting about the time when she went to the hospital. I brought it up to her, and she was as chatty as usual, just not as energetic as before. Never did I imagine that it’ll be last time that I see her.
I should have known…
You know how people say that they feel their heart breaking? It was overwhelming the sadness and for the whole day I just couldn’t stop crying. Completely devastated. The thought of her gone. Not being able to see her anymore, talking to her, hugging her, getting a whiff of the make-up that she likes to put on.
One of my worst fear has come true. And living so far away, gives me no sense of closure.
I just don’t understand. It’s not fair. She’s not old. She should live at least 20 years more. Why?
Thoughts ran in my mind and I didn’t feel like blogging, I didn’t feel like going anywhere or meeting anyone or do anything. Just looking at our photos together was painful. It took a week for me to stop crying.
And yet, I don’t know how I’ll react the next time I come and visit Singapore. I just can’t imagine not being able to go to her house – with her rows of potted plants and not see her or hear her voice as your reach the gate.
I’m still in pain.
I wish that somehow we had a way to back ourselves up and connect our consciousness together. That way, we could visit our loved ones at any time without this distance between us.