Saturday, 21 January 2012

Remembering Ah Gong

I know it's CNY and everyone is busy preparing for their reunion dinner on CNY eve. Somehow I have not caught the CNY mood yet, even though I have done all the necessary spring-cleaning at home and put up 'cheena' CNY decorations. Tomorrow, I will be helping my mom make Ngoh Hiang, her very own version of five-spice pork rolls. It is our annual CNY ritual thing to do.

Reading @skinnylatte's touching blog post earlier about her late grandfather, made me think of my own Ah Gong. I have blogged about Ah Gong a couple of times before.

Ah Gong from young to old
I did not have that many memories of Ah Gong as he left when I was only 6 years old. Although I knew him for that short period of only 6 years, I remember he was someone very special to me. He was my baby sitter in the day, and we were practically inseparable.  Everyday, he would bring me to kindergarten and by the time school ended, he would be there outside waiting for me. Often he would have bought me a little toy, ie. books, sweets, cars, guns (yes, even toys for boys, because I guess Ah Gong did not know how to buy girly stuff), drawing boards (he knew I like to draw) and crayons etc... 

The old Cecil Street
Then sometimes Ah Gong would bring me to visit his friends or business associates, it was always around  or 小柏 (Shenton Way or Beach Road area). Most of the time we hanged around Cecil Street neighbourhood where we lived in a shophouse, the spot where Prudential Tower stands today. Ah Gong would bring me to the nearby park or the Esplanade, or to old Lau Pa Sat to have ice kacang or kambing (mutton) soup. Sometimes I played at the Market Street Carpark (which is still there today) opposite my house. And I remember vividly Ah Gong and I eating fried dark noodles from a street peddler somewhere near our shophouse.  Usually, by the end of the day, after each adventure, my Mom would be shocked to see me, because my attire would be dirty, sweaty, untidy with unkempt hair.  How would an old man know about keeping me clean? 
Ah Gong and me

Then one day, Ah Gong decided to pay a visit to his homeland, Kinmen, Taiwan. That early morning at the airport where we were to send him off, he thanked my mom for taking good care of him all those years. It was as if he knew he might not be coming back again.  Just as he was going into the departure gate, he turned around, smiled and waved goodbye to me. I could still recall this scene vividly till today. I remember I burst out crying. I did not know then that I would never see him ever again.

Ah Gong had a heart attack during his trip to Kinmen and died in his homeland. He was 69. He had a grand funeral in Kinmen, but sadly, none of his immediate family could be there. When his personal belongings were flown back to Singapore, inside his wallet was a small note.  It was a little piece of paper which I had written and sent to him just a few days earlier before his heart attack. In all of my 6-year-old knowledge then (and probably with the help of my father), I wrote in English: "Grandpa, how are you?" and in Chinese, "公公, 你好吗? 我很想你."  I still keep this tattered little piece of paper with me till today.

At that time, we held a religious ceremony for him at my home in Singapore. Shortly after, I had a dream. The scene was exactly that same ceremony at my house. I saw myself standing near the main door of my house during the ceremony, while all the adults were standing near the altar, their heads bent, praying and listening to the chanting from the monk.  All of a sudden, right outside my door, I saw my Ah Gong standing there. He was waving at me, his ever-so-kind face was smiling at me.  Then merely a few seconds later, he turned around to leave, then looked back again and gave me a good bye wave as he walked away. Then I woke up.  As I got older, I realised that  Ah Gong had appeared in my dream to say good bye to me. It's a sign to me that he doted and loved me dearly, and that dream was his final gift to me. It has been decades since Ah Gong left abruptly, but I still miss him very much whenever I think of him.


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