My most treasured memory I have with a senior has to be my grandma. Grandma is a simple lady who gave her entire life to the family. She was a wonderful cook, and kept the whole family very very well fed despite always getting scolded by her children for cooking too much and wasting food. I will always remember seeing her in the kitchen, always busy cooking up a nice hot meal for us. I will always remember her chasing me out of the kitchen (she never wanted to let anyone help her no matter how tired she was) and asking me to go rest instead. I will always remember how she never once got to eat food that was hot, or even warm, simply because she was always busy making sure we were well fed. Grandma was a simple lady who never really got to enjoy life. I never really got to spend a whole lot of time with her before she became an angel again, but I will always remember seeing her smile when I ran to her as a little kid. In her little ways, she taught me to be kind, to be selfless and in some ways, she shaped the work ethics I have today. She will always always live on in me, and she will always be my favourite senior. Ah Ma, I love you and I miss you.
When I was in secondary school, my 70 year old grandmother used to be an active soul. The energy she had hid her age well. On a typical day, she would be chatting with her friends on the phone for hours or catching up on the latest Taiwanese drama on TV. After school, she would wait for me to alight from the bus before taking a stroll to the nearest McDonald’s for a vanilla ice cream cone. Those memories are truly unforgettable. Fast forward 5 years, an unexpected headache she had turned out to be a stroke and months of hospitalization. Her health and memory deteriorated. She can hardly remember us these days. On good days, she would call us by name and ask us about our day at work. On not-so-good days, she would hardly speak a word to us. Simple questions like “What did you have for lunch?” goes unanswered. We see her struggling to recall what she ate an hour ago; we see her trying to recall our names and sometimes her own. We see a different side of my grandmother, not the energetic grandmother that I hold memories of. Life for her and the family has since been completely different; and we are adapting to it everyday.
“One of the first elderly residents “(‘Uncle Tan’) I visited lives with his helper, as his wife was recently diagnosed with dementia. He had reluctantly brought her to live in a nursing home so she could be cared for by professional healthcare workers. It was truly a tough decision for him to make.
Uncle Tan’s care and love for his wife goes so far that he refuses to go for his family’s reunion dinners because he can’t bear to eat the well-prepared delicacies while his wife is stuck in a nursing home with perhaps less tasty meals. As he was talking to us, I could clearly see his eyes welling up…
Uncle Tan told me that he continues to visit his wife daily, without fail.”
– One of our volunteers, reflecting on his card distribution with Montfort GoodLife! and Hey, You’ve Got Mail!
Where is my ah girl?
The last time she came to visit, she gave me her old phone, and told me to call her whenever I want. But when I press the numbers on the screen, it says ‘wrong passcode’. I entered in correctly, right? I followed the eight numbers she scrawled on the back of a Toto* ticket. She said she will ring, but there is always no sound. Maybe she is busy earning a lot of money now, and is working hard for me.
Reflection: I wrote this from the perspective of many elderly in Singapore’s status quo; and I myself am no stranger to such a reality. With the increasing emphasis on respecting and nurturing our seniors, these kindly octogenarians are but still neglected behind the comforting veil of community work that clouds our vision. To many elderly; even we ourselves are aware, the only memory they hold is of their pining and longing for their loved ones — whereas we cannot care less until they are no more. As much as we even try or pretend to care (as can be seen by the ah girl in this story giving her aged mother her old phone), we, deep down, are not always 100% sincere about it (the ah girl not teaching her mother how to use the phone past the lockscreen). Even so, our predecessors always assume the best of us, and wait patiently for our prodigal return, even past their last breath.
My grandfather was estranged from his son, my dad but in my growing up years, my grandfather maybe due to his old age, made a decision to mend the fences with his son before it was too late. But he was also a very proud Chinese traditional man, born in the 1930s. Naturally, I became a convenient “excuse” in a good way for him wanting to visit his grandson every week at our 2-room HDB apartment but it was also an opportunity for him to visit his son. We lived at the end of the long stretch of the HDB block, and my grandfather can never remember which unit we stayed in. So he did the next best thing. From the start of the common corridor stretch, he’d call out my name until he reached the audible distance of our unit, and either myself or my dad / mom would pop out to get him. Knowing he made this weekly effort to reconcile with his son, it has taught me that humanity is a lesson in progress.