Article 01

Whatever wisdom I gained in life, largely came from my family, and mostly my mother.

My earliest recollection of my mother, was in Faber Avenue.  Later on after we moved to where my parents live now, she used to send my brother and I to school each morning.  Each evening, I used to wait on the stairs of Nanyang Primary School till about 7pm, spending what loose change I had left on the payphone to call her at the office to see if she was still coming to fetch me.  And when I was the only one left on the stairs, the security guards would close the gates as I waited outside for her to come.  My grandmother would later on come to wait with me, until she got fed up and decided to teach me to take the public bus in Primary 3.  Outside of school, there were occasions my brother and I followed her on errands only to end up at the paging counter of the shopping centre frantically looking for my mum after having waited for hours on end.  From this experience, I gained the wisdom and empathy of not letting our kids go through the trauma of waiting, or being late habitually, or losing them in shopping centres for that matter.

My mother’s habit of procrastination earned her the ire of my father, who spent most of my childhood shouting at her for being late for all kinds of occasions – dinner with friends, events, dancing classes, and I suspect even funerals like this.  If the event involved my brother and I, the reprimanding would continue from the house, into the car and eventually even at the dinner venue.  My father often laid the blame on her need to put on makeup or that she studied tourism in Hawaii.  My father often belittled my mother in public, so much so that my brother’s ex-wife’s kids only called my father and not my mother at family events. Ironic, considering how my brother’s ex-wife and kids came to depend on my mother following the divorce.  From this, I gained the wisdom of the importance of having the healthy respect of your spouse and not just a blind respect for money. 

The fact that my mother didn’t have much respect from my father, I suspect had sown the seeds of infidelity in my father.  My brother and I have memories of flying samurai swords and late night arguments and being made to intervene even while we were studying for O levels or medical exams.  Even later on in life when I still lived with my parents, I found myself having to call my mother to come home.  From this, I gained the wisdom of the importance of loving and respecting your wife as a spouse and not just the mother of your children.

Karma.  My mother’s own traumas of infidelity in life, I suspect, later on led her to take sides in my brother’s messy 3 year long divorce.  As she stood steadfastly next to my brother’s ex-wife and his children, the rift between her and my father and my brother widened.  I spent years of my life at home mediating arguments between my parents over the divorce, even without my brother around.  Her dogmatic approach plagued her relationship with the new in-laws and created an even greater rift later on.  From my parents, I learnt the importance of managing relationships with your in-laws.

My mother worked hard at the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, and later at the Singapore Visitor and eventually as a real estate agent.  While that was mainly the reason she was always late, it was also the reason she left my brother and I to our own devices and the administration of the household to our housekeeper – Jie.  They had their differences, often on a daily basis.  Even despite my comforting in adulthood, my mother often felt that my brother and I recognised Jie as the woman having brought us up.  My brother and I were no fools, and there was no mistaking who our mother was.  I’m sorry she felt that way, but from this, I gained the wisdom that there can only be one mistress of the house and the husband needs to reaffirm that not the kids.  In any case, having more than 1 woman in the house was always a recipe for disaster if you ask me.

Speaking of differences, my mother had differences with my grandmother, and while I’m not sure, I suspect even my grandfather.  For those of you who know, I’m close to my maternal grandmother.  Having listened to different versions of the same event from my mother, our housekeeper Jie and my grandmother, taught me the ability and wisdom to listen impartially, without judgement or opinion.  I learnt to be Zen and that everyone has their own version of the truth – it matters less what the factual truth is, and matters more how each person views theirs.  In life, we can only mediate, compromise in search of peace, not truth.

The differences were mainly about money unfortunately.  And my family spent a whole life time dogged with money problems – who owned what, who paid for what, who had what and most importantly who should have what.  In most cases, the source of angst, anger and sorrow came mainly from properties.  Whether it was about my mum taking credit card loans to buy properties, overextending herself to buy properties, she was always in the thick of it.  As I stood as guarantor and mediator for some of my mother’s loans, the rift with my father grew wider who often was never the wiser for it.  And for this I apologise to my brother, for I had not known that bailing out my mother contributed to the millions gifted to his ex-wife and the property that mum bought with her.  I was merely trying to resolve issues.  And from this, I gained the wisdom that managing your relationship and trust with your spouse takes priority and later on determines how your spouse behaves financially.

Respect for karma.  For those of you who don’t know, my parents objected vehemently to my choice of a spouse.  I had prepared powerpoints to argue my case prior to marriage, but it fell on deaf ears.  One of the rare occasions of defiance, but I went ahead anyway, and the relationship was a rocky one from the start, even after Matthias was born.  Ironic now, considering that most of my mother last years, months, weeks and even days depended on Yingying.

Mum, I’m sorry for being away for a month but Yingying and I needed the break.  And we wanted to travel the route that Kai Kai, Dad and I took in 2018 – a route that Dad could no longer take.  I had always mistakenly assumed that you would be the final survivor of the household, given that grandma was already in her 90s.  I’m sorry that you didn’t get to spend much time with the kids because we were away for that month, I know how much you loved Kai Kai and Mei Mei.  I’m also sorry for lying to you in your final days, saying that you would recover, I really thought you would.  I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive us and we love you. 

Bye Mum.