We will test your water to see if it is wet

About two months ago, our tap water turned brown, and we got the PUB in to check what was wrong. They had come, turned on the taps, looked at the muddy water, ummed and ahhed a lot without doing anything.

We then persuaded them to take a sample of discolored water back to their high tech labs to see if it was safe. Not least because we have a toddler in the house and one of the last things we want is for him to suffer poisoning from dirty tap water.

It took a few days before the PUB called back, saying the test results were out. The man on the phone sounded really serious, and told me the results weren’t good.

“What is it?”, I asked. “Giardia? E-Coli? What?”

“No”, said the serious-sounding man from the PUB.

“It is the discoloration. The water is very discolored. It is very bad”.

Very patiently, I asked if the water was safe for drinking if it had turned clear. And he told me that his lab “don’t have that kind of testing parameters”.

Cleaning up the birdshit

It will have been one month this weekend since my mother’s passing. We’ve kept busy and we’ve tried to keep our emotions at bay for the most part, allowing ourselves only spurts of grieving. I still hope that maybe if I keep busy for long enough, I might let the passage of time dull grief.

But really, if not for my very supportive and loving wife and my darling baby boy, I don’t know how I’d have been able to hold it together. For Naomi and I, our Annus Horribilis began last November with the sudden death of her brother in Shanghai. Since then, it seems to have been one shocking piece of news after another.

And watching Japan reel from the earthquake is just… I don’t know.

My sister’s friends who’ve been similarly bereaved because of their parents’ sudden demise tell her that ‘the first few weeks is usually spent looking for things’.

My sister, brother and I have been doing just that – keys, passwords, safe combination numbers, bank statements – some have been found, and some haven’t. There have been moments of levity though, with the discovery of some of my mother’s handwritten memos – to her staff and to herself, some of which are about the most bizarre matters.

In one memo she talks about contemplating buying a parrot for my father because she thinks keeping one would provide him company and conversation. (Papa is homebound because of Parkinson’s).

The memo ends with this: “Kenny (my younger brother) says birds are dirty and you have to clean up all the birdshit. So, KIV”.

Mobile roaming

Some of my late mother’s friends, on hearing of her passing, took to texting her on her mobile with tributes and messages of how shocked they were and how much they would miss her.

I kept her mobile, an Phone4, for a few days before I passed it to my sister, who’ll be keeping it and its number for sentimental reasons. It hasn’t been all sombre or pleasant, as there has been more than one telemarketer trying to close a sale even when he’s been told that the person who used to own the phone has recently passed away, like a fortnight ago, hello, if my mother was alive she’d have chewed you up and spat you out good and proper.

I’m still checking her work email too, so that urgent business matters can be attended to,  although it could have been said that Kate Spade sales were urgent business matters too. Goodness, she got/gets a lot of spam.

A Tribute to Our Mother

She was a woman of exceptional courage. She faced all of life’s challenges head on, fielding everything thrown at her with great tenacity, determination and always well-dressed and immaculately groomed while doing it. She lived life with a passion, always willing to try new experiences and learn new things.

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, so the saying goes. Well, our mother was given somewhat better ingredients than just lemons (being blessed with intelligence, good looks and personality) and she whipped up a fabulous feast, a sumptuous buffet spread of all the joys of life and we her family and her friends were all privileged to partake, nourished by her care and concern.

How could so much energy and life be packed into such a petite frame? What was the source of her indomitable spirit? I believe that it was her faith.

Hers was not a faith professed merely on the lips. Hers was a “true grit” faith lived out every single day of her life ever since she accepted the Lord as a teenager in school in Seremban, Malaysia. It was shaped and forged through her journey through all of life’s greatest joys and deepest disappointments. Her faith was what empowered her in her many battles with ill health. Suffering polio as a child which left her walking with a limp and a deformed knee, she nonetheless adapted her gait and could take the stairs at an impressive speed in her younger days. She defeated cancer more than 10 years ago and when handed a diagnosis of metastasis toward the end of her treatment, her faith in God’s plan for her was so unflinching that she rejected the advice of the best specialists in the Sloan-Kettering clinic and refused further treatment. Her decision terrified us, her loved ones, but she had no fear, only supreme confidence that the Lord would heal her in His way.

Hers was not a passive faith that is the close relative of fatalism. It was a faith of action and active prayer. She was not afraid of making decisions because she was not afraid of making mistakes, even if she did not like to admit that she did sometimes make mistakes. She covered us all in prayer, every single day.

Hers was not a blind, unquestioning faith. We have heard her question God many, many times, why, when she has had to endure or when her loved ones and dear friends have had to suffer personal tragedies. Yet these questions have only strengthened her faith. No matter what she endured, she still had joy and a spirit of thankfulness.

Her strength and energy were often employed in support and defence of her loved ones. A woman of strong opinions, she was certainly not hesitant to voice them. She had no patience for hypocrites and bullies and dealt with them in her own inimitable way. But for all her forceful nature, she had immense compassion and a tender heart for those in need. She was generous with her material possessions but more importantly, generous with her time and spirit, always giving of herself to her friends and loved ones. She was a great enabler and encourager.

In recent years, she enjoyed her three grandsons Joshua, Kai and Michael enormously. She was the Great Protector against parental discipline, dispensing largesse in the form of keropok and soda pop. She had the natural ability to relate to them on their level, whether that was teddy bears and Thomas the Tank Engine or iPods and Apps.

She lived life to the fullest and appreciated the finer things in life – a good cup of cuppucino, a lip-smacking char kuay teow, beautiful clothes, music. Most of all, she enjoyed people, reaching out to them and connecting with them. She had the rare gift of being able to reach across the generation gap and her friends could be anyone aged from eight to eighty years old.

She was so full of life and energy that it is hard to believe that she is not with us anymore. We will miss her but she will always be a part of us. We are truly blessed.

Written by Mei Ling, Benjamin & Kenneth

We have a serious flu epidemic, and what’s with NEA spot checks that don’t include vacant premises?

I’m wondering a little why there isn’t more alarm over what must be a full blown flu epidemic. I’ll bet more than a million people have the flu, and many of them just haven’t seen a doctor about it yet. It must be really hard not to get the flu if you had to commute daily on an overcrowded bus or train.

So those tens of thousands they’ve counted at just the polyclinics? Tip of the flu iceberg. Naomi and I haven’t been well since mid-December, and Kai’s currently down with a bug as well. Several friends have also reported being sick all January, with the same deal: sore throat, cough, gets better, then nose goes haywire, post nasal drip causes another round of sore throat and cough. It’s never ending, and I swear I’ve been reinfected just waiting my turn in the two clinics I’ve alternated between these two months.

And who are these experts who say that “the flu strain has not become more severe since the pandemic in 2009”? Are they the same people who advocate checking for mosquito breeding by sending NEA agents door to door like they did this morning when Kai was sitting on his potty?

More than half of the units in my apartment block are vacant – deserted. And so when NEA mosquito agents come a-knocking and no one’s in, the empty apartments are automatically given a clean bill of health, I assume. I’ve asked the agents before: No one compels the owners to come and open up their premises for inspection. If you and your domestic helper aren’t home, you’re clear.

A neighbour in a landed property behind our condo has a disused swimming pool which appeared to be a cause for alarm last year when we contacted the NEA, who told us the house “belongs to two doctors, and they rear fish, and there are no mosquito larvae in the pool, we checked”.

I asked this morning’s NEA agent about the neighbour again, because they seemed to have pumped out most of the water from the pool, and from what I can see, there aren’t any fish any more, and all’s left is a stagnant pool of what’s probably rainwater. The NEA agent said, “Yeah, we know, they are two doctors. We checked before”.

So I asked, “Did you check again?”, prompting the answer, “Yeah, we check before”.

I didn’t have time to pursue the matter – Kai was getting antsy on his potty. There wasn’t any stagnant water in there either.

I’m sick of being sick, and it’s about time the authorities stopped saying it’s no big deal and get everyone to be slightly more alarmed about the situation. I have an almost two-year old toddler and we don’t want him to go through what he did with dengue or any other life-threatening communicable infection again.