When my journey made abrupt change in direction in 2015, I began staying with my parents after twelve years away from them.
The first week saw me preparing my old room for my own use, intentionally creating an enclosed environment within my room surrounded by my boxes and shelves… a small gap from this enclosure leads to my bed where I can hide in this private space of my own – and perhaps to figure out what I am going to do from there on.
One month in, I told my parents that I want to visit my Malaysian relatives again – an absence of almost twenty-odd years. I had fond memories of my old kampung house there, where I grew up with my cousins in a small area with chickens and almost-farm-like environments.
I remembered helping out with my aunts with their cooking and even accompanying my cousins to the nearby Chinese high school. I had stopped going back when I started preparing for my final year in primary school… and I have never been back since.
We took the train from Woodlands and got off at Kluang, Malaysia – my mother’s hometown. Stepping off the train, and onto the same old platform, brought back a tremendous flood of memories of my childhood.
I returned to Malaysia for a reason – it was not because I wanted a trip to distract myself, but to answer this dreadful premonition that was in my heart and mind. There was one person whom I was close to, and I had to meet and talk to this person even for a few minutes or seconds; and it was my third maternal aunt.
She operated a simple hawker stall just opposite the previously mentioned Chinese high school. She became extremely animated when she realised the stranger who accompanied my parents was actually me. “I have returned,” I greeted her shyly. Her warm smile almost broke my heart, and started offering to cook for me.
My mother saw my exchange with my aunt, and asked me quietly later, “Is there a reason why you wanted to come back?” I deflected that with lies: I wanted to see my old home town, I wanted to eat the good food, I wanted to heal my broken heart… and so on.
Just last month, my third maternal aunt passed on due to third-stage cancer. My mother cornered me again and demanded whether I knew. I did have a premonition: I felt it and that’s why I wanted to go back.
And now, I am having another one.
Beyond the fact that I am staying with my parents again, there was something nagging at me – my parents themselves. In a way, I am glad I am able to be nearer my parents should the time come. On the other hand, it is a worrying burden that I am quietly enduring before the inevitable happens.
Lately, I noticed a change and I do hope that I am wrong.
This morning my mother spoke to me about arrangements for the family and made me promise to look after my sister. I already know the details that are to go into such arrangements – my mother and I think alike, and we just have a knack for certain things. When she talked, I shared with her what my intentions are regarding such arrangements, and she said she felt a burden lifting from her shoulders – she knows that I know what to do, and that I will be able to look after the various things for the family.
Sure, I know how to be fair and where to draw the lines. Still, it is a terrible burden for one person to carry and undertake through the years – but this is my lonely journey, I guess.
What about my sister? She is someone who needs to be looked after. I do hope that she can find a good companion to trust and rely on – that’s my own wish as her brother. Till then I can only do what it is expected as her only older brother. And she knows that I will always unconditionally turn up when she needs help – no need for words, I will be there.
But you know, I am tired. Really tired.