A few days ago, during a CNY dinner, one of my uncles whipped this picture out on his phone and showed it to us. He's the groom in th...

Three years more.

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A few days ago, during a CNY dinner, one of my uncles whipped this picture out on his phone and showed it to us. He's the groom in the photo.

And when I was looking at who was in this photo, I got a shock.


I saw my Ye Ye.
In other words, my grandfather from my dad's side. He's the one seated right in front of the bride and groom, in the middle of this picture like a damn boss he is. Haha. (and my Dad's the skinny guy with the big ears in front of my granddad)

I was shocked because I had seen so so so few photos of him. SO few that this one seemed like a little treasure uncovered. It was a wedding so it was a different occasion and it allowed me to paint another picture of my ye ye. A missing piece found, about this elusive man.

Now what was interesting for me was that this picture was taken in the year 1987. My elder brother was born in 1990. Just three mere years apart. If he had held on a little longer, he would've been able to see his first grand child breathe life. Just three years and we may have had the chance to give him happiness. Alas, he could not wait any longer. He took his final breath just six months after this photo was taken. He left this world before my brother entered it. Two breaths searching and yearning to reach out to one another - one tiny and the other weary. But they missed. By a hair's breadth. He didn't get to see his grandchildren who up till today, wish they could see, feel and touch him. And still wonder what kind of a man he was.

It is one thing to already have memories of a person and another, to always wonder what memories with a person could be like.

Three years more. That is all we ask for.

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I've heard a lot of stories about him. Oh, yes I have. The most prominent one of all was about him as a grand prix racer back in the day. And I believe I've mentioned it here before as well!

 photo DadsphotowithAllmanandTony.jpg
Top picture: Yeye in the front row seated on the left.
Middle: Uncle Tony, one of his good friends.
Bottom: Grand prix driver

Yes, I've heard this story a million times before told by my dad repeatedly about how he was one of the speedy gonzaleses of his time.

After going home on the night of the CNY dinner, I sat on a stool in my parents' room facing my dad and talked to him. I told him I was fascinated by that picture and that I was so happy to see that photo.

We started talking about my relatives in the photo.
Then it led to my grand dad.
Then it led to my grand dad's untimely death at the age of 51.
Then it led to stories of love and betrayal
And lastly, a very personal story of regret from my dad.

All of them, stories that I had never really heard before.

As my granddad's health started to deteriorate, and when he was lying on his death bed, I was told that the number of friends that he had dwindled. And only a handful of friends came to see him during his dying days. In fact, nobody really came to see him. This was all too different back in the day.

When Yeye was alive and kicking, he had a lot of friends because he was a generous man, always helping his friends and a lot of the time, waived the fees needed for the service he provided as a mechanic. It was always the kampong style of "no need pay now, pay next time". But that 'next time' never came, and he'd conveniently forget it for his friends' sake. So much so that my grandfather's friend, Tony Huggett, became so angry that he helped my yeye collect the money that was owed on his behalf. All of them came up to a total of $10K, which back at that time was a lot of money. Hell, it's still a lot of money now.

He was always giving away stuff at his workshop. When people asked if they could have something, my grand dad would give. One man asked for his television set, and he let him. He let him! Even when he was on his death bed, a 'friend' casually mentioned what a nice camera he had. It was a vintage, classic camera. The sort that would be expensive today. My granddad said... that if he wanted it, he could have it. And that man took it. He took it.

I asked, why was Yeye so stupid? Why did he let all these people take, take and take? So willingly until there was nothing left of him. They were practically robbing him with permission and perhaps even, submission. Why wasn't he able to see through people's intentions? Why???

I was told that he treasured his friends and valued their friendship a lot.

But I wasn't satisfied.

"Why couldn't he be more discerning with his friends? Doesn't he know what they were doing to him?"

And I got my answer. He wasn't loved by his own parents. So he poured his love into his friends, whether or not they had the best intentions. By giving and giving and giving. Unfortunately, there was little or no returns. Or rather, superficial returns. His mother had always practised favouritism and he grew up without much, really. He was the eldest of eight children and the least fortunate of the lot, having to strike out on his own and make a living.

Bottom line: he was not a man who was loved. And he died, alone, on his death bed. With a failed business, failed marriage, failed friendships. The man was nothing but a shell. And how is life worth living, when you are emptied out without love?

I pained for him. How he died this way... A man stripped of his pride and literally his possessions when everything was taken away from him. But if you think about it, he actually never really owned anything in the first place. He searched for love and belonging in others right from the beginning. And love in one form or another is something everyone has and should have. But the man did not. Oh, yeye........ You died in vain....

And as my dad continued talking, he shared his personal story of regret.

When my grand dad started growing weak and feeble, so much so that he relied on my dad for feeding and bathing him, he had this one humble request. And it was: To help shave his scraggly beard for him.

The man knew he was going to die. He wanted to look clean on his death bed.

But for months, my dad put it off for the longest time and procrastinated till the end of time. And the end it was. When my grandfather passed away, he died with his beard.

Up till today, my father has that one regret of not shaving his father's beard for him. The son did not fulfill that one last dying wish of his father's. He must have felt like he hadn't done his duty. It was that one simple unfulfilled task, which my dad still remembers not having done.

A story of regret.

It was then when a tear rolled down my cheek. Stories of pain, suffering and regret - the very human condition. All so painful to hear.

But I think... it is also with these stories of deep dark shame and suffering where the potential for love, joy and happiness is born. When my dad shared with me these stories, it created a bond between us. And I think there was an unspoken desire from my dad not to let what happened to my yeye happen to him, and eventually his own children. The cycle has to be broken. And from that experience we shared, that was where we found meaning between us, parent and child. To cherish what we currently have, no matter how insignificant they may be, before it is too late.

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Three years more, was all we ask for. And another two, before my grandfather could see me, his grand daughter who thinks about him even though our hearts have never beaten together in the same space and time. But love transcends all and he will be where my heart resides.



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