Four years

Sep. 24th, 2012 11:50 pm
morsla: (Default)
...and I'm still finding memories hiding in random places.

We can see part of the Showgrounds from our house: just the tops of the rides, and a few bright lights each September. Tonight I watched the fireworks out my window, and remembered the first time I saw and heard a firework show.

It must have been years ago - before the Quayside centre was built in Frankston, back when the current shopping sprawl was just a carpark. Standing in the dark, part of a crowd that had gathered to see the fireworks that night. Bethany was very little, riding on Dad's shoulders. I can't have been much bigger, but I remember standing there fascinated by the colours and patterns each firework made. Mum stood on the other side of me, probably making sure I didn't wander off, or walk into something while I stared at the sky. It's a nice memory to fix in my mind: all together in one place, attention fixed on one thing.

The colours of those fireworks stuck with me for years. Even back then, I wanted to know how everything worked, and some of my first non-dinosaur books were about chemistry. Not long after that, Dad started bringing home bags of aluminium cans from the restaurant, so that we could crush them down and take them to sell back to the recycling centre. We saved the coins in an old money box on the bookshelf, planning to buy a chemistry set with it. Time passed, catalogues of new distractions came and went, and the money was spent on other things - but the spark remained. Then years of uni and work ground it out of me, until I remembered about it tonight.

I don't need to rush out and find myself a chemistry set any more. Years of lab work have let me play with just about everything that you can burn, boil or separate, and I think I left the research science path a long time ago. I'll keep those memories though. Family, wonder and curiosity are all important things to hold onto, in whatever way you can.
morsla: (lookin)
Today marks three years since Dad passed away. I've been thinking about him a lot, lately - wondering what he'd be up to now, if he were still around.

Memories hide in the little things. [livejournal.com profile] aeliel and I went out for Yum Cha today, as a pre-birthday celebration for her 31st. The food always brings memories flooding back, along with the little rituals. When Mary-Anne poured some tea, I tapped two fingers on the table in thanks - remembering the story that accomanies that little bow, of an emperor walking among the people in disguise, pouring tea for his servants, and the terrified servants using it as a means to preserve the disguise without the dishonor of failing to bow in his presence. Dad told the story at Yum Cha years ago, and I remember it each time we go back.

There are some audio tapes sitting in a box in Somerville. I think some are marked 'family history', while another has my name on it. Dad recorded them in the weeks before he died - he spent quite a bit of time alone, putting things in order, knowing that he wouldn't have time to do or say everything that he wanted to. I still haven't listened to mine, but I think it's now time that I did. Three years ago, I wasn't ready to listen to them yet - but I've thought about them often during the past few months.

A lot has changed in the last three years. I got married, moved house, bought a house and went back to Uni. It's strange to think that so many of the major events that dominate my life in the present have appeared so recently. I hope that I never forget how I got here, or how much of my life was shaped by the years that I had with Dad. One day, I may have kids of my own, and I hope that I will remember enough to let them know who their grandfather was, and what he was like. The trick with memory is association - letting the mind connect thoughts to several reference points. My family memories are embedded in so many parts of my life that I hope they will stay with me in all the years to come.
morsla: (Dawn)
Today marks one year since Dad passed away.

Looking back, a great deal seems to have changed. I'm glad that each change has happened, but a little sad when I think of how much he's missed seeing. Maybe he's still keeping an eye on us, but we've missed sharing things with him.

My sister caught a train out to Somerville last night, and we had the whole family at home today - Mum, Bethany, Louise and I. It's been a quiet day, with lots of food involved: home-made yum cha for breakfast; pork and chicken for dinner. A day for remembering those who we have lost, and the heritage that we still carry.

I remember unwrapping plates of crackling pork and soy chicken in the Springvale Necropolis, helping Dad to lay out a meal at the graveside. We would pour glasses of tea and wine, and light incense at the grave. I would take a bundle of incense sticks around to each of the neighbouring graves - huge marble monuments, home to Chinese and Italian catholic families.

I used to leave incense in the flower-holder on each of the neighbouring graves. It seemed like the right thing to do, though many of them hadn't been tended in years. By the time I finished my walk, Dad would be starting to pack away the meal. Fruit and vegetables were left behind in the glass cabinet; tea and wine were poured into the ground. The meat would be wrapped up again and taken home, for the family to eat that night.

We didn't visit Springvale today, though I'd like to go back there soon. Mum has started a new shrine in the garden here - in the place where Dad used to burn offerings for his family. His ashes are here, and it seems better to remember him in the place he lived, rather than in a place that holds only sad memories. Today was a quiet day, but a good day for remembering.
morsla: (Default)
I've been looking into my family history a bit this week, after being questioned about Dad's family by one of my supervisors... enquiring about your father may be a natural way of placing someone in a social context, but it reminded me how little I actually know about either side of the family.

Dad came from Sarawak, Malaysia. He lived in a town called Seria, Brunei, before coming over to Australia. I've never visited either place, though I would like to one day.

Until last week, I'd always assumed that all the Chinese families in that part of Malaysia were Cantonese. Supriya has actually lived over there, and told me that the majority are from Hokkien - she was quite surprised when I told her that my family is from Canton. It makes sense, though... the Cantonese moved to the area for business, and I think my relatives have been employed as draftsmen and engineers by Shell since the company was created in the early 1900s. Grandpa (Leong Shui Pak) was a draftsman. I don't know much about Grandma's family (Jao Choon Moi) - I don't know any Cantonese, and Google is much more helpful for English references.

Dad was the first of his family to emigrate to Australia, though most of his family followed over the next decade or so. He came to study accounting (his least favourite subject, but the only one with government support...), worked in a restaurant to pay the bills, and decided to stay in the restaurant business after finding that accountancy wasn't actually very interesting.

Mum's family are Bells, and Pa (Andrew Bell) grew up at Gulf Station. Nana (Vera Goff) was born in England, though she moved to Melbourne very early. Our branch of the Bells arrived in Port Phillip on October 27th 1839, on the David Clarke - the first assisted migrant ship to reach the colony, bringing 229 Scottish migrants.

Going back even further, the Bells were a small clan from the Scottish border. We managed to get an official mention in a 1587 "list of unruly clans in the West Marches". The Bell line has been fairly well explored back to the 13th century, though I suspect that the Leong name goes back much further.
morsla: (lookin)
Happy year of the Ox to you all.

Traditions are strange things. After my grandparents died, I went with Dad to the Springvale cemetary to place offerings on their grave. Dad was following what he had seen his father doing, though he knew he was missing many of the traditions... his parents had never explained things fully before they passed away, and none of his other siblings had taken an interest. For him, the act of taking time for the rituals was more important - showing respect for the dead, and remembering them.

Before he passed away last year, Dad told me that he didn't expect me to continue the customs after he was gone. They had become a game of chinese whispers, changed by each generation, and he didn't want to burden me with them. I still intend to keep them alive, though, because they are a part of our family. Mum has kept the shrine, now with two generations of offerings on it. We still burn incense, and leave fruit on the altar. After we move down there next week, I will leave them a proper meal, with pork, chicken and wine. It will be a week late, but I hope they won't mind.

The New Year doesn't often fall in January. 35 years ago, the year of the Ox ended on the same dates as this year's festival. It's a particularly significant time of year for me, because my parents met for the first time that night - at the Chinese New Year ball in Box Hill.

This time around, Mum went out at midnight on Sunday to burn offerings for the dead as the new year began. A few hours later she boarded a plane for New York - a long flight to spend alone with your thoughts, especially when they turn to the past. I hope her trip goes well.
morsla: (mantis04)
It's been a few weeks of Interesting Times, though I seem to be surviving okay at the moment.

Firstly - thankyou to all the people who came to the funeral on Friday. I honestly hadn't expected to see anyone apart from family there (it being in the middle of nowhere, and on a workday) so it was a nice surprise to see so many friends. I'll write a bit more about the funeral later on, when I've had a bit more time to think about things.

[livejournal.com profile] aeliel got back from Europe on Thursday morning, and is still recovering from the jetlag. Neither of us have any kind of sleeping pattern at the moment. Instead, we've both been waking up at 4am and 2pm each day after sleeping for a few hours at a stretch. This worked okay during the weekend, but it might cause problems now that we're both back at work...

I got back to Melbourne late on Friday night, and ran the UniCon WM/Hordes tournament on Saturday. Most of the players knew a bit about what's been going on, and so they were very forgiving of the super-disorganised start to the day. I ended up with 22 players, after having about six drop out due to various problems. Good numbers, and the event ran very smoothly after the first round got underway. Lots of new players, too.

Today I returned to Tai Chi after a long break. I won't be able to make it to training next year, so I have about four weeks to learn whatever I'll be taking with me. The club seems to be slowly fading away, with almost no new blood to keep it going. Motivating undergrad students to do, well, anything except study seems like an impossible task these days. I can't remember the last time newcomers kept training until the end of a semester.

Anyway, time I got back to organising things that have been on hold for the past few months. You know, like that whole getting-married-in-about-a-month thing...
morsla: (Default)
Some people eat when they're feeling down. My family cooks.

It's a large family, full of people who understand that eating is an inherrently social activity. And so as relatives come to visit, they invariably come bearing food... the kitchen's now stuffed to the rafters, and I seem to have spent most of the last few days eating. Company has been good, but now I'm back in an empty house in North Melbourne.

I'll be spending a lot of time on the train this week - returning to Somerville on Sunday night, then to Melbourne on Wednesday, and then going back with [livejournal.com profile] aeliel on Thursday. I'm still intending to run my tournament at UniCon next Saturday, but I may not be feeling particularly talkative. Thankfully it's a fire-and-forget event - one scenario, no round draws, and the players manage everything during the day. It's a thirty-player event, and the convention will need the numbers.

If anyone would like to come, the funeral will be held next Friday. Here are the details from today's paper:
LEONG. Family and friends are invited to attend a Funeral Service to celebrate the life of Mr Wai Sing Leong which will be held in the Weeroona Chapel at Bunurong Memorial Park, 790 Frankston-Dandenong Rd, South Dandenong, on FRIDAY (Oct. 3) commencing at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Frankston Palliative Care. Envelopes will be available at the Chapel.
Please send me an SMS if you are planning to come along - moral support would be much appreciated
morsla: (Dawn)
November 10th, 1951 - September 24th, 2008

Dad passed away at 9:50am on Wednesday. He went into the palliative care unit on Monday, as his pain relief medication stopped working over the weekend. When I visited again on Tuesday afternoon he was still able to walk, but lost consciousness around 3pm. Mum, Bethany and I stayed by his side throughout the night, finally returning home around midday.

The hospital stay was originally intended as a short visit, to get him started on a new course of medication. I think that he knew, though. Six years ago, his sister had made the same journey. On Tuesday morning he told my cousin that he had "about 24 hours left", and stayed awake until after Bethany and I arrived. That night was the first he'd spent free of pain since falling sick.

He fought it right until the end, holding out for a week longer than either his sister or his mother. I hope that he has found them again, wherever he has gone.

Goodbye Dad. Be at peace.

Sudden

Aug. 7th, 2008 02:39 pm
morsla: (Dawn)
My father was diagnosed with liver cancer yesterday.

He has seen a liver specialist every three months for the past six years, after my aunt died of the same condition. Last Thursday, the specialist gave him a clean bill of health based on a liver function test - a preliminary screening, used to determine whether to use ultrasound to look for tumours. He's been in good health until early Tuesday morning, when mum took him to hospital at 2am with sharp pains in his side.

Yesterday's tests suggest that the cancer affects most of his liver. He's being screened today to see if it has gone anywhere else, as the doctors spotted a potential tumour on his lungs. I can only hope that the specialist missed it, as the alternative means that it's spreading much faster.

I will be heading back home tomorrow, and probably won't be back in Melbourne until next Wednesday. I'm planning to shift my work with me, as I'll be spending most of my time in Somerville for the near future. I will have (crackly) mobile reception and occasional dialup access, but for the most part I'll be offline for a while.

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