morsla: (Default)
Today we ended an era, and hopefully started a new one.

We farewelled Andrew Bell: father to 8, grandfather to 22, great-grandfather to 23, and great-great-grandfather to two more - a sizeable clan who all were lucky enough to spend time with a truly remarkable man in the 95 years he was with us. I had wondered what will become of the family gatherings now we are scattered far and wide, but I found a place in the new "middle" generation, with something of a shock: we're no longer the grandkids of the family. Suddenly, we've become uncles and aunties - with a whole generation of nephews and nieces (once removed, but who's keeping count?) around us. Maybe there will be something that helps us to keep in contact after all.

The giant Christmas gatherings are in the past now, as smaller family groups now own that time of year - but that doesn't mean we all just keep drifting further apart. I'm exhausted from a day of running around after Ariadne and her new-found friends, but it's a good kind of exhaustion. I think I'd like to do this again.
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: (Dawn1)
Yesterday was my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. We crammed as many friends and family as possible into the St. Margaret's church hall in Mooroolbark, to celebrate a partnership between two of the most inspiring people that I know.

So far, the family numbers 8 children (four boys, four girls), with 22 grandchildren, who have 18 great-grandchildren among them. The number of great-grandkids is only going to rise over the next few years, as many of my cousins are starting families of their own...

The world has changed a great deal since Nana first came to Australia from England, and Pa was born at Gulf Station. Both of them have been extremely active in the community throughout their 92-odd years. Among the guests were friends from sports teams (Pa played tennis and cricket, and both of them still play bowls each week), Manchester Unity/Australian Unity (Pa was lodge secretary for 34 years), and the Probus club. Not bad for a jack-of-all-trades who moved out to Moorolbark for a job with the railways.

They had an impressive stack of cards and letters sitting on the table - cards from the Queen and the Governor General, and letters from the Prime Minister, Governor and Premier, plus many from their friends across the world who weren't able to make it.

I knew that people traditionally get a letter from the Queen on their 100th birthday. I wonder how many reach their 70th wedding anniversary? I wouldn't be surprised if 100th birthdays were the more common of the two events.
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.

Also...

Sep. 26th, 2008 08:07 pm
morsla: (lookin)
I helped Pa pick some fruit yesterday, as the citrus trees are almost collapsing under the weight. He turned 91 back in January, and was regretting the fact that he had to give up playing golf just before his stroke. He can't walk very far these days, and misses the exercise that he used to get. While musing about his health, he turned to me and said,

"I used to play golf every week with this chap in his eighties - he's probably still playing now. Two years ago he had a stroke out on the course, as far from the clubhouse as you could get. Must have been a mile across the green.

I carried him all the way back to the clubhouse. He's not a big chap, and I didn't mind the weight. It was picking him up and putting him back down every time I wanted to play another hole that really got me..."
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: (Dawn1)
Louise and I may be moving down to Somerville next year. I still have very mixed feelings about it, but the benefits currently outweigh the drawbacks.

Distance is going to be an issue. I've spent ten years living in walking distance of just about everything, so it will be a bit of a shock to move an hour or two down the penninsula. Things like Tai Chi won't be possible, at least through Zi Ran Men. If I took a bus/train/tram in to the morning classes I'd need to leave home at 5:30 each morning... Working from home shouldn't be affected, though quick meetings to discuss things with clients would be replaced by a whole lot more phonecalls.

Being miles away from friends is another big one - probably the biggest, in fact. Though with a handful of exceptions I doubt I've seen many of you more than 2-3 times this year. It's been busy, and nobody ever seems to be free on weekends these days. Living in the city gives no real guarantee that I'll catch up with people, though it's comforting to think that I probably could if I really needed to.

Living in Somerville means being close to family though, and that's important. Even if we stayed in North Melbourne I'd want to spend as much time as possible with Mum. From a purely practical point of view, there's too much work for one person to do on the property. It's not a huge place, but all three acres are covered in garden and a lot of it produces fruit or vegetables that need to be picked regularly. It's also a big house, and needs people to help fill it.

[livejournal.com profile] aeliel and I would still be driving up to the city to see people whenever we can - probably on weekends, and Wednesday nights.There's about eight years of tradition going in the Wednesday night games, and it's a habit I'd rather not break :)

We'd also be able to save some money at last. I love the area I'm living in at the moment, but we're slowly being squeezed out of the rental market. Four years into our lease, we've had our rent go up by $45/week since January. Buying a place around here is impossible at the moment, but should be more possible if we can spend a year or two putting money away.

There's still lots to think about, though the end of the year is rushing up quickly. Louise leaves for France next week, and the wedding will be a few weeks after she gets back to Melbourne. With so many things happening over the next few months I suspect that December will be along before I've had a chance to notice Spring.

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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