Wednesday, October 30, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FAVORITE OCTOGENARIANS

October has turned out to be a month to celebrate senior citizens. Just last week we had the U3A carnival (19 Oct) held in UPM and the National Day of Older Persons held in Kuantan (22 Oct). I have written about these events in my previous post.

October is also the month of birthdays in my family. My grand-daughter Hana celebrated her 9th birthday on 13 Oct. My mother turned 87 on 10 October, my brother Henry's 64th birthday fell on 14 Oct, and my Uncle Xavier marked his 80th birthday on 22 Oct. He celebrated the auspicious occasion with his family, friends, former colleagues and golf buddies with a grand dinner on 20 Oct at the exclusive Read Masonic Centre.

My mom on her 86th birthday last year, with my younger daughter Belle.
Photo taken at the Dementia Homecare Centre in Teluk Panglima Garang.

Before the month comes to a close, I would like to pay tribute to my mom and my uncle.

My mom circa 1940s
My mother Annie Goh Kwee Foung, 87

In her own way, my mom is an amazing woman. Widowed when she was only 30, she never remarried, although her exquisite oriental beauty attracted many suitors and secret admirers. In the 1950s, young widows were expected to honor the memory of their deceased husband by remaining faithful. My mom probably also didn't want to incur the wrath of my paternal grandmother, the matriarch of the family. Everyone was in awe and fear of my grandmother.

My mom's beauty salon in Batu Pahat
I never really knew my dad. He died young, leaving my mom with six children to raise. I was the eldest at 8, with my siblings aged 7, 6, 4, 2 and the youngest soon to be born. My mom was pregnant when my dad passed away after a short illness. Under such circumstances, and with little financial support, my mom went through a period of depression. She had to be sent away for treatment.

At the time, my mom was proprietress of a beauty salon in Batu Pahat. My dad had helped set it up for her in 1947. It was the income from this modest little business that fed the whole family.

Mom and her six children. Photo taken in 1961.
My uncles and aunties also chipped in to help. Some helped with financial assistance, others volunteered to take in my younger brothers and sisters. That is why when it comes to dialects and languages, Henry speaks Hokkien fluently, Shirley is more comfortable with Mandarin, Raymond and Felicia with Cantonese, and I speak English as my first language. My sister Molly and I were the only two siblings who remained with Mom till we left Batu Pahat after completing our Form 5.

Me, my brother Henry and my sister Shirley
on mom's 87th birthday on 10 Oct 2013
The years have passed quickly. My mom is now 87 years old. Diagnosed with dementia in 2011, she has since moved to a residential home that caters specially to people with dementia. I have written about this home in Teluk Panglima Garang in previous blog posts. She is happy there with her new friends and trained staff to see to her needs. I visit her as often as I can. I know one day as her dementia progresses and her memory fades, she may no longer recognize me as her daughter.

I salute my mother and all mothers who toiled through sweat and tears to raise their children, provide them with a good education, and instil in them the right values.

My Uncle Xavier Goh Khen Wah, 80

My uncle Xavier is my mom's younger brother. After completing high school at St Paul's Institution in Seremban, he left on a government scholarship to study electrical engineering in Australia. Upon his return, he worked as an engineer in the Telecommunications Department of Malaya and remained there till his retirement in 1986. He has been always close to my mom. His financial and moral support helped her through the difficult years.

My uncle was posted to various parts of West Malaya in his early years with Telecoms Malaya. This may explain why he can't stay put for long in one place. I remember during school holidays, he would take my siblings and my cousins on trips to the towns where he was posted. I can still recall one trip in particular to Sungai Petani in Kedah. That was in November 1963. It was the most enjoyable school holiday I had in my growing up years.

Visiting North Korea
At his recent 80th birthday dinner, Uncle Xavier shared a slide presentation of his travels. He has been bitten by the travel bug ever since his early days as a student in Australia. Despite his advancing age, Uncle Xavier is always eager to be off to another destination every chance he gets, most of the time back-packing to exotic places off the beaten track.

He has been to more than 55 countries to date - from the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru to the old monasteries in Bhutan and Tibet, from Jerusalem in Israel to Pyongyang in North Korea, my uncle has probably seen all the wonders of the world. Uncle Xavier has had a triple bypass, but this has not diminished his wanderlust. He continues to enjoy life as an intrepid world traveller and avid photographer.

With young novice monks in Bhutan
At the wailing wall in Jerusalem
Uncle Xavier with Aunt Sylvia at his recent 80th birthday celebration on 20 Oct 2013

To my mom and Uncle Xavier, a big toast to both of you on your birthday. May there be many more happy returns of the day.

2 comments:

boazjakin said...

Lily Fu,
Congratulations for a Beautiful and touching posting. More so for me to make me want to comment on it, though I have visited your interesting blog a couple of times.
I am indeed very happy to see pictures of both Henry and my WB. Xavier Goh. Guess you know what I mean by "WB". What a pleasant surprise.
I have known Henry Fu from Kuantan to my working days in Batu Pahat when he was with LPP. We were both in the Rotary Club in BP. I seem to have lost touch with him. I had also known your uncle for a long time though of late I have not been to Reads. I have heard from him his many interesting travel (back-packing) stories. And of course he is a very good photographer. I still treasure the photos he took of me on my installation. He has accompanied me a couple of times traveling to Muar to attend my "monthly meetings".
Please convey best regards to both of them.
And Happy Birthday to all mentioned in your posting.
Cheers
Chua Piak Chwee
(http://memoriesare.blogspot.com)

el-f said...

Hi,Piak Chwee,

Thank you for the kind comments about my blog post. It is truly a small world made even smaller by social media. I shall definitely tell Henry and Uncle Xavier that you have made 'contact'!
I just visited your blog and enjoyed viewing the many travel photos you have posted. I must say my uncle and you have much in common.
Happy journeys ahead!