Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy 92nd birthday dad!
By God’s grace, dad celebrated his 92nd birthday yesterday.  The church family sang him the birthday song and later, we had a nice dinner to celebrate his special day.  Seeing the smile on his face, just being there among those who care for him, is truly a gift and I just thank God for blessing dad with a measure of good health.

When he left Ipoh for the South in the early 1940s, he probably did not know that he would meet a pretty JB girl and settle down here.  At that time the only family he had were Mr & Mrs George Wilson and the brothers and sisters he grew up with at Elim Gospel Hall, Ipoh. But dad gained a large family after he married mum, the eldest daughter of 11 siblings in grandfather’s family, with an extended family of uncles and aunts and ever increasing brood of nephews and nieces.

Mum and dad with their two grand-daughters,
Melanie Mullard [Left] and Amanda Loh [2nd from Right]
With a keen interest in the medical profession, dad went to Singapore during WW2 where he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.  [At that time Singapore and Malaya was still was one country.]  He told me that his nature of work was in rescuing the wounded.  As soon as the siren sounded for ceasefire, his medical team was the first line of rescue to reach any wounded soldiers, provide First Aid and rush them to hospitals.  When the war was over, he distinctly remembered that he returned to Ipoh by train. 

As British occupied Malaya was gaining stability politically and economically, dad saw a newspaper advertisement for staff recruitment in the Johor Baru General Hospital (JB GH).  Since he was already familiar with South Malaya, dad did not hesitate to apply and he came to JB to train with the JB GH as a Hospital Assistant. 

Dad with Emily, the "other grand-daughter"
Training under the British hospital administration in 1948 gave local trainees a taste of their high standards of excellence in every area of work from bed-making to maintaining records.  In those non-computer days, it was necessary to meticulously record everything manually and systematically, in cards and giant record books. 

Dad also loved to tell us about his bachelor days where he enjoyed hanging out with fellow trainees who later became his colleagues.  From old photos, I know that dad had a very active lifestyle – swimming and playing games like basketball and badminton as well as dancing! 

He fondly recalls the golden days when the hall in the nurses’ hostel would be turned into a ballroom and music was played from 78RPM vinyl records on old-fashioned turntables.  Those were happy days when there was often a line of nurses waiting for their turn to dance with him – the Dancing King!

Dad with Uncle Cyril, dinner together in June 2014
Just like most young people, dad had a group of close friends who used to enjoy jam sessions – playing music together – for their own fun and entertainment.  They had good times playing their banjo-mandolins, singing and probably serenading the nurses too.  

Sadly most of dad’s old friends have passed on and we don’t know of who else may still be around but we are in touch with Uncle Cyril Clark, dad’s former colleague in the JB GH, who is about 10 years his junior.  Incidentally, Uncle Cyril’s daughter and I were classmates and we remain in close touch even till today.

Dad sharing a tosai with Melanie in an Indian restaurant

When dad and his colleagues went on night duty, they would complete their rounds and stay awake with chit-chatting and he also made use of the time to learn to speak Tamil from his Indian colleagues.  Over the years, dad acquired quite a wide vocabulary and is able to have a short conversation in Tamil.  So when we visit Indian restaurants, he would have fun impressing the waiters and having some language practice with them!

At that time when mum and dad were based in the Government Health Centre in Masai, dad’s ability to speak Tamil gave Indian patients, who were not bi-lingual, a great deal of comfort and assurance when he could converse with them about their illnesses.  His interest in the Tamil language continued to develop after his retirement as he even started learning the Tamil script from a book I bought him and had some tutoring when he joined a class with the JB Senior Citizens Club. 

Dad, weeding the flower beds, wisely
seated on a wooden stool!
Even though he no longer attends the class, he still practices his Tamil script writing daily and diligently.  However, sitting down for too long in his advanced age, bent over the table to write, is causing a dull pain in his neck and back.  So now he wears his watch to keep a closer eye on the time and limits himself in writing practice so that he will avoid getting that nagging pain!

At this ripe old age, dad is doing quite well in managing his aches and pains.  In recent years he has finally accepted the fact that he can no longer cope with looking after the garden.  His pet plants have what we call, his tender loving care because he will water them twice a day – once in the morning and also in the evening.  Now the number of potted plants in the garden are gradually being reduced and what’s left are the hardy plants that can manage without his tender loving care.  

Now he can hardly do any weeding but he waters the plants – still using the watering can – as this is a form of exercise for him.  I know it is difficult for him to do less in the garden but he has to listen to his body.  That’s why I was glad to see him doing some weeding on one of his “good days” when his body permitted him to do a little more.  This was possible by wisely sitting on a wooden stool to comfortably reach the flower bed!

Dad with Emily and Soke Har

Dad’s hobby in reading is shared by my sisters and I and we used to enjoy shopping for non-fiction books for him but we have stopped that because he can no longer enjoy reading due to his deteriorating eyesight.  After the optometrist confirmed that his eyesight cannot be helped by corrective lenses, it took dad some time before he could finally accept this unhappy fact.  

Now instead of buying dad books to read, we buy him music from his era to listen to and his favourite BBC comedies that have been re-mastered into DVDs to watch on a big-screen HD TV.  Every now and then, when he decides to watch these shows, we can hear him chuckling away as he enjoys English sit-coms like Fawlty Towers, Mind Your Language and Keeping Up Appearances!

Dad with Veronica, his favourite
[and only!] daughter-in-law!
Dad may have come to JB with nothing much but over the years, he has gained the love and respect of friends and family members.  I know his faithful presence in Johor Baru Gospel Chapel is a great encouragement to younger people as he still actively participates in the weekly meetings.  His gentle ways endears him to many so it’s no wonder that he’s been adopted by our church family as their uncle and in particular by Emily, as her grandfather!

Looking back, it’s interesting to note that among all the lovely nurses dad met in his dancing days, he married mum who was then a midwife with the JB GH – a nurse who has no interest in dancing!  We are all very blessed because she is the perfect match for him, a helpmate and companion, even to this day.  We may not say it often enough, but we love you dearly, daddy.  Happy 92nd birthday!


1 comment:

  1. Lee Lang Aw11/01/2014

    Great story of your dad. God bless him with good spirit and happy soul. .Thanks for sharing.