Tears and souvenirs

In the weeks while our family was together, we went through dad’s things to sort out what were still useful and which items to keep or give away.

Key ring I bought for dad which I'm using now
Dad has given us a lifetime of shared experiences and each item we looked at brought back a flood of fond memories.  It was bittersweet to see dad’s familiar handwriting and discover how he carefully stored what was important to him.  Besides old receipts that date back to the 1970s and user manuals for appliances that were no longer in use, we made a few exciting discoveries.

Mum opened dad’s nightstand to sort through his things and we saw a few books, old cassette tapes and knick-knacks.  She sorted through old documents, mementoes and photos and we saw some of dad’s black-and-white passport photos that were taken at different ages.  These were mandatory shots snapped professionally at photo studios and kept so well that we could see the details quite clearly, even as his hair was thinning and greying at the temples.  

Dad's recycled exercise book, a bit stained
but filled with his handwritten notes!
Looking at such nostalgic mementoes had its lighter moments especially when my sisters and I couldn’t help laughing at the sight of mum’s bee-hive hairdo in a photo from way back when it was fashionable to back-comb hair and set it into a huge helmet!

From the locker next to dad’s favourite chair, I found a few pairs of dad’s old spectacles as well as his Ray Ban shades among separate files for water and electricity bills, word puzzle books and recent magazines.  While most of the old magazines would go to the paper recycle bin, one old exercise book is a precious memento that I would like to keep.

Dad had recycled this exercise book for his own use and the subject title on the cover originally written as, “Lectures on Infectious Diseases,” had lines drawn over it and another title written above was: “Jokes, Humours & Quotations.”  The date written under his name was 3.7.48 – 3 July 1948 – a date long before he met mum, and he even learnt to write his name in Chinese characters at the left side of the cover!

Samples of Japanese currency used during the Japanese
Occupation of Malaya
Because of a dark stain on the side of the cover, it looked like dad used a fountain pen to copy quotable quotes, jokes and funny definitions into this exercise book.  I was engrossed in reading page after page of his scrawl and couldn’t help feeling touched and tickled at some of the words and phrases that dad thought was useful or funny enough to keep for his own reference.

I guess in those days, young men like dad would be writing to young ladies and these words and phrases may be used to impress or amuse them.  Yes, back then there was an art to writing cards and letters.  In modern times, these words may be readily available online but in those days, I think if dad came across a cute or cheeky phrase in newspapers or magazines, he had to copy them down for future reference!

My brother, Kenneth [2nd from Left] with
his wife and family, wearing dad's
favourite home shorts!
Among his personal things, mum also discovered a stash of cash that dad had squirreled away.  But what was more exciting was a collection of currency known as banana notes that was used during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya.  Dad told us about how he had to learn to sing the Japanese national anthem and bow to the fierce Japanese officers whenever he met them.  It was an era when he picked up a smattering of Japanese language and he enjoyed teaching us common greetings and phrases.
While going through dad’s wardrobe, we saw how dad had organized his handkerchiefs in a little box and there were even a number of brand new unopened packs of handkerchiefs, underwear and singlets.  As mum sorted through which clothes to give away or dump, my brother and his family could not resist wearing dad’s favourite home shorts and posing for a photo in his memory!

We also discovered over half a dozen brand new Panasonic electric shavers that I had bought for dad over some time because he always insisted on having the same old model.  To avoid failing to find the same model, I usually bought a few to keep on standby so that whenever he asked to replace his old shaver, I would have one of the same model ready for him.  I must have forgotten where I kept the new shavers and bought more each time I came across the same model and so there were seven in stock!

Dad kept a record of the books he read in this pocket size
index book, the pages so full that he's writing this on the
inside front cover
From our bookcase, I uncovered a wide collection of dad’s books on theology and noticed his particular interest in topics like cults and isms, eschatology and current world developments that are fulfilling Bible prophecy.  Many of these topics are now available from an online Google search but dad was already studying this from books and magazines in an era when the internet was still uncommon in this part of the world.

From dad’s collection of books and magazines, the topics and genre that interested him was obvious.  While dad read widely, his interest was in non-fiction, true-crime and war stories.  My sisters and I used to buy him books from this genre while we were abroad but we stopped doing so a few years ago because dad’s eyesight was deteriorating and he could no longer read that font size of the print in most books.

Pages from dad's binder filled with war magazines!
In earlier years while he could still read the standard font size of newspapers, magazines and books, dad did not limit himself to his usual choice of subjects but often read books from my collection.  I noted this from a pocket-size index book that dad kept to record the book titles that he had read, probably because he could not remember all the titles and needed the easy reference to remind him of books which he had already read!

Meanwhile, dad's subscribed magazines are still arriving by post and I have written to request them to discontinue sending the magazines.  In the store room, I discovered that dad had stored away his old collection of war magazines that was accumulated from a subscription for “Images of War, the Real Story of World War II” which was my gift to him.

Dad's scrap books of cartoons, the oldest
at the top with two more of Lat cartoons!
Besides a box full of magazines, there was also a binder filled with a series of full-colour magazines.  Dad lived through the war and that was probably why he was keen on reading true accounts of what had happened in other parts of the world during the war.  In those non-internet days, book and magazine subscriptions such as this provided accurate accounts and good photos of any particular topic of interest.

In another box, I discovered three thick record books which dad had kept individually inside the protective cover of plastic bags.  When I spotted the word, LAT, pasted on the cover of one book, I recalled that the first of these was a scrap book that dad started ages before I was born!

Dad had such a wacky sense of humour that he even had a hobby in collecting cut-outs of cartoons from newspapers and magazines and pasted them into these scrap books.  I hardly know some of the cartoon characters in the first book because they were published way before my time and the only ones I recognised were Nancy and Sluggo and Blondie and Dagwood.tly recalled ecordd thick record books that dad kept inside the protective cover of plastic bagsteaching us greetings and phrasesnever  I realise that I first started to enjoy the scrap book by colouring in the black-and-white cartoon strips with my Neo-Magic pens!

Old bill for cotton mattress ordered for me!
But I clearly remember the next two scrap books that were filled with newspaper cut-outs of Lat cartoons.  In those days when the cartoon was published weekly, we often picked up the newspaper and found a hole on the page because someone – likely to be dad – had cut out the cartoon!  I used to help dad paste the Lat cartoon cut-outs on the scrap books and my siblings and I used to enjoy hours poring over the pages, laughing at how clever Lat was at observing those Scenes of Malaysian Life. 

Lat cartoons were a family favourite and when collections of vthese cartoons were pvublished in a series of books, we bought them for dad.  But I guess our scrap books of Lat cartoonsv may be a wider collection than those published in books because we diligently collected the cut-outs from the weekly newspapers for years. 

The newsprint may be yellowed and the edges of the cut-outs dog-eared from being flipped about so often but I think we are going to have many more hours of reminiscing pleasure when we go through those books again.

Check out the letter to editor I wrote in 1979!
When I turned to the back of the scrap book, I discovered that dad had pasted his picks of newspaper cut-outs of interesting news articles.  Among the reports published about family members, there were some of my articles and letters to the editor in the New Straits Times and Malay Mail.  I must admit that I had forgotten about ever having written them but seeing them again in dad’s scrap book was like opening a floodgate of memories.

Dad was notorious for cutting out news articles without headlines, dates and names of the publication but on one page where he pasted a photo story on our Aunty Sylvia on her return from the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, my eyes were riveted to a small cut-out pasted next to it.  Dad had scribbled my name and date, 21/8/1979, on that piece I had written under the pseudonym, Dog Lover.  This to me, is a precious memento of how dad was encouraging me to write even back then in the 70s.

While I was in the UK a couple of years ago, I found key-ring souvenirs for mum and dad embossed with words which aptly voiced my thoughts.  While mum is still using that key-ring with her set of keys, I’ve claimed back the one I gave to dad to use with my keys.  The inscription on the leather tag reads: “My Dad – Throughout my life you have been there with the love and support that comforts me each and every day.”  Dad, you know that I always treasured your quiet pride in my achievements, no matter how small.  Thanks, D!

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