It's been two years ...

Hey Di,

Another twelve months has gone by since you left us. A great deal happened this past year.

Mum with her three daughters and grand-daughter, Melanie
Keeping your advice to never stop writing, I finally accepted the challenge to compile my stories and published a book.

With the support of Think City and MPH Publishing, and a host of friends and generous sponsors, my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, was launched on July 15 last year.

My journey to the publication of this book was a long and arduous one and I just praise God for opening the way for me in the most miraculous way.

Everything went well at the launch event and I should have been the happiest person in the room. But my joy was tinged with sadness because you were not there to witness it.

You used the tripod stand to snap this
shot of you and your three daughters
with your VW car!
It was deeply emotional for me to stand up and introduce the contents of my book because this book is a tribute to you and even your handwriting was part of its cover design.

My stories of our childhood and growing-up years are simply more vivid with the visual support of the photographs that you took with your faithful camera.

Our albums are full of these old mementoes and they bring back such clear memories of our early years living in the JB Hospital Quarters and then Larkin Gardens before your job transfer to Masai.

These photos played a part in helping me recall interesting snippets of life then and to share with readers how it was in those years.

In fact, a reader in the UK, Richard Hayter, claims that he remembers you and your Volkswagen car from the photo of you and your three daughters standing next to the VW. [You used the tripod stand to snap this shot of us!]

Richard placed an order for my book online and when he received it by post and saw that same photo again, he wrote me again to reiterate this point about you and your car.

On the way to the airport,
Mel found a good read at MPH
Back then, his family lived in Larkin Gardens and he remembers you and your VW, and even thinks that we were neighbours!

On the week when my book was launched, it went to the No. 1 spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller list and remained in this list for consecutive weeks and months.

At the end of 2017, on Christmas Day, I received a message from MPH Publishing to inform me that my book made it to the MPH Best Non-Fiction list for the year!

This is indeed beyond all that I ever dreamed of and I wish to share this joy with you!

It’s really different without you at home. Sometimes, in my waking moments, I imagine that I can hear the familiar sound of your shaver while you are shaving in front of that long mirror hung opposite my room door.

Meanwhile I have taken over most of your tasks at home. Like picking up the daily newspapers, taking out the trash bin and retrieving it, and taking the butter out from the fridge on time before breakfast so that it’s just right for spreading…

I say most of the tasks because I still don’t like watering the plants, weeding or doing any gardening. You know how I abhor (your own words!) coming face-to-face with creepy crawlies and the ugly Prince, so mum has happily taken over these tasks.

Mum on her wheelies in the mall with visitors from the UK
By the way, your Red Lily plants are still in the flower bed. Even though mum threatened to dig them out and dump them because they hardly flower, she has left them there.

On July 15, when mum and I came home from my book launch event, she reminded me to look at your Red Lilies. It was uncanny how they were blooming brightly that day!

Speaking of mum, she is well by God’s grace.

However last Oct 23, mum was walking out the back door to do her usual chores when she missed her footing and fell awkwardly. This resulted in a fracture on her left ankle.

Mum still wears an ankle guard...
She had to wear a cast for about four weeks and to let it heal, the orthopedic specialist advised her not to put any weight on this foot. To limit her movement, mum had to be wheeled about.

The wheelchair we inherited from gran became very handy. The walker frame and pronged cane walking stick that I bought for you, are also very useful for her.

While she was laid up, I did everything for her – and I mean EVERY thing. And Ruby helped with the grocery shopping and cooking.

You will be pleased to know that we did our best to keep mum clean and comfortable while she was on the road to recovery.

Incidentally, Pearly had planned to visit during this time because she was to return to the UK with Melanie, who was then exploring Borneo for a few months.

So mum had her three daughters with her while she was recovering from that awful fracture.

Christmas Eve at Amari Hotel, JB
After the fourth week, the cast was removed and mum was advised to wear an ankle guard when she wanted to move about. She’s still wearing it now when we go out and uses your cane walking stick for added support.

Even before her fall, mum already experienced weakness in her legs so when we took her to the mall, we would wheel her about comfortably in the wheelchair.

At first, she was reluctant to sit on the wheelchair but mum gradually accepted the wisdom of being wheeled about because the new malls are just too wide for her to walk without feeling tired quickly.

While Pearly was here, your three daughters went on a sisters’ holiday. Pearly wanted to revisit the highlands so we went to Fraser’s Hill and Awana in Genting Highlands.

We also went on the cable car from Awana to the Genting Resort on your behalf. When you talked about taking this cable car ride, it was then closed for upgrading.
. . .

Mum visited IKEA JB on Jan 1
Last Christmas, we had Uncle Steven and Aunty Polly with us. And we did things a bit differently.

For a change, we ate our Christmas Eve dinner at a buffet spread at the Amari, a hotel built on the site of the former Rex and Lido cinemas. I quizzed Uncle Steven about this and we had a few laughs.

I asked Uncle if he remembers the Rex and Lido cinemas and if he ever went for any movie dates there. In those days, going to watch a movie was the norm for most couples.

His spontaneous reply was, “Yes, I remember going on dates there!”

To which Aunty said, “But I don’t remember, maybe it was not with me.”  Oops!
. . .

Mum at dentist for her denture fitting
On Jan 1 this year, we wanted to do something different with mum. So we took her for a spin at the newly opened IKEA outlet here.

It has a self-serve restaurant popular for its Swedish meatballs so after we parked mum at the table, Ruby and I queued for about 40 minutes before we could get our meal to the table!

The minced meat meatballs was a choice that mum could appreciate because her teeth are not so strong now.

In fact, we consulted the dentist who did well to create a new set of dentures for mum. So now mum has a sweeter smile!
. . .

I wanted to commemorate the second anniversary of your departure by eating some of your favourite food but guess what, Di?

There is no more Teochew fish noodles by Leong Kee at Jalan Storey!

Last year, he was still serving it but a few months later, the business was taken over by a lady. She however, failed to keep to the original recipe and not long after that, they folded up.

Your favourite mushroom soup and grilled chicken
sandwich at Niniq Javanese Cuisine
There is also no more Niniq Bistro in Taman Pelangi. The café was rebranded as Niniq Javanese Cuisine to serve a menu of Javanese food and relocated to Taman Molek.

This means, they also don’t serve your favourite mushroom soup and grilled chicken sandwich made with focaccia bread.

When I did the restaurant review, I asked the owner if they will consider bringing back their popular mushroom soup and they replied saying, they will seriously consider it.

Not long after that, this signature mushroom soup came back as a special item in their menu of Javanese food!

This familiar fountain looks so small now!
On Jan 17, when mum, Ruby and I went for lunch at Niniq Javanese Cuisine for a taste of mushroom soup in your memory, we also invited Soke Har, whose office is nearby.

When we turned the pages of the menu, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Niniq not only brought back their popular mushroom soup but also their grilled chicken sandwich!

So I ordered this soup and sandwich.

The order-taker must have observed my excitement (who could possibly be excited about soup and sandwich?) and he politely advised that their serving portion of sandwich now was only half a focaccia sandwich.

Ah! So I placed a double order so that we may each have a quarter of the sandwich!
. . .

Recently, I was in Ipoh with Ruby and we saw that familiar fountain again at that roundabout where Hugh Low Street, Gopeng Road, Tambun Road and Brewster Road meet.

Ipoh chee cheong fun, just the way you liked to eat it
We always fondly remember the year-end holidays you took us to in Cameron Highlands and Ipoh. And being in these familiar places just made me miss you more than ever.

It looks so small now. I remember it used to look so huge when I was a kid but now it seems to have diminished in size…

I treasure the family photo we took at that fountain, with cousins Bernard and Esther and their mum, Auntie Annie. It no longer sprays water like a fountain but remains a prominent landmark here.

We drove through Jalan Chung Thye Phin where you grew up at Elim Gospel Hall and later at the food court, we chose to eat Ipoh chee cheong fun drizzled in sweet sauces and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, the way you taught us to like it.

Chinese New Year Sweet Cake or
neen ko, that you liked to nibble on
With the Lunar New Year just around the corner, I’ve had the privilege of previewing several festive menus. Some of these restaurants serve neen-go, the sweet cake that you liked to nibble on.

One of the restaurants serve it coated in grated coconut (which I don’t like!) so I asked them to serve mine without any coating. When I sank my teeth into this slice of sweet cake, it just reminded me of you.
. . .

Last week, MPH Publishing general manager, Sze Mei, informed me that MPH has adapted one of the heritage stories from my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and shared it online for the Lunar New Year.

I'm pleasantly surprised and deeply honoured that a story from my book was highlighted by MPH at this festive season.

Here is the link to the online post: Nine Symbolic Food of Chinese New Year You'll Never Miss

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of you or miss your presence. The going has been really tough but I’m still going about the business of living and doing all I can to keep mum comfortable, healthy, happy and looking good.

We love and miss you, Di.
Your daughter No. 3, P.

P.S. I will take mum to the hairdresser later this week to pretty herself up.

No comments:

Post a Comment