Sunday, August 29, 2010


Not liking any of the mooncakes that one can buy and finding them too sweet and greasy, my father decided to make his own mooncakes. These are the low sugar, low fat organic mooncakes he made over the weekend. The darker coloured ones have date paste and the lighter coloured ones have green bean paste in them. It is his first attempt and the results are just perfect.

My father never fails to impress.

He was born in the 30's at a time when there were only wars, more wars and yet some more wars. A few months after the Japanese had surrendered he came to Hong Kong.  As a 13-year-old young refugee who had never been to school and did not know anyone in Hong Kong, he found a job as a junior sailor and went on-board a cargo ship to Malaysia. With the very little money he earned, he managed to support the livings of his parents and his brothers and sisters, who were then all stuck in Tianjin. He taught himself English and continued to perfect his skills as a sailor. One examination after the other, he finally became a Captain, before he turned 26.

My father spent half of his life on ocean going ships. As a father of four and uncle of kids of my other uncles who preferred not to work, he had to work extremely hard. He never took any extended leave so that he could earn the extra bonuses. In my younger days I saw him probably less than 20 days in a year. Although we had very little time together, I was somehow more attached to him. I guess it was because he was the easy to identify hero and I, foolishly enough, did not have the wisdom to see all the sacrifices and contributions of my stay-home mum.

A few years after his retirement my father took up another job - to take care of his wife who was suffering from Pick's disease. Anyone who has experience with patients of dementia will know what it is like to take care of a patient whose brain steadfastly decides to shut down a part of it every day. When she was formally diagnosed as a Pick's disease patient, all the doctors predicted that she would live for another three or four years. It turned out that she lived another eight whole years, thanks to my father's 24/7/365 care and attention. My father's place was like a hospital ward. There were breathing aids, wheelchairs, mechanical mattress, electrical nebulizer, feeding apparatus and all kinds of tubes.

Witnessing the whole degeneration process (memory loss, personality change, loss of speech, immobility, incontinence, inability to swallow, breathing difficulty and finally death) was painful. My mother left two years ago. I did not feel particularly sad when she died. There was this guilty feeling of relief...

There were times that we were worried that our father would not recover from our mother's death. Every time we went to his place he would tell us things like, "Your mum died 435 days ago", "it would be your mum's birthday in 112 days", and so forth. The mooncakes shown in the picture above are testimony to his partial recovery from his wife's departure. He is always a curious and energetic man and wants to try something new. I hope he will remain so.


Chris. said...

A very moving story. Big footsteps to follow,your father sounds like a very interesting man.Cherish the moon cakes and the times together.
Moon cakes are often too sweet and sickly, home-made ones must be better!

Anonymous said...

My mother died from multiple organs failure after many years of progressive dementia. I know the pain of going through the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for some months and have been impressed by how thoughtful your writing is. From the piece on mid life crisis to soy sauce (I went with friends and bought as many bottles as I could carry), to Aman resorts (which I totally agree) and Cats and Dogs etc.., they all strike a chord with me. This piece about your father is most moving and no wonder you come across so balanced and thoughtful. He reminds me of many in his generation who started with so little and yet achieved so much. Congratulations!

W said...

Hi Anonymous,

You know what, my wife cannot stop laughing after reading your comment. She thinks you must be a big fan of Mr. Monk.

Anonymous said...

Your story is so moving and inspiring. Blessed are you to have him, may his strength and example continue to inspire you.

I say this as someone who spent a lot of her life looking (foolishly and unsuccessfully) for a father substitute after begging her mother to leave her father ever since she was 14. My mother never did.

ps: thanks for your comment on my blog a moment ago... I'm so glad I hazarded a guess and stopped by :)

ChanO said...

The hardship the previous generations have known is really beyond our comprehension. They have inner strength that one only unearths when tested. Generations subsequently have had only diversions, no true worries.
Bless your good father, he sounds like a very special man and your are lucky to have him.

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