anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

A Passing

My uncle passed away yesterday. He was my mother's 二哥. I was not close to him in the same way that I am not close to most of my relatives, but reading my mother's Whatsapp message still brought on a wave of shock and sadness. I spent most of the day occupied with activities - impromptu tennis with Edward, shopping for baby clothes for Edward and Daffy's newborn daughter as a way of saying thank you for the delicious home cooked meals they made for me, and then dinner with them and Dominic at The Old Bicycle cafe, which had delicious food - and didn't dwell too much on it. When I brought it up over drinks with D at the Pick, I wondered if my lack of a stronger response was a sign of the coldness of my heart. He reassured me, rather sweetly, that it wasn't, that I shouldn't guilt-trip myself into feeling more than I do.

Now that I have a moment of peace and quiet, I am dwelling on it a bit, and I suddenly remember how my uncle would drive to Johor Bahru and drive back to Singapore with 20 packets of otah from a particular stall that he knew that I liked. He knew that I liked it because he was the one who introduced it to me. He even told my mom how to cook it for optimal taste.

My uncle was old-fashioned in many ways. He was peripherally involved with the communist movement that swept through many Chinese schools in Singapore in the 50s. He was stubborn, and was stubbornly fixed on his views, and refused to change his ways. From what my mother told me, he was also quite bad-tempered (this trait seems to run through my family, from my grandfather to his children, including my mother, and to me).

But when he was healthy, he was jovial, always cracking jokes. He was also generous, and he showed his love for others not through words or overt actions, but through food. He would go out of his way to some hawker stall in some random part of Singapore to buy some especially delicious food. He would pack curry rice from Tiong Bahru for my brother, for instance; roast duck or chicken for my grandmother when she was still alive; and of course, otah from Johor Bahru for me.

My mother told me a few days ago that my uncle's cancer had deteriorated suddenly and rapidly. I somehow thought that I would be able to see him when I went home on 6 July. When things like this happen - when a family member passes away - and I'm on the other side of the world, I cannot help but wonder why I am even here, what I am chasing, what I really want.

I wish I'd had the chance to see him for the last time before he passed away. But such sentiment is banal, even tautological, and it is meaningless because life catches you by surprise, and it leaves without warning, and you can't plan for its arbitrary whims and fancies. It is unfortunate that I was not home, but this is not about me. My uncle had cancer and he'd lost so much weight, and I could see that he was not in a good shape when I was home last December.

At least now he has stopped suffering. Rest in peace, 小舅舅.


Dominic believes in some sort of a finality, in a larger picture, in goodness as truth, in desolation as the work of the enemy/devil and so such feelings are illusions that distract us from reality. He thinks that I should meditate.

Maybe he was right when he said that we would never really know what reality is, and so it is meaningless to speculate on whether his idea of reality really is reality; hence, all that we can do is to strive and make it the best reality that we can. For some reason, however, I am not fully convinced.

A few nights ago, he mused about how love involves sacrifice, and has to involve sacrifice to be meaningful. He was talking about the sacrifices that parents make for their children, but as I listened to this, my mind flashed to 2012, to Wei Chuen, and things that I thought I had buried suddenly emerged from the depths of my mind, and I started crying.

I think that the quality of my love is suspect. I think that I am too self-centred to make sacrifices whole-heartedly. I think that period of my life has been more formative than any others. I think that was when I stopped seeing life as having intrinsic value, and the issue of having children became a deeply philosophical question, and I am still unable to commit to an answer one way or the other...or rather, my reason takes me in one direction and my intuition, or pure animalistic desire, or mother instinct, or whatever it is, resists it. And so the status quo remains.

Sometimes, I think that I had exhausted all the purity of my love and ability to love when I loved Wei Chuen and corrupted it with the blackness of my despair. It feels as if the relationships subsequent to that one, including my current one, have been, at best, an approximation of that; and at worst (or more truthfully), a faded fascimile of a love - mine - that was pure, hopeful, optimistic, committed, unquestioning. Is that entirely out of my reach now? Even my feelings for G were of a different variety; they were intense and irrational and I felt as if he changed my life, but it was not pure; it was tainted by my rationality, pulled in by my pride, twisted by our ill-fated circumstance.

My feelings for Dominic are tainted, perverted, by the burden of my experiences, of love found and lost, of love failing, each and every time. I am afraid of what empirical evidence suggests is the inevitable; but he deserves more than my hesitation, second-guessing, pessimism.

He deserves more than me. I cannot let go of what happened in the past. I do not think that I have truly come to terms with it, or have forgiven my own actions. London taught me to compartmentalise, to bury things that shake the very foundation of who I am; and sometimes, the innocuous words of a thoughtful, contemplative, genuinely good person trigger memories that I suppress. And now I suppress them once more. Dominic thinks that we can make up for past transgressions by being good in our daily lives. I think that is not incorrect, but what if the transgression is grave, so grave, that no paltry act of goodness, even cumulative, can make up for it?

Sometimes, I think that I should stop short-changing him out of a full, proper relationship. Sometimes, I don't know why I am forging a connection with someone else when I am so disconnected from myself.

But I love the way he looks at me, the purity of his soul, his intelligence, the goodness of his heart. Perhaps he is the one who can stitch me back together.
Tags: dominic, family, g, love, personal, relationships, wei chuen

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