We are a family united by humour.
Okay, I’m cheating; it’s an image of words. Still…
We are a family united by humour.
Okay, I’m cheating; it’s an image of words. Still…
I am 34 years old right now. By the time you turn 21, I will be 52, and when you come to be my age right now, I should be 65.
Thankfully, because of the way this country is run right now, by the time you turn 34, I should still have a good 10 years left before I retire. This means not only that I can still probably provide for the family, I can probably also have paid off the family debt and also for my funeral expenses. What I’m bequeathing to you after I die will depend on how far I’ve been able to save by the time I’m about to croak, so I’ll leave that for later.
Right now though, I want to pass down to you my instructions on the more pressing matter how to deal with my passing.
First: The moment I stop breathing, stay calm and compose yourself. No point crying, feeling sad or grieving for at least the next few days, because I got to be honest with you, your dad can’t help you when he’s dead. You need to be strong for the span of time it takes to do what I need you to do. So man up.
Two: find me a casket, and don’t cheap out. I need a good quality box with clean lines (if Apple made caskets, I want that one) and a cushy interior. Depending on whether I look good when I die, get something with a window. If I died after getting hit by something in the face, then don’t bother. Put a clip-on fan in there as well, if they don’t have one installed; I hate being warm. And make sure you put the pillow I sleep on every night to support my head; if I’m going to rest in peace, I need to at least sleep with the smell of my own pillow. If the pillow doesn’t fit into the head of the casket, cut it and remove a bit of the stuffing. I don’t mind, it’s only going to be there a couple of days anyway.
Three: the way the plan goes, I probably won’t be seeing anyone or anything until you’re going into step 4, so be a dear and get my earphones and a long-life music player (or plug it into a charging outlet together with the clip-on fan), load up some songs into it, put the thing on shuffle and plug the phones into my ears. I like Dream Theater, Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk, Katy Perry and all the songs from Dishwalla’s first album. If you know where I keep my music collection and the music player can handle the storage, better still.
Four: DO NOT give me a funeral wake – no prayers, no incense, no burning of offerings (if it turns out they have an economy where I’m going I’ll e-mail you and let you know). I want a funeral PARTY – with luck, I will have pre-arranged a booking for one night with a restaurant that has a good 8-course menu, a bar, a good collection of beer, liquor and soft drinks and allows us to put a casket with a dead person in it on their premises for one evening, so all you need to do for the party is get balloons for the kids (if helium still exists by then), and prepare appropriately selected goodie bags. Also, make sure you let the guests know to come in their Chow Yun Fatt/Leslie Cheung Shanghai Night best (suits or suspenders for the men, cheongsams for the ladies); it was the theme your mother and I chose when we did our wedding dinner.
If I didn’t manage to pre-book all these things before my passing, put me in a freezer and get everything ironed out before the day. Just remember to thaw me out for a day or two before everything is ready. I don’t want to look like a popsicle during the party.
You might also want to let your guests know to package their ang pows like they do for a wedding; remember we’re doing this in a restaurant, not a bloody void deck.
Five: Try to relax. Feel free to laugh and joke through the night about me, about yourself, about anything and everything; I will leave it to you to freestyle your way through the party, but just make sure it’s fun, okay? My humour was my best asset, and I want people to remember that. Of course, if anyone (including yourself) needs to cry at any point, don’t stop them, but keep it to tears of joy if you can. All I want is for you guys to be happy and have fun.
Six: When everything is over and the last guests have gone, grab yourself a couple of beers and a chair, then come sit next to me. Put one beer on my casket, and have the other beer with me. Talk to me. Whatever you want to say. Anything at all. I know I can’t reply, and I’m sorry. I really really want to, but, you know, me being dead and all. But please, do it anyway. I want to just listen. I just want you to know I will always listen. For as long as you want. For as often as you want. Just talk to me.
Seven: Inevitably, the time will come when my physical carbon-based self will need to be dealt with. Bury me if you can, but if you can’t, cremate me. I won’t ask that you put me at home – that will probably totally freak your visitors out; just put me in a nice place you can always visit. And always visit.
Eight: Now you can grieve. Don’t bother with people who tell you, “He’s gone. Move on.” Grieving is a very important part of emotional wellbeing and must not be slighted. And for your information, you should know better, especially after that talk with me after the funeral party; I am not gone. I will never be gone. You move, I move. That’s the deal I made with you since you were born, and I fully plan to stick to that deal.
Finally, there’s a very good chance your mother will outlive me for another couple of decades, so take good care of her. I’m trusting you with my wife, so don’t screw it up. I will be watching you.
I will always be watching.
At 3 years of age, you have yet to understand the extent of the online presence you may have.
3 days after you were born, I saw fit to provide you with the Holy Trinity of the Web 2.0 world of my time; I decided to register a Google account under your name, create a Facebook profile and even a Twitter account for you.
When you turned 3, I decided to register a domain name for your birthday present, and xander.sg was booked in your honour (as is xndr.sg, in case you wanted to be lazy). That is also essentially how Dear Xander came to be.
Recently, I went one step further to do up a Facebook page for Dear Xander, so as to properly differentiate the network of readers with your own social network of people you’ve met and know.
But why would I do all this?
Some people may wonder if this is merely an act of parental vanity, or a father’s means of commoditizing your life. But I did all this for a few very practical reasons.
While the Google account was primarily set up to reserve a proper e-mail account for your mother and I to receive information directly related to you, just about everything else was created to ensure .
Your Facebook profile was created so you may have a reference point for listing and looking up the people you’ve met and got to know pretty much your entire life.
Your Twitter account, though rarely used, may provide you with a more efficient way to keep you updated with – as well as for you to update – the world.
Your domain name was in large part to provide you with a more traditional (Web 1.0) online identity for you to use as you wished when you grow up; create an online portfolio if you decide on pursuing a creative career, provide information on yourself or what you do on the public domain if you so wish, or just put up anything you want for personal interest. As far as the world wide web is concerned, the possibilities are quite endless.
This blog was set up to make sure both you and I remember how we grew up together as father and son. It was meant for you to remember how much I love you, and for me to remember how proud and happy you made me.
And the Facebook page tied to this blog is for you to hopefully see one day that you are not alone, that you have not only the love of your parents, but the love of a whole community of people spread all around you – some whom you know, and some whom you don’t – all brought together by reading about you and the things you learned, did and achieved.
As well-intentioned as all this may be, however, I do realise that as with all things, the permanence of these online entities is not assured by any means. Twitter may go offline, Facebook may fail as an outdated business model and Google might shut down, and then this letter may not even make sense 10, or even 5 years down the road.
But if the status quo may be sustained for the duration of your entry into adolescence or adulthood, I am going to try and keep all this online stuff of yours alive and running until you find out about it (which I have no doubt you will very quickly, looking at the amount of attention your name has been drawing online).
I’ve hopefully set you up well for you to begin living your life. Soon, I will need your help to set me up for the end of mine; I’m planning out my will to be placed in one of these letters to you.
I have been told on a number of occasions by a number of people (I count 3 so far; your eldest aunt – my eldest sister – and both your grandparents) what an unfilial son I have become, particularly after I settled down, had my own family and am struggling to keep things afloat financially whilst trying to ensure the happiness of those that matter to me. I know the sacrifices parents make first hand because I see and make very much the same sacrifices with our own son.
This isn’t a day to mark up your filial piety a few notches to show your appreciation to your mother; you should be doing that every day (Brian Richmond said that). It isn’t a day to judge your siblings for what they are doing with your mum, whether it’s not enough or too much (I said that). It most definitely shouldn’t be a day for retailers and restaurateurs to jack up their prices in the name of a special day (students around the island who try to celebrate Valentine’s Day say that).
It’s a day to remember the person that gave you the rest of her life so you could live yours. Making this one day extra special isn’t going to relieve the work she has done, and continues to do, or make up for the sacrifices and suffering she’s had to go through. You just need to make sure that your mother already feels extra special because of her children – you – and the love you have for her that you’ve been giving from the moment you’re born to the day that you die.
If filial piety is judged upon what I’ve done for my mother, then I’ve been a terrible son and all these words mean absolutely nothing. But my love for your grandmother has never died; life just got in the way, and words are pretty much all I have right now.
We may describe you as many things for now and for the future, but we will never accuse you of being unfilial; your mum and I already know how much you love us, and for as long as we live your mother and I will remember that your gift to us has always been love and happiness, nothing more, nothing less.
Now go give your mother a big kiss and a hug.
Your mother was invited to a mommy blogger gathering which I was allowed to tag along, if anything, to keep an eye on you while your mother mingled with the other mommies.
It was decided that we would meet up at Fusionopolis, where a new indoor playground called Happy Willow opened 6 weeks ago. I was heartened to find that adults were allowed into the playground which boasted a large ball-pit, to ensure the safety of their playing children. In my head, this effectively meant I was paying $18 for your entry, and I got to play for free, and when your father is pushing 35 years of age and he’s told he can go into a ball-pit, he isn’t going to waste any time.
As we entered, the ball-pit was filled with kids of various ages, doing target practice on a couple of hapless domestic helpers. Being a former kid with experience in ball pits of varying sizes, I knew some of these kids might play rough, so a little way into the ball-pelting, I had the idea of drawing the kids’ attacks on me so you wouldn’t really be harmed during the play.
The last time I played so hard in a pool of plastic balls, I was 12 years old.
And those kids were rough. They dished out everything they could on me; from ball pelting to shirt and limb tugging, and at one point they even orchestrated a 6-kid pile-up on top of me to keep me from getting up when I was fell flat in the ball-pit from trying to get away from everyone. It was a riot, and you had fun following the crowd, attacking daddy in good fun.
But then it got rougher. In the midst of playing, 3 of the larger boys got carried away and decided to corner me, then started hitting me on the head with their hands, kicking me and even grabbing at me and scratching me.
While I was shielding myself from the over-enthusiastic onslaught, I managed to see you suddenly position yourself between me and the boys, arms raised and hands open wide, shouting, “Stop! No more beating! Cannot beat!”
There was a little pause, and I placed my hand on your shoulder. You turned around and I could see the brave, determined look on your face, accentuated by your furrowed brow and angry 3-year-old pout. There was also a hint of fear in your eyes; I realized then that you were instigating a stand-off with the boys, in an effort to protect me.
I said, “Don’t worry, Xan. Daddy’s okay. You want to help Daddy chase away the boys? Grab some balls.”
And you did (just the plastic ones, though, thank goodness). You threw those balls at the boys as fast and heavy as your body allowed, and together, we managed to force the boys further from us.
Eventually, we won the battle, together. The boys scampered off to seek shelter from the shower of blue balls that you and I blasted on them, and every time they creeped towards us, we’d make sure they didn’t get close enough to get physical with Daddy again. Your mother had to call a timeout – on me – when she couldn’t decide if I was capable of taking care of myself, much less you, and the battle of the balls was called off after about an hour.
It’s times like this – when you gave me a chance to relive my childhood in a ball-pit – that make me so glad I am taking every opportunity I can to spend time with you.
It’s times like this – when you stood up to protect me, when you stood up for what was right, and when you stood up for justice – make me feel your mother and I must be doing something right.
It’s times like this – when you fought alongside me through the rest of that fun-filled evening – that make me so proud to be your father.
This story being the product of a Singapore Mommy Bloggers FB group event, I’d like to thank Susan of A Juggling Mom with her husband and daughter Sophie, for organizing this meet-up and inviting my wife. Also, a shoutout to the following mommy bloggers I’ve had the privilege of meeting:
- Pamela of Tan Family Chronicles with her smiling husband and 3 beautiful children, Isaac, Asher and Shawna;
- Regina of Mummy Moo and BabyMoo (special thanks to Mr Moo for helping me find my lost iPhone in the ball-pit after the fracas);
- Rachel of Catch Forty Winks, who came with her bright son K and her husband; and
- Joce of sliceofadventure together with her husband and kids E and C.
Not to mention Jesse, Marcus and Shane (if I got all your names correctly), the 3 boys who inadvertently made my son a hero in my eyes.
If I missed out anyone, sorry. I blame the boys in the ball-pit.