Monday, July 29, 2013

A family crisis June 25th 2012

June 25, 2012. Monday morning 7am. I wake up as usual - my body clock still sync to a dive schedule timetable. 5 more days and I'm going to Lembeh Straits for another dive trip, my 4th this year. I've been to Dayang, Layang Layang, Moalboal/Oslob... memories of the year's trips whirl around in my head.

But I check my email and then things start to unravel. I got an email from my brother-in-law in Melbourne (where I live most of the time)

My mum has been hospitalized. She fell down on Saturday. If possible come home if possible.

I feel myself being plucked straight out of my dreamy plans. All kinds of questions shoot off in my head like fireworks.

1. Is it serious?
2. Is it that serious??
2a. C'mon this is a joke yeah?
2b. Really ah?
3. Do I really have to come home?
4. Can you do without me?
5. I'm not a doctor. I can't do anything.
6. Joke right?
7. She ate something left in the fridge 10 days old again ah?
8. Can I come home as planned? Its just 10 days away.
9. No way.
10. When should I fly back?

I rang my sister who had been attending to mum in hospital since Sunday. My sister said that mum was pretty messed up. The unpleasant news was that mum had actually collapsed in the kitchen on Saturday night and couldn't crawl to the phone until Sunday. That's fubar. Even then she didn't want to go see the doctor and wanted to go sleep it off. My sister took her back to her home (which was a 40min drive away) but along the way my bro-in-law asked her (probably for the 10th time) whether she wanted to go see a doctor. And then she finally said - yes. The doctor confirmed their fears - she was having a possible stroke and she could die if she didn't go to hospital. From their neighborhood hospital it was deemed that her situation was critical and she was ambulanced to the ICU at Monash. As we were having the conversation - the hospital called my sister's handphone and I could hear the words "Oh no", "Serious", "That bad", "OMG"...

My paternal grandmother (my father's mother) also suffered a similar fate - except that she died in her kitchen without anyone realizing it. They say that life is like poetry - it rhymes. A disturbing thought.

So the answer to my questions was simply - "Now." It just took me the whole morning to work it out. Everything had to be dropped. And my mind went into a complete reversal of the morning's thoughts. Cancel my flight to Manado. Cancel the dive resort. (Try and) Cancel or change my flight back to Melbourne.

I could change my Airasia flight back - but the cost was prohibitive, esp. if I wanted to fly that week - $400= top up fare + penalty for changing. And I still had to also fly to KL and change the connecting flight - which meant I probably could only get back on Tuesday evening or Wednesday. That was just too much hassle then I could stand at the moment.)

Thankfully, Jetstar was offering a SGD$410 direct flight back to Melbourne on that day (and the whole week). And I could catch the next flight out in the evening which meant I would arrive back in less than 24hours. I swatted away all the questions that were pestering my mind and focused on the goal. Get Back to Melbourne right now!!

It just seems so bizarre. So surreal. Like in a dream or should we say nightmare. I honestly didn't want to go back. Not now. Let me finish my last dive trip to Manado and then I'll get back.

The flight back was surprisingly very pleasant. The plane seemed to be half full. And I had the whole aisle to myself - all four seats. The pilot was really good and landing was super smooth. I hate landings when the plane practically smacks itself on the tarmac and the pilot has to use full brakes for a long while to slow down. Anyway, this guy landed the plane so gently you barely felt it.

Surprisingly going through Aussie immigration was also a breeze. I still had a bunch of officers ask me the same questions as I was going through. But no dramas. And for the first time ever - I walked right out that black Tullarmarine airport door in less than 10 minutes. (Sometimes its takes a couple of hours to clear customs)

There was no one to fetch me from the airport at 7am - everyone was busy working or still in bed. Fortunately, there is now a bus service from the airport that goes near my home. It adds another hour to the journey but it beats taking the taxi which can be expensive.

The busstop was still about 300m away from the airport and there was no bus shelter - now during Winter this can be a problem. The buses arrive 30 mins to an hour apart - and standing in the cold (and rain) can really kill ya.

I think I was on a roll with Lady Luck. When I got to the bus stop, the bus was waiting there. And funnily enough, because its ticket machine was broke, I rode on the bus for free. Woohoo!!! Ordinarily its about AUD$3 - which is 2 cheap considering the distance we had to travel.

Anyway to cut a long story short... I dreaded going to the hospital. My dad had died in a hospital and its a sobering thought to imagine that its my mum's turn next. HM (my sis) had already told me that she was in a bad way with tubes and god knows what else now (probably a life support system going). This was so surreal. So bizarre.

No problems getting to the hospital - but taking the lift and walking through the ward was another matter. I walk into that grey room, and I see my mother lying in the hospital bed. Her face cast in a frown. She's sleeping. There are feeder tubes but thankfully no freaking life-support ventilation systems. Gosh she looks so old and fragile. At this stage all the ideas of scuba diving are long gone. There is no chair to sit and so I stand by her bedside, waiting for her to wake up.

I have mixed emotions about my mother. To many people she's a nice, sweet woman. But that's just the public side. I've found sadly to be quite different. She has a violent temper and she does the most irrational foolish decisions. Our recent conversation a day before the incident ended on an angry note.

The strange thing is that at church, the day before I received the news, and probably as she lay helplessly on the kitchen floor - I wept as I sang the Doxology and said the usual silent prayer about the predicament. That's something terribly disillusioning to grow up in a Christian family, brought up on beliefs of honor, honesty, respect, and love and to find as you're growing up that those traits can be lacking in the same parents that profess and teach them. What happens when you cannot respect the people you love? How do you deal with a parent when they increasingly behave like a child? You bang your head against the wall again again again while friends openly laugh at your predicament.


Its been over a year since the incident. I'm now a year older - and I've clocked more diving trips - including the one to Manado.

Things have surprisingly improved. But it only happened after another heated exchange.

The thing is - that now - I don't care. To be more precise, I'm letting go. I've reached the stage when I realise that I cannot help an adult who behaves like a child and who refuses to help herself and ignores my advice.

I'm not getting into a car with a "drunk" driver. I'm not going to pay for the booze or whatever fuels her addiction. I'm getting out and walking.

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