Reunion dinner last night was enjoyable as usual. My family gathered around the table for a wonderful steamboat dinner. My ‘Pot of Abundance” (pencai) turned out nicely.
When I sat down to read the papers after dinner, I was saddened to read about this 66-year old widow who had to spend reunion dinner all by herself. She was thrown out of her house by her son and his wife. This illiterate lady had worked all her life to put her only child through university. He successfully graduated and became a doctor earning more than $200,000 a year.
After her husband died, she continued living with her son and his wife. Because she worked as a cleaner in the food centre, she never gained the respect of her daughter-in-law.
One day, while having lunch with her colleagues, her daughter-in-law was so ashamed to bump into her mother-in-law cleaning tables. The widow returned home from work at night to find her belongings outside the apartment. They have changed the locks to the house. When she knocked on the door, they turned off the lights and went to bed. In despair, she brought her bags downstairs and started to cry. She was too embarrassed to turn to her own relatives for help. Finally, her colleague, another old lady living alone, took her in.
She recently lost her job and approached the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents to get her son to support her. After mediation at the Family Service Centre, her son eventually agreed to pay her $1,600 a month. But her effort to reconcile with her son was not successful. She said, “”If I could turn back the clock, I’d want my son back ..”
So this year, while families were having their reunion dinner, she was eating instant cup noodles and custard pudding. Why custard pudding? Because it was her son’s favourite dessert, something they would have every year.
Please spare a thought for our parents. Of course we’d expect them to be different from us. Most of them didn’t have the opportunity to receive a tertiary education like us. They don’t go to the office and gossip about the latest hairstyles. Or this season’s Ferragamo shoes collection. Or the hottest vacation spots. Or the newest gadgets. Or whatever....
But they are our parents. Without our parents, there will be no us.