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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A family reunion

Went into SG today for a family reunion, and by family i always mean the maternal side of my family.

Before i talk about what the occasion was for the reunion, i gotta relate a bit of the family background and the story behind it.

Just like many of the older generations, my maternal grandparents came from China. During those days when Malaysia and Singapore were still one country, my grandparents had stayed in both places and that was why three of my aunts and uncles were born in Singapore.

My grandparents had 9 children, 7 daughters and 2 sons. My mom is the eldest, and the 3rd and 4th are sons. My grandpa was rather poor, and it really amazed me sometimes to think about how he managed to brought up so many kids. Perhaps it was so much easier in those days.

My elder brother and i were the very first grandchildren to the family. The next girl to the family was born more than a decade later than me, and hence i grew up being much doted on by my grandparents, 5 aunts and 2 uncles.

Now, if you do the maths, you will notice that the numbers do not add up.

Yes, there is one aunt missing; i had never known the youngest aunt -- until today.

After giving birth to 6 daughters, when my grandma was pregnant with the last child, she said to a friend of hers that if it was a baby girl again, she would wanna give her away. Then the friend took her words seriously and informed a couple who could not have kids and was looking for adoption.

A few days after the baby girl was born, the couple came and wanted to adopt her. My grandma didn't wanna give her away then, but my grandpa, being a man of words, decided to keep to the promise. So they went to a law firm to make all the necessary papers for the adoption, and i was told that on the day that my grandpa handed the baby girl over to the couple, her little hand was holding on to the collar of my grandpa's shirt and didn't wanna let go. It was a sad parting, but my grandpa had to let her go.

The couple loved the baby girl very much. She grew up having the best of everything, as her foster father was a very famous doctor in Singapore. To protect her identity, they moved to a different place and the foster father drove her to school every single day until she reached her highschool, fearing that our family would come and take her away.

The youngest aunt had the best education and grew up to become a doctor too. She also completed her PhD in recent years and married an American angmo. Life seemed to be good for her.

Yet, she did come to know that the parents who loved her so much weren't her real parents. When she was four years old, she had a tiff with her cousins. Kids being kids, her cousins called her names and said that she was a foster child. It was then that she knew about it.

I can't imagine how it feels like to grow up knowing that you have no blood relation with the parents who love you so much, and your real parents had forsaken you when you were still a baby. I'm not sure over all those years, has she ever felt angry or resentful towards my grandparents at all.

Actually giving her away may have been the best thing that could ever happened in her life. My aunts and uncle were top students in school but because my grandparents were poor, they never had the chance to further their studies. They had to come out and work right after highschool. So the youngest aunt would have never had the opportunity to be who she is now had my grandparents kept her in the family.

This again proves that sometimes it is for the good of the person you love to let her go than to hold on to her.

Anyway, back to the story.

Our family and her were two parallel lines and might never cross paths. But in the hearts of my grandparents, they have never forgotten the little girl whom they gave away. It was something that forever pricks their hearts.

I can't remember the exact year already; it was maybe around 1998, my grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer. When he was hospitalised, he had this last wish to see his youngest daughter whom he had never had the chance to know.

As her foster father was a famous doctor, it was easy to locate him. My uncle managed to get hold of him and asked him to fulfill the wish of a dying old man. Yet, her foster father refused to let her meet my grandpa, and told my uncle that it had been agreed during the adoption that we shall never ever appear in her life. Then my uncle tried to contact her through her friend, but only to get a nasty remark, "if many years ago you all had forsaken her, why look for her now then?"

Then, my beloved grandpa passed away, peacefully but with this regret in his life.

Frankly, at that time, i was very upset with this incident. I love and respect my grandpa. I hate to think that my grandpa, who had been a good person his entire life, could not even get this small little wish fulfilled on his deathbed. I felt that it had actually been a fortunate event for the youngest aunt that she was brought up in a wealthy family, being much loved and pampered. She should be grateful about it.

Of course, i was so much less wiser then. I had no empathy and was only seeing things from my perspective. If i had put myself in the shoes of her foster parents or even herself, i would have understood that they weren't really wrong to behave in this way.

So why was there a family reunion today?

Last year, her foster father passed away. Being a well-known doctor, it was reported in the newspaper and my uncle went to the funeral. He saw my aunt, walked up to her, gave her words of condolences and did not introduce himself at all. But then, my aunt later told us that she somehow knew that he is her brother. I'm not sure why, but perhaps there is indeed some truth to the saying, "blood is thicker than water".

Then my uncle got hold of her mobile number and sms-ed her, asking her if it is possible to have a talk with her. My uncle felt that my grandma is getting on with age, and he hoped that she could come see my grandma so that my grandma would not have the same regret as my grandpa.

At that time, when i came to know about this, i was very much against it. I told mom that we should not go pestering my aunt, especially right after the foster father had just passed away and she supposedly inherited some of the fortune. I said that if she had not wanted to see grandpa at that time, what would she and her friends think about us approaching her now? Would she think that we were trying to get something from her? And we were also not respecting the wish of her late foster father.

But then, on this issue, i was totally wrong.

It turned out that she never knew about the incident about my grandpa. She said she had wanted to look for her real family for a long time but never really got to do it. She came up to my uncle's house to meet my grandma one day last year, and that was the first time that my grandma finally got to see her long lost youngest daughter. I was told that my grandma, who is illiterate and does not speak any other languages but Hainanese, could not communicate with my aunt but she was smiling the whole time. I was very touched when i imagined grandma's happy face.

A few weeks back, my youngest aunt contacted my uncle and said that she would come visit the family again. This time, the entire family was informed. Everyone, including an aunt in Melaka and the other uncle in Malaysia who hardly shows up, came in to SG just to meet her.

So this afternoon, we had a family reunion, the first ever with all the siblings around. She brought along her angmo husband too. It would have been perfect if my grandpa is still around, but then i guess we can never get everything perfect and we will always have regrets in life. Yet, i knew grandpa must be with God now, and he must be smiling too, seeing that his family has once again reunited.

Youngest aunt looks very much like my mom and aunts. She was like a combination of everyone, and by one look we can tell instantly that she is from this family. Despite not growing up in this family, she has some qualities that are very similar to our family members. She is a good cook like my mom and aunts, and she likes to eat Hainanese chicken, especially the skins. Being a doctor, we would have not expected these.

Ah, another thing is that she looks young for her age too, just like my mom and aunts... and me! She though i am in my twenties. I told her i am already 35 years old and the good news is that it is in our gene that our family members tend to look young. She laughed and agreed, as she felt that grandma doesn't look 93 either.

It wasn't really an emotional reunion but a cheerful one that gave us a warm and fuzzy feelings all inside, even though she kept referring to grandma as "your mother" when she talked to my uncle and aunts. But then, i guess it's only normal, as it is really difficult for her to see an old lady whom she hardly knows as her own mother, when the mother who brought her up is still around. Oh, and in case you are wondering, her foster mother does not know about all these, and she must never know.

So this is really a concise story of our family reunion. After returned to JB, i couldn't help but ponder about life -- how unpredictable it can be, how we can never know if something happens for the good or bad in our lives until years later, how family plays an integral part in our lives, and how the blood in us will forever bind us together, no matter where in the world we may be.


I felt very happy & touching when reading this post. Hope everyone of us can have a happy day, everyday.
Happy, healthy, peaceful days, that's all we wish for, and I know GOD heard our prayes.

This is nice and touching story you shared about your family, and it's great (and lightening) to learn you have cohesive family. "True" family it's where our roots from, where we could confide, share sadness, and gain support when we are in vulnerable without prejudice. Somehow, I sense another message the story delivers is we should do and persevere what we think is correct regardless what other people judge and against. Indecisiveness leads to regret, even greater regret if it's carried to deathbed, or the person you want to see and forgive is no more in this world. It may sound it's easier to say than done, but, always remember you are not alone in such decision making when you have true friends and family to give you strength and standby you.

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Friday, March 19, 2010 @ 1:11 am: Back in SG
Monday, March 15, 2010 @ 4:35 am: In Bangkok
Sunday, March 14, 2010 @ 4:54 am: Packed again
Friday, March 12, 2010 @ 8:31 pm: Down and frustrated
Tuesday, March 09, 2010 @ 4:40 am: Back in SG
Thursday, March 04, 2010 @ 4:12 pm: The sorrowful and resentful me
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 5:30 pm: Cold
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 @ 5:27 pm: In USA
Sunday, February 21, 2010 @ 4:18 pm: In Krisflyer Lounge
Sunday, February 21, 2010 @ 5:20 am: All packed