In the ride back home from a family outing, my siblings casually confronted my father asking him how much angpow money he had given to a relative’s housewarming party. (we were told it was supposedly enough to cover the cost of the entire party. I remember being upset knowing that the money I gave him, ended up in someone else’s pocket.) Knowing that we have found out about it, he began telling us his story.
About how he was born in 1944, three years after the attack at Pearl Harbor. That him and his siblings had lost his father when he was age two, left to fend for themselves, surviving on tapioca leaves; which was the only thing they could afford then. He told us stories of how closely knitted they were, as they took care and relied on each other. His brother-in-law would retrieve fish from Changi and sell them, and the family would settle with the leftovers which were by then, unfresh. And that was how they grew up, briefly.
We were not convinced how the story was linked to the generous angpow, but he just insisted that we, especially family members, should help one another, not expecting anything in return. Being nice to others is a given; whether or not they reciprocate need not be considered. Even though we couldn’t help our uncle for his hospital bills, my dad said at least the extra cash could allow him a few comfortable rides home from the hospital. You don’t have to tell someone you respect them; it is felt in the heart.
When we got home, my mother showed my sisters and I my dad’s work bag; trying to prove to us how heavy it was. I took a close look, and realised it was already torn. The pull tab on the zipper was already broken, making it painful to slide the zipper’s chain. It was also partly heavy because of the many medicine pills that he carries around.
Just this afternoon, my sister was recommending me new bags that I should be getting, saying my current ones look old, making me look ungroomed. I was even made to set aside a budget for that new bag… even though I told them I would rather spend the money on other stuff. I didn’t really understand what was the deal with buying overly expensive bags from Chanel, and LV. Then I looked at how my dad could generously give away money to our relatives, yet refused to spend any cent on replacing his old, torn bag. Heartbroken, I got him a new bag the very same day. It isn’t branded, but at least it wasn’t torn.
He often reminded us that money was hard to come by. Thanks to him, I learn to be frugal. He’s 68 this year, and should have been retired by now, but he insisted on working a few more years so he could fund me for my studies (I was also working part-time). Even though we couldn’t have enough to allow me to study overseas, or even attend student exchange programmes, I am happy enough for whatever I have. I may not be a rich man’s daughter, but I’m thankful that my family is all safe and I’ve a place to call home. I feel blessed.