family, love, memory, Poetry

Life support

Try to explain to a three-year-old
why her grandpa’s in hospital
by the grace of God and not lying
my God it is hard both to explain
high religion and base mortality
shy of turning it into causality.

We believe in God the Father Almighty
Creator of mothers and fathers
and sons and grand-daughters
who sit on the potty and ask
why is grandpa in hospital?

When I was ten, I found my grandpa lying
papery cold in his bed, grief and mortality
the inevitable causality
of life, love and trying
to believe.

Childhood, family, love, Poetry, special

Yesterday

at the children’s section
of the library
you read six books to me,
us both huddled on the floor,
surrounded by other children,
mothers, fathers also
reading, jumping, running
punctuated by the occasional
scream.

For a while I felt
we were like everyone else;
just another seven-year-old
breathing life into words
and his father also,
fearing, hoping, tearing
punctated by the occasional
dream.

My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was three.

At that time, he couldn’t speak a word and was very sensitive to certain stimuli (for example certain sounds or images would cause extreme pain or fear). He had frequent meltdowns because he could neither understand the world around him nor communicate with it.

The child psychologist cautioned us that our son might never be able to talk, have friends or get a job. He might need long term care for the rest of his life.

Those were dark times.

But now, four years on, with early intervention, occupational and speech therapy, an amazing mother who spends almost every waking moment trying to figure out ways to help him, a loving grandma who is his comfort and shelter, ever-supportive relatives and friends; and by God’s grace, whenever I look at my son, I am reminded how he is beyond my imagination.

Childhood, family, love, memory, Poetry

ice cream soda dreams

grandpa was not rich
but bestowed us a fortune
of sweets, chocolate coins
or twenty cents to buy our own.

grandpa was not rich
but gave us our first wheels,
scavenged from spare parts
racing corridors, pounding hearts.

grandpa was not rich,
but he made butter sugar dream
sandwiches, washed down ice cream
soda at a rental flat in Ghim Moh.

grandpa was not rich,
but he always had time,
voice booming, confident, kind,
escaping, eluding, memories of mine.

He was never ever rich
but we could give him nothing more
than what we had, ourselves, in which
my grandfather was never ever poor.

Childhood, family, love, memory

To be three

They say you don’t remember
Anything before the age of four.
Don’t remember that thumb
jammed in the door,
Don’t remember that tooth
Chipped on the floor,
Don’t remember tantrums
In the toy store,

Don’t remember your mom’s
Sleepless nights,
Don’t remember your dad’s
Tired sighs,
Don’t remember your brother’s
Protective lies.

You won’t remember the castles
Built of pillows for stone,
The snowmen made of clothes
Carelessly thrown,
You won’t remember being tucked up
Late at night,
You won’t remember the first time
You said goodnight.

But we do.

With love, your family.
Happy Birthday, dear Sophie.

family, love, memory

land-line

In the dorm stairwell
hung a public phone
where each week
I’d call home.

Each call a litany
of hellos and reports
of health and weather,
food and whether
I had enough money

as the phone burned
pound coins per minute
till I found international
calling cards at the corner shop

and talk became cheaper,
silences awkward, intervals longer
till the next stairwell call
till you couldn’t pick up at all.

Hand resting on the lever
I cradled the receiver
and dialed again.
Again. Again.

Background

Before widespread, high-speed internet and mobile phones, being overseas for work or study meant the only way to speak with someone back home was via an expensive long distance call.

I suppose this is an experience that is pretty much ancient history, thanks to tech.