The National Library Board was probably the first to recognise my status as “senior citizen”. I get one hour of free internet use at the library every day. Yesterday, when I was paying for a bottle of DHA supplements for my son, Watsons recognised me as a “senior citizen” as well. I got a 10% discount and a cute little sticker on my Watsons card.
Should I lament or rejoice? Yes, I’ve not only grown up, I’ve grown old. But no card can convince me that I’m an older and wiser individual. It was an unfortunate incident in the family which proved that I had indeed “come of age”.
Way back in 2005, doctors found a malignant tumour attached to my father’s colon. It was a slow-growing lymphoma. The surgeon had assured us that the surgery would just take 2 hours and the risks were low. My father was wheeled into the theatre at about 8.00am. At 10.00am, he was still not out. I received a call from the surgeon. The tumour was lying very close to a major artery. He had to call in the vascular surgeon to perform microsurgery to separate the capsule of the tumour from the artery. There was a high chance of puncturing the artery in which case they would need to cut away that portion of the artery and harvest a graft from the femoral vein. He warned that the risks would be significantly higher. With my father lying on the operating table under GA and his abdomen cut open, it was left to me to make a life and death decision for him. If I decided not to take the risk, they would stitch my father up, tumour intact. In a waiting room full of crying and praying people, I bravely asked the surgeon to proceed.
The 2-hour surgery turned out to be a 12-hour ordeal for me. My father was wheeled out and sent to a high dependency ward. A few minor complications got me worried for a while, but my father was eventually discharged. After a course of chemotherapy which he bravely went through, he recovered and is still healthy today at a ripe old age of 82.
Unless we die young, we all grow old. Unless our kids die young, they grow up and hopefully surpass us. At different stages of our lives, we play different roles. Helpless as a baby, we were completely dependent on our parents to feed and nurture us. But what happens when you’re grown up, received a good education your father or mother is the one lying helpless on the operating table waiting for you to make a life and death decision for them? Can you afford to cry like a baby or come to a rational decision and take full responsibility for it? Yes, at some point in time, we will have to parent our parents. At some point in time, our children whom we are parenting now will have to take care of us, point out our mistakes and treat us like kids when we go senile.
It is quite absurd that anyone should compare governing with parenting, especially over dinner. Luckily I didn’t go or I would certainly sprayed everyone around me with half-chewed rice. It is even stranger that a country that has been, for decades, run like a company, without any apologies, is now claiming that it is a family. But it is a fact that in the past, when citizens were not well-educated and had few ideas on which direction to go in nation-building, the government at that time charted a brilliant course that turned Singapore into a developed country. Things have
In fact, relationship between the government and the people is like that between employer and employee. This is not an analogy. It is a fact. If anyone feels that the government is not doing its job, he/she has the right and not privilege to vote that government out or push for reforms. I find it rather disingenuous to bring the concept of “family” into politics. It may give people the wrong idea as they are already seeing a lot of “family” in Singapore politics.
Nevertheless, while we can’t morally change our parents, we can, without any guilt whatsoever, change our government – either by sacking it in an election or by pressuring it to make changes for the better of our country. I don’t care whether they call it squabbling. As long as improvements are made, it’s productive squabbling. We can’t expect our teenagers not to squabble with us. It’s part of growing up and when our children reach adulthood, they may make better decisions for themselves than we can. What more if the “children” are already 49 years old?
© Chan Joon Yee