20/01/11 - Mortality and the reversal of roles

Today, we had our regular annual reunion dinner at our place. My sister and my brother-in-law as usual came with their kids, and they are always a joy.

Usually, my mother would be busy cooking for the entire day, and this year me and my dad wanted to do something different and buy back food instead but as usual my mother said that it was no trouble at all and insisted that she cooked. The only compromise? We bought back 2 dishes to substitute.

Although today is like any other regular Sunday where my sis would come visiting, it felt different for some reason. As I reminisce with my niece who by now is about to hit her 3rd birthday, photos of my sister when she was younger, and trying to convince her that this young little teenager in the photo is her mother, I actually realized that here I am telling someone of the next generation a bit more about our lives. I’m no longer in the young generation. I’m already an uncle.

I suddenly had flashbacks about my own experiences as the youngest generation, when I was about her age or maybe slightly older. My family tradition then was to go visit my paternal grandparents’ house at Ang Mo Kio every other Sunday afternoon together with my uncle and aunts and my cousins. Because there were so many of us kids and even more adults, we had to split into two different tables just to have dinner. One for the adults, one for us. I would always be mingling with my cousins, watching the TV while my grandfather would play with us. My grandmother together with my uncle and aunts would be in the kitchen preparing food.

Today, 2011, I belong to the uncle category. Helping to get food ready, washing the dishes while the kids play. The only difference is that my niece and nephew didn’t have any cousins (yet), and I was so called pushed into the role of a playmate cousin-uncle. And as I recall deeper into my childhood experiences, I thought about the deaths in the family. My grandparents died when I was in secondary school. My maternal grandfather passed away when I just a few years old. My parents, now grandparents, are obviously not getting any younger.

As I looked at my dad today, he has visibly aged. His beard now grows white hair instead of black. His hair slowly balding like my grandfather then. My mother slowly taking on the role of my grandmother with painful joints around her knee and leg area, walking slower and having more health-related problems. I fear that one day my niece and nephew have to bury their grandparents, and I, my parents, just like how they did before.

Life is a cycle. I just hope that I would be able to fulfill my filial duties as a son and that they would live long enough to see my nephew and niece become young adults and maybe me finally settling down with kids. But eventually even I may have to become a grandparent and die. We will all eventually die. That’s a fact.

The question is, at our deathbed, will we have any regrets?