I was at Whampoa yesterday morning with the volunteers from Project Awareness. At Jalan Tenterem, we visited a few families, including the homes of a jobless Malay man struggling to take care of his sick wife and children and an old Chinese lady who is still taking physical care of her adult sons.
[A family in need is a family indeed]
Encik Jalil has 2 teenage sons and a 8 year-old daughter. His elder son is doing his national service and his younger son will be enlisted soon. There are no breadwinners in this family and the only income comes from the national service pay of his elder son. Making ends meet is obviously difficult and he has applied for financial aid to pay his utility bills which remain unpaid.
Encik Jalil's wife suffers from severe diabetes. She emerged from her room as we were talking, walking with much difficulty. She had to lean against the wall for support as she moved. Apparently, she had dislocated her left foot a few months back and the sight of the injured foot would be too much to bear for those who are faint-hearted. It has become so engorged and deformed that the grossly enlarged foot covered with dry hardened scabs, appears side-by-side on the outer left ankle. Just imagine the left foot removed and placed beside the left ankle at almost the same level.
I asked her if her condition has improved and her reply was optimistic. However, her optimism quickly dissipated when we discussed her 2 sons. She teared when she affirmmed that they were good and obedient. I could sense a mother's pain - that she was deeply worried for them. But soon there was a smile on her face when her chubby young daughter suddenly appeared and hugged her from the side. She was wearing a long dress made of t-shirt material with the word "princess" emblazoned on it. This cheerful little girl has just turned 8 yesterday and she was clearly the family's bundle of joy.
All the time that we were talking with his wife, Encik Jalil wore a calm and gentle smile. He let his wife do most of the talking but quietly stood beside her. He was like her pillar of strength. In a world where many couples are unable to keep their promises to stand by each other in weal and woe, here was one couple that stood out. And because of their enduring commitment to each other, their family ought to get all the help they need.
[Mother of mothers]
When a woman has to take care of a child with congenital disabilities, it's tough. But Old Granny Jenny has to take care of not one, but two. And all by herself.
She is divorced and in her late 70s. Her 2 sons, Eddy and Andrew, are now in their 30s. Eddy moves around in a wheelchair but Andrew is bedridden. Old Granny Jenny is their only one caregiver. When we visited, she was not at home.
Eddy, who has physical and speech disabilities, was sitting all by himself in the common space outside his ground floor flat. He was happy to see us and from his gesticulations and utterances, we figured out that his mother had gone to the market. We tried to engage him in small talk and he was responsive and grinned when we teased him. Although we could barely make out his utterances, we could see his feelings from his facial expressions. He was constantly tearing at the corner of his eyes and salivating at the corner of his mouth. Yet, when he flashed his smile, it was the most genuine smile one could ever get.
Old Granny Jenny soon came back. She was pushing a metal trolley with a new potted plant that she has just bought. We saw her walking with a slight limp and found out later that she just had a fall. We helped her carry the new potted plant and placed it in the little garden behind her flat. One of her plants has withered and it's time to plant a new one. What has to go will go and it will be replaced by something new. Old Granny Jenny has few pleasures and this little gardening work was probably her only leisure.
Despite the cruel fate that life has dealt her, Old Granny Jenny never halted in showering love and care on her 2 dependent sons whom she takes care round the clock. She lives her life with such zest and tenacity that would put all those who crumble under less excruciating circumstances to embarrassment. If mothers were ranked on their capacity to take life's hard knocks, Old Granny Jenny would be high up on the list.
Kindness is everywhere and a little thought can mean so much! Remember to share and walk with us in Project Awareness.
Tan Lam Siong 陈南松
Project Legal Adviser