"Excuse me, could you give me a pair of chopsticks?" I averted my eyes to what had been handed me and realized they had been mismatched. I looked at the crowd in dismay. No point calling out again. Oddly enough, the story of J and KC came to mind in a flash. I should tell it.
Like most couples, J met KC with the intention to tie-the-knot to fulfill their parents' wish. In the mid-fifties , these Baby Boomers had quite a fair bit on their shoulders. And so the romance grew out of a letter fished from a basketfull of mails in response to a forum J had written. KC had a pen-hand all would die for. So they met. J was from the state of Johor and KC from just across the Straits, the Little Red Dot called Singapore.
Match-making was a thriving trade in early Singapore. It did not help that KC was the eldest son from a very wealthy family delibitated by the war. Although the riches were longdrawn gone, the airs within the family remained. J was screened for quality. The Straits-born snobbery of the times landed much pressure on the union. And so, since J herself hailed from a pretty respectable family herself, the marriage made history. But all happiness was shortlived and so the happily-ever-after route took a slight detour along the way.
Great wars were fought emotionally. J and KC had countless challenges as a couple. The matriarchal influence in the family grew to a point when KC had to decide, J or his mother. The untimely entry of Lin did little to help the sorry state of affairs. J would not have her family ruined because of a mother-in-law. Riddened with anger and torn by love for his family, KC finally relented. The threesome moved to a three-room flat in Central Singapore after two years. This communion was not without gripe as time was to reveal.
KC was not ready to face many facets of life, a married-bachelor born with a silverspoon. He was a good man one must say. Not his fault his environment was brighter than any other on this blessed earth. You can say his parents rolled the little bundle of heavenly joy in gold from the day KC was delivered by stork. A story was shared about how Mama KC's prayers were answered by a temple medium over a lock of hair. Kind of creepy but that was how it was told. And so KC seemed fault-free of his condition. He hardly laid a finger to help out. Did not know how. He hardly thought of niceties to say to encourage J who then by the third year had gift-from-heaven to feed. KC made sure Mama was obeyed. Distance did not dictate the way things were meant-to-be. Women were domesticated beings. So J stopped work immediately after marriage and her job was Mother and Wife. Period. J rose to the occasion no doubt about that. Mama had approved with a trained eye. The struggles of mothers could well be another twist that could unfold but not now...
Days and weeks and months of endless warfare was to be. Within the household that gleemed in commitment on the one-hand and perilous -doubt- and -rage on the other. Girdled with resilience and a vow she took under oath, J was determined her two kids would not ever suffer nor face ridicule of the times. Divorce was never an option. The years in passing could be coined the Singapore Sling. Knocked-out by chores and commitment, J toiled with KC tailgating behind with his childish ways. Not his fault. A condition he inherited from the masters of the China seas. Papa KC was not spared. His story would anger even the gods if challenged. Papa KC's name was to remain revered till his final breath at 93. He was a third generation tycoon from Southern China. Adopted as a son-of-heaven, he was the first young man to drive a Brentley during pre-war Singapore. So J was all alone. Her widowed mum would have nothing to do with her married-off burden.
The good part about this morbid tale of unfortunate events does get better. That is a promise. But just to continue, KC's condition was far worse than most would come to know. He was an avid gambler. Some would say a disease of the wealthy. No, not their fault. Gambling was a past time. But Papa and Mama KC swore they never dabbled in such vices so how could their precious pearl-of-a-son be like this? It is a mystery till this day. As the story was told, he got involved with the wrong crowd. But I am of the believe that birds of a feather flock together. One can never put the responsiblity off since one's friends are picked with careful selection, don't you think? J and KC hit the rocks so many times that even the Great Depression may not stand well in comparison. Papa and Mama KC watched as their efforts turned to dust right before their eyes. The cataract was finally removed by the lasik years, they too came to accept their part in these sorrowful encounters that weighed on J. J was a pillar of strength, a lady of stature. Even Mama KC said so herself.
J held onto everything. Her grit earned her much respect from all who knew her. As her offspring, I cannot say I knew her well. My brother and I know what gratefulness means. We cherish the teachings and have promised to blaze the path ahead for our children. As for Dad, he got better. He too had grown to become a man we honour and love. We are surrounded daily by countless blessings. Indeed, life must go on. It was not a choice to be born, but certainly a choice to live, a decision hitherto. Being merely interested isn't quite enough, commitment is needed. Could I commit as Mum J had? That is something I ask of myself when faced with the wall. I need to lay all things on the table. But one thing stands, I have Mum J to thank. I miss her.