November 25, 2008

A Great Husband, A Great Father And A Great Man


This is dedicated to my father who passed away recently. My father, Sack Loong Yew @ Shiek Ah Qwang was born on 02 Dec 1934 and left us on 19 Nov 2008. He lived a good and rich 74 years. Not rich in monetary sense but rich with a wealth of experiences.

He did not really have much formal education in his younger years as he started to work when his father passed away. My father was only in his early teens when he have to teach himself how to read and write while working as a waiter to ease the burden of his mother and struggle to take care of two other siblings. But he never complained. He taught himself well enough to be recruited by the then British controlled Central Electric Board (CEB) that was later changed to Lembaga Letrik Negara (LLN) and subsequently privatised to become Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). Though he earned a small salary, he made sure that all 5 of his children received proper education and there was always food on the table.

It envies a lot of people when they see both my father and mother together. They go almost everywhere together. They do almost everything together. They talked about everything. When you see both of them, you will notice that my mother always carry what I called a “magic” bag with her. You will be surprised what she pulled out of the bag to keep my father comfortable everywhere they go … a towel, a thermos of Milo, a bottle water, biscuits, fruits, tissues, pen, scissors, cutter, ointment, medicines and all sorts of things. You named it and she got it in her “magic” bag. It was like a surgeon with his assistance. My father just have to put out his hand (without a word), almost immediately my mother knows what take from the “magic” bag and pass to him. In return, my father will drive my mother anywhere she wants to go. We all can see that he cares a lot for my mother by the way he treats her. That was their proof of love. Even though they seem to be arguing most of the time, they enjoyed each other company and loved each other very much. A very strong bond that started 53 years ago until the day he left us.

My father was a funny man. He always has something up his sleeves and some stories to tell to make you laugh. That was one trait I learned from him … always make people laugh. He has his unique way of explaining things to us and set us on a right track. One very good example he taught us was that a person must always “harn” but not “horn” (“harn” and “horn” are Cantonese words). “Harn” means SAVE and “horn” means STINGY. He said: If you invite 10 people to a dinner, make sure you prepare enough for 10 people. You cannot be “horn” (stingy) and prepare less but you can “harn” (save) for the rest of the month because you have spent on the dinner.

While my siblings and I were young, we have our share of misfits. While most fathers used the cane on their children, my father used another very effective method (which may not be acceptable today but it worked like magic back in the 70s). If any of us were caught playing truant, he will have us stand right at the side of the main road (Jalan Kelang Lama, we were staying there) and hold up a pail of water over our heads. That was to embarrass us in front of all the people travelling up and down the main road. It was not the pain of carrying the water that we worried about. It was the embarrassment of being talked and teased by all kids in the neighbourhood, our friends and our schoolmates for the days to come. That was what kept us all in line.

Those who knew my dad enjoyed his company very much. Many times when I invite my friends to my house for a gathering they were all very glad to see my father there. They listened to my father telling them stories about him living in the Japanese Army camp in Port Dickson during WWII. His father (my grandfather) was taken by the Japanese Army to the camp and worked as a cook and my father had witnessed a lot of incidents that happened in the camp during that time.

There was a unique story he told us (and swore) he saw a mermaid being captured by a fisherman in a “kelong” (fishing trap) in Port Dickson towards the end of the Japanese occupation. The news of the captured mermaid was kept very quiet by the Japanese Army as they believe it was bad luck for them. My father described that the mermaid has long black hair with two very unusually long hands and a large fish tail with no scales. Even though it was tangled up with a lot of seaweeds when it was brought out of the water, my father saw it clearly and was quite sure that the mermaid was crying and making sounds like a dolphin. The fisherman family who captured the mermaid was forced to release the mermaid immediately by the Japanese Army and the next week one of the sons from the family was found drowned in the very same “kelong” where the mermaid was captured. Well, until today I still do not know whether to believe him or not but it is a good story which I will continue to tell.

Then there were stories of his "hapenning" days when he was playing in a band supporting concerts and shows of famous overseas singers when they performed in Malaysia. He also have a few ghost stories from his travelling days and his adventurous hunting expeditions in the jungles of Malaysia. You will never be bored with my father around.

My father was a chief mechanic in his working days. He repairs all sorts of lorries, buses, cars and other vehicles. He was so good at his job that all the big shots in his company send their cars to him for repairs which earned him quite a fair bit of extra income and a very good reputation. And almost every year since Lembaga Letrik Negara (later Tenaga) started to parade their floats during the National Day Parade, it was my father who drove all the LLN’s floats until he retired. He was chosen to drive the floats because of his speckless driving record and his reputation for being a very safe driver. He loved his job and until his late sixties, he was still trouble shooting his own car.

To really write all about my father it will take another hundred pages. I am sure those who know him will agree with what I have said. And for those who do not know him, by reading what I have written above, you can guess that he was a great husband, a great father and a great man.