My entire understanding of my father’s death at this point, rides on numbers.
4 – the stage of cancer he was diagnosed with.
4 – weeks before this diagnosis, he was at the mall with Mum.
He sounded a little tired on the phone. “I went shopping with your mother,” he said, by way of explanation. “You know what she’s like.”
(My mother likes to walk. A lot. He didn’t. When they first started dating, she’d bring him walking for hours, all over Singapore. He never recovered from that. “Your mother,” he would declare with typical Singlish – Singaporean patois – emphases. “Very clever to walk.”)
“Please tell your father to eat,” my mother interjects. “He’s losing weight.”
“She’s overreacting,” he protested. “I go out with her and she won’t even let me carry things!”
“Dad, there’s already not much of you. Who’s gonna chauffeur Mum around if you disappear?”
Cackling at the other end of the line. I’ve spent half my life on different a continent from my parents, but until now, never without my father’s laughter.
65 – the country code to dial for a fix.
10 – kilos lost. My father was a skinny guy to begin with.
“How has Dad even got 10 spare kilos to lose?!”
6 – the number of months doctors had given him to live. At best.
30 – hours of flying from Mexico to Singapore.
26 – the day Flemming and I arrived in Singapore, subjected my mother and sister Chris to unwashed, sweaty hugs.
17 – the room number in Intensive Care.
29 – the day my sister Catherine arrived in Singapore from the USA.
24 – the number of hours Catherine had with Dad before he died.
30 – the day he left us, exactly 2 months ago. Appropriately, at dawn, when the fish would be biting and clouds, pink and still wispy in the sky.
Dad was a weatherman by profession, a storyteller by inclination, and a fisherman by calling. He would have approved of going to meet his maker at a time he might have otherwise been on the water, contemplating life above and below the waves with a rod in hand, waiting for that bite, that fish to end all fish tales. For he shared Norman Maclean’s philosophy on angling:
“To him all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
75 – the birthday he would have had today.