2013 was year where my desire to go walkabout with possessions in a bundle at the end of a stick – or a couple of bags in my case – came true. I’ve been on it for a year and a week today, but rather than some far flung locale, I’m writing this post from my childhood home.
Home is something that seems to punctuate journeys though, so perhaps there is no better place.
I was born and raised in Singapore, and this – three months to date, and six by the time I get back on the road again – is the longest stretch I’ve been back since I left for Australia fifteen years ago. Happy to be freed of its societal confines, I was never going to return.
Yet, here I am.
Home without my father (still an unthinkable equation and not one I understand), means I’ve had to negotiate my relationship with the land of my birth. I am not myself here. Having spent all my adult, and arguably most formative years outside of Singapore, coming back for more than a short visit means I’ve had to learn how to rein myself in.
My relationship with Mum is also changing with Dad’s absence. He was the fulcrum of the family in many ways, and we’re left off balance by his absence. She is starting a life, one entirely of her own making, as we reform our relationship to the change in the world. It’s a big thing to be contemplating in the midst of her grief. I have not experienced loss to the extent she has, but I too have stood alone at the start of an untried (for me) path and swallowed rising panic to take the first step. The only difference – I had a choice, she doesn’t.
So as my mother begins a momentous journey of her own, I will be back over and over, supporting her while trying to figure out how to breathe easier here.
That being said, I’m lucky have a family where everyone supports each other. We helped each other through the whole run of Dad’s sickness from diagnosis, to his death, to the funeral and after – by making one another laugh. Dad liked to laugh – I would give anything to hear the cackle that wrinkled his nose with immeasurable glee just one more time – so us kids grew up looking for reasons to do the same.
“It’s just how we deal with things” my sister Chris had to apologise while speaking with the church about the funeral on the phone, for Catherine and I in the background, very audibly cracking up at something with my Mum in the next room. And it was. Throughout the grief that brought us to our knees, laughter was, and still is, an affirmation of life, of love, of togetherness. It was a gift in that dark place, and it continues to be a gift now, as we journey on.