Numbering loss

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.

Kalbarri, 2005.
Kalbarri, 2005.


15 thoughts on “Numbering loss

    1. He would have I think, although like a lot of Dads, he would have “tsk”-ed at all the fuss.

      “Everybody dies,” he used to say all the time. “That’s life. So you better make the most of it while you’re alive.”

  1. If we were sitting together in my car, there would be a long silence now. I’d be taking in and turning over the story as you tell it. Blinking back the tears. But silence doesn’t exactly translate well in the comment section, so instead you have my awkward words.

    I love the photo at the top of the post. It says so much about who your father was, details that might otherwise be hard to express. I love to know about the relationship you had with him, and the happiness your parents had together. And it is so charged with love.

    He was clearly worth making a fuss over.
    So, so sorry.
    Much love.

    1. Last Christmas, one of my sisters (and her family) and I were back in Singapore, so we got to celebrate Christmas and his birthday. As we do every year we happen to be around, there was a lot of skulking and hiding of the birthday cake, and then we’d take turns to distract him while the candles were being lit so we could have a “surprise” birthday party.

      He inevitably found out too early (it’s a tiny flat, rather hard to hide anything), and then would harrumph about how we shouldn’t have bothered, but he not-so-secretly enjoyed the fuss. Dad greatly appreciated the things in life one can’t buy – great relationships, togetherness, reasons to laugh. He laughed a lot. That’s definitely something all of his children inherited in bulk – the ability to laugh through hard times, especially when we’re together.

  2. Charlene, he sounds like he was an awesome, wonderful man… always your words are heartfelt, straight to the core, and honest….sorry for your loss, Lynn X

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.