The thing that haunts me, is how normal my father’s absence feels. Has felt from the beginning.

The last time I was in this flat when he was, was during Christmas two years ago. When Flemming and I arrived in Singapore last October, he was already in hospital, and soon troubled by the complications that claimed him not long after.

I’ve spent half my life living away from my parents, having left Singapore for Australia when I was 18. Strangely, being back in my old home in Singapore surrounded by all the signs of my father – the fibreglass marlin on the living room wall, plaques with funny fishing quotes, the ancient, affectionate shadow that is the dog – without the man himself around, doesn’t trouble me. Everyday, I catch myself waiting for him to walk in the door.


This is what comes back to me, that having lived without it for half a life, his physical absence is normal.

The missing part is his voice in my ear.

One of the last things he said to me when I’d called from Mexico, before cancer, confirmed, hijacked every conversation thereafter, was: “Your sisters are doing well for themselves. It’s left to you to keep the flame burning,” in reference to his own history of leaving Malaysia for an unknown fate in Singapore, with all his possessions in one trunk. “Only you can see the world the way you do.”

That too, keeps coming back to me.



  1. Powerful, as usual from you Charlene. You waste no pixels or words. While your loss has obviously left a mark on you – who wouldn’t have one – you’re also turning it into a fine exposition.

    “Only you can see the world as you do.” ‘Tis true. Carry on, Charlene…

    ~ Mark

    1. Charlene says:

      In many ways, this is my space to grieve for my dad. Present situation requires that I contain my feelings to the little box at the back of my mind until I have some time to deal with them, so writing about it (doubtless engendering frowns from some) is slow, necessary catharsis.

      I often wonder if Dad knew how serious his condition was, even before he started all the testing. I suspect so, but I guess I’ll never know.

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