I think everyone’s got one. I also know that everyone thinks superheroes are always invincible, never to get hurt, never to fall and that they will always be there to save the day, no matter what. I thought so too.
My parents are my superheroes.
They gave me life, fed me, changed my diapers and they taught me to walk. They nursed my wounds, fended off boogeyman and wiped off my tears. They still do, now that I’m almost three decades old. They show me life, feed me with their values, take as much crap as I could ever give them, and they teach me how to walk in the light. They have their hands on me as I suffer, protect me from harm and stick around when I cave. Whatever happens, I know they will always be around to love me. Their presence is a comforting permanence, a precious gift in my life.
More than three years ago, M and I had to uproot to London. Our move was made possible with a lot of support from our families, but it was met with hostility, anger, frustration, worries and plenty of resistance from me. I am a naturally worrisome person, and negative thoughts started metastasising in my life and relationships with my family and M.
‘I can’t go at a time like this. I barely worked after graduation. I need to support my family and I want to start giving my parents a good life.’
‘My parents are getting older. What will this move mean? That we can’t plan for children soon after we get married and deny my folks of being grandparents, until we return to Singapore in 5 years’ time?’
‘I don’t want to be away from my family. What if something bad happens to my parents?’
These thoughts, the guilt, wreaked havoc. It was not pleasant. It didn’t help that my beloved grandmother passed away just 2 weeks before I left for London. In a sick, twisted, morbid way, I thought it proved my point. In the earlier years, I blamed every single blip on the move to London and naturally this blame extended to M. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had chosen to be here with M instead of being home with my family, and that no one forced me to leave. It took me even longer to realise that perhaps, there are good things in store for me here, and this happened only very recently. Life was starting to look up. I was beginning to reap the rewards of being here.
Until this Monday. As I returned home from work, I was taking off my shoes in the corridor when I heard M talking on the phone. Shortly after, he came out to greet me with a grim look on his face. I knew that look, it didn’t make an appearance very often, and the last time it did, it was when my father called him to tell me that my grandmother had left us. My heart froze as M told me to change out of my work clothes before going into the living room. I followed his instructions in a matter of seconds, and there they were, two glasses of water on the dining table, waiting for an unpleasant conversation to simmer over them.
I prodded M, as he tried to get dinner into the oven.
‘What’s going on? What happened? Did something bad happen?’
M kept very quiet as he tried to shove the tray in.
Then I was half-shouting.
‘WHAT HAPPENED? SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED, RIGHT? TELL ME!!’
The tray finally behaved. And he sat down next to me.
Very quietly, the words slipped out.
‘Your father had a heart attack.’
I was in disbelief. My heart stopped, so did my breathing. And then the beats came rushing back in a stampede; the angry, hot tears came.
‘It happened on Thursday when he was at work. He thought it was a gastric refl…..’
I struggled to take M’s words in as he droned on. Every detail felt like a blow, being deliberately and cruelly delivered to the guilt-stricken gut that I have tried so hard to destroy. Thursday? What was I doing on Thursday? My phone didn’t ring, or did it? No, it didn’t. Why didn’t it?
All I could think of was how this could have happened, why no one told me, why no one said anything even when I called home to chat with them over the weekend. When my father got out of ICU on Saturday, I happened to call him to ask what they were up to for the weekend and he told me they were out shopping. I asked him why the background was so quiet and where they were, and he casually said that they were in the car waiting for my mum. Little did I know that he was in the hospital, fresh out of the ICU following a surgery, feeling breathless from the accomodating heart. Even then, he was still trying to be my superhero; he was trying to make sure that nothing was amiss in my sunny world in London on a fine Saturday. He succeeded, I even cheerfully shared that M was taking me to Broadway market. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why did I even think it was perhaps okay to move to London? Why did I leave? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why Dad?
When I finally calmed down enough to take in the details of what happened, I found myself demanding the prognosis. I forced M to tell me the odds for everything based on the test results, I made him recite what the doctor said to my mum about Dad’s condition. I needed numbers to anchor me, I needed to know if I had to go back. I contemplated moving back to Singapore. I hit the table with my clenched fist.
I was just a daughter dying to get home to see her superhero.
I haven’t been able to sleep since. I had trouble falling asleep, and when I finally did, I would wake up at 4am. I would reach out for my phone to make sure no one has contacted me. I would call my mum to check on how things are going. I reprimanded her for not telling me. I cried with frustration and helplessness when another clot threatened my father’s well-being. I cried when I learnt that tests showed that the clot was gone or not there to begin with. I cried over the phone as I finally spoke to Dad, who sounded so well and healthy and happy and robust that maybe, just maybe, it was all a bad and very belated April Fool’s joke. And there my parents were again, wiping off my tears from more than 6000 miles away.
My superheroes are back. Daddy is back, out of the hoods and hopefully on the road to recovery. I cannot be more thankful to God and his loving ways for looking after him. I cannot be more thankful for a family like mine, my dad, mum, brother, sister-in-law, sister, J and M. Together, loving, close-knitted and united as one. And I cannot be more thankful to all of you who came forward at a time when I seemed to have forgotten how to pray and have faith, who spared a prayer and kept my father in your thoughts. You know who you are, and I am eternally grateful to you.