Facebook today reminded me that five years ago today, my parents and I landed in Siem Reap. My dad would pass away just under a year after that trip, so it was essentially our last trip together as a trio. This was us at the airport.
Photo quality from 5 years ago alone is so awful. But I digress.
That trip will always be memorable for me because of it was my last trip with dad. Angkor Watt was one of the few places he had wanted to visit that he never made it to (the other two were Japan and Hawaii) so I’m glad I was able to accompany them there. It wasn’t easy – by this stage, his dementia was quite advanced and he was already prone to have seizures (there was an episode at one of the temples when we visited Angkor Watt, so mum sat down with him for a bit while I explored a bit – thankfully not serious).
I really enjoyed the trip as well so much so that I wanted to revisit again. If I didn’t get my scholarship to head over to the UK later that year, I think I would already have gone back to spend an extended time writing and working remotely. I enjoyed the culture, a nice mix of touristy and non-touristy spots, the people were great and it was cosy as a city.
In 2019, my second sister ee che and I took mum to Vietnam. As a family who loves travelling, I look forward to when we can move around again so that I can take my mum somewhere else.
Over the past four years, I have made it a point to visit a church somewhere to light a candle for my father to mark his death. He wasn’t a Christian but we always loved looking for churches and cathedrals together when traveling so I wanted to keep “visiting” them with him. I’ve managed to find somewhere new each year that we hadn’t been to before so that we’re still exploring the world.
The plan this year was to visit one in Birmingham, where I’ve just moved to. But since I’m still in isolation (and pretty weak and tired), I’m not able to. Sorry, dad.
So here’s a picture we took together rediscovering London in 2013 just a few days short of 8 years ago, when you flew over for my MA graduation. This was after dim sum with Adam, Justin and Mike, and there was a beautiful coat of January snow across the city for a whole week. Snow fell a bit in Birmingham this morning, so I thought of you too.
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been 5 years. In some sense, where has the time gone but also, I remember the days leading up to your passing like it was just yesterday.
It’s still surreal to think that he’s been gone for over 4 years now (here’s the tribute I wrote to him in my column back in 2016); the truth is, I think of him less as my life without him has normalised over the years. In fact, some days, when he springs to mind, I still have a moment of shock realising that he’s no longer here.
Today was especially difficult because I’ve spent the past few days wondering what he would make of the world today. My dad has always been my intellectual hero, and so much of lessons I’ve learned in life was due to conversations we’ve had and us bouncing things off each other (to my mum, it often sounds like we’re arguing!).
What would he have said to help me make sense of everything that’s currently going on?
The result was that I wasn’t as productive as I’d hope to be over the weekend – alright, fine, I completely failed to find any motivation – partially because my brain and body just shut down from all the anxieties and stress over the past few weeks. Truth is, the whole weekend was a blur.
This weekend was also the birthday of my brother-in-law Rizal and my Tai Che (eldest sister), so I think missing my family, and worrying about them, also contributed to my body just shutting down.
But I got back up and running today, so hopefully a more productive week ahead for me.