The Ngs had been our next-door neighbors for as long as I could remember. They
had always been close to us as my family often invited them home for meals and
our parents would sit down in the evenings and chat. Their two children and us
were also childhood playmates who scraped our knees rolling down the slope
behind our flats and picked the mangoes off the trees in Pak Ali's garden.
Thus, when Uncle Ng fell ill with kidney disease, we felt the impact as much as
his family did. He was the sole breadwinner in the family, with Auntie Ng
staying home to take care of the family. Uncle Ng was always a responsible
husband and father, ensuring that they were well-provided for. But he had only a
basic diploma in electronics and could not put aside much each month as savings.
As a result, his family was cash-strapped when Uncle Ng was warded in hospital
in serious condition.
Auntie Ng had not worked for the past twenty years and going back into the
job market now was a harrowing experience.
It was tough finding a job with her lack of experience. So when she finally
found a low-paying job as a factory operator, she took it immediately. But going
to work was difficult. She had to rush home at lunchtime to cook for her
children and then go back to work. After that, she rushed back again to cook
dinner, following which she reported for work as an office-cleaner in the
business district. In the midst of this busy schedule, she still found time to
visit Uncle Ng in the hospital.
Whenever we could, my family helped out. My mother would offer to cook for
the children and watch them after school so that Auntie Ng would not have to
dash about. Yet, she grew increasingly haggard
and thin, worn out by her commitments. Uncle Ng showed little signs of
recovering, and this added to her problems. Her children were also faring badly
in school as they were too immersed in their misery to concentrate on their
studies. They missed both their mother and father. Somehow, they could feel that
things were only going to get worse.
Six months after Uncle Ng was hospitalized, his kidneys failed completely and
he passed away after some severe complications. His family was devastated and so
was mine. We were united in our grief, sitting together each night
reminiscing about the good old days when
Uncle Ng's booming voice and hearty laugh was still with us. In the end, Auntie
Ng emerged a new person, stronger because she had no choice. All this time, our
families grew closer, and vowed to support each other in the tough days ahead.