Friday, October 19, 2007
In memory of Mr Lim
I'm at lost, I can't think, I can do nothing but write it out. Mr Lim, my Mandarin teacher who had taught me so much, pampered me so much, and changed my life so much, is gone, dead. He was 76. I didn't know that. He used to be principal at a secondary school at Kuala Kangsar. I didn't know that too. I wouldn't have known if my father hadn't read the papers and told me. How could I? All this years, after having no more lessons with him, when he was living and breathing less than 5 kilometers away from my office, I hadn't visited him much. I only go about once a year, mostly end of the year, when I'll visit him with calendars for the next year and fruits. Just fucking once a year, when he is just so near. Same thing happened last year, I visited towards the end of the year, and he was out, so I climbed in and left the calendars and fruits at his doorstep. Did I even tried visiting again, or called to tell I dropped by? NO! I did not, I took it for granted he'll know it's me; that boy, that kid who skipped standard 6 from a malay school and jumped straight into a chinese secondary school, knowing bollocks about mandarin and chinese, also this the kid who taught him how to use his first cellphone, a red Nokia 3210, but never quite called his teacher to say hi. Till this day the kid remembers his home phone number like his own, but never called. This was the kid he patiently taught during tuition classes, even if he keeps falling asleep in class. This was the kid he gave ang paus to, even if the kid visited months away from Chinese New Year. The kid who would climb over the school gates at 9 in the morning, then take a bus to his home and learn Mandarin instead of playing Uno at school. This kid he treated like his own son, this kid he shared stories of his own sons with. And all that kid ever did was visit him once a year. Yes, I'M THAT KID. Mr Lim would cut me fruits as refreshment when I keep falling asleep in class, or make me tea, he would also shelter me to the car even if it's only drizzling so little it'll take ages to fill a teacup. 6 years it has been since I stopped taking lessons from Mr Lim, and it this 6 years I visited him only 6 times. During the last few weeks I've been thinking of visiting him, but then I thought I'd wait again, just until the new calendars arrive. The calendars were put on order yesterday, might get it next week, so I thought I'd visit him next week, but then he passed away yesterday morning. Why do I always have to procrastinate?? I only last saw him at San Poh Poh Restaurant 3 months back, when I bumped into him and my ex-principal, Madam Cheung; his wife. He still seemed so cheerful and healthy then, like he has always been, and it seemed like he'll still be around for years to come. And now he's gone. If I've only visited earlier, I could have at least spoke to him once more. I can only wonder if he even briefly remembers me before going off. If yes, what would it be? Would he at least have a hint that I think highly of him? That I take him as a fatherly figure too, even though I already have excellent parents? That I'm always talking about him to Yen, to my family, to my friends, even if I rarely visit him? So much that people can already remember the details of him when I've only mentioned "my Mandarin teacher", as he is known to my friends? I don't know, guess I never will, there are too many "if"s. Life is too short for so many ifs. I was ok when Uncle Foo's father, Uncle Tong, who I always chat with in the evenings if I see him around the apartment, died, it was sudden too, one Wednesday evening I was teaching him how to use the handphone Uncle Foo got him, and Friday I hear he's in a coma. Thought I'd visit him on Monday after work, and there I was at his funeral on Tuesday morning. Visited a cancer-stricken Aunt May Fong on 1st January 2006 at Cheras, promising to see her again in a few weeks, and a few weeks later I arrive to burn her incense. Visited Grandaunt at the hospital with Yen one evening, thinking I'd visit her again with my family when they get back from KL, and the next evening I spent watching 2007 new year fireworks, sitting 20 feet away from her coffin. At least I could still joke about watching fireworks by the coffin then. But now, with news of Mr Lim gone, I couldn't get myself together, I seriously couldn't. I'm in shock. He is, to me, much more than just a teacher, he's like a father figure to me, a mentor, a friend. I'll be at his funeral in 8 hours' time, and I'll try not to cry and make myself look stupid there, I seriously hope I don't, I already did just now. Life is too sudden, too short for "IF"s, cherish your loved ones, cliche, I know, and even though I'm consciously aware of this, I've just been hit smack dab in the face with a painful reminder that things we take for granted will one day be gone, without warning, and all you'll be left with is permanent regret. That's all, typing this down has helped calm me down, I don't know why, I just feel like I should.