Decatur Airport: August 24th 2019. Time: Around 8.30am in the morning. Weather: Clear blue skies.
Laura was with me, spending the few minutes I had before my flight in one of those little things (Cessna 402 – fun flight, really) to Chicago, enroute back to Malaysia.
It was in those few minutes that I realized that she had grown up all of a sudden; from her first day at kindergarten to now, about to start her first semester as freshman at Millikin University. It was in those few minutes that I realized I won’t be hearing, “Dad, can you buy 5 roti canai and fish curry?” or “Daddy, can you buy fish ball soup? Make sure they add a lot of fishcake.” Or “Dad, can you buy, “Singapore fried mee hoon, ka lat cheoi chai, moi choi?”
It was in those few minutes that I realized that I won’t be taking her to college anymore. It was in those few minutes that I realized that I won’t be taking her for her everyday swimming training, or being with her at her swimming championships for a long time. It was in those few minutes that I realized that I won’t be giving her lifts to Sunway Pyramid or wherever she wanted to go for a long time to come.
Not much was said during those few minutes. It was time in each other’s company in the present. This was a first time for both of us, father – daughter.
The time came for the final hug – a big one. Then, I watched her walk off and get into Dick (Bimpa) Black’s SUV. It went around the car park and disappeared down the road….
Preparing for the birth
Jeannie and I went to great pains to prepare for the arrival of our baby. We (I, mainly) read every book there was on “being ready”. We played classical music and I would end off by singing “KungFu Fighting” song and making the flute sound (tee tee teet, tee tee teet, tee tee teet, tee tee teet) effects every evening. The baby in Jeannie always got excited with the music. Then, on June 26th , in the late evening of that year, 2001; Jeannie said it was time. The hospital was about 20 minutes away from our home. With Jeannie’s bags already packed in the car, I drove Jeannie to the hospital quite calmly, I think.
Laura arrived without a fuss at 9.15am, on Wednesday June 27th, 2001. As the nurse brought Laura out of the delivery room, she asked me if I would like to carry her. Having Laura in my arms for the first time transformed me into dad – I was elated, still am till this very moment.
The type of work I did as a profession allowed my time to be flexible. This meant that I was the one who saw to all Laura’s needs – wake up at odd hours of the night (which was seldom), feed her, etc. After her meal times especially in the daytime, I would dance her to sleep with “Michael Learns to Rock”, “Backstreet Boys”, “Boyzone” and many others. This dance-to-sleep was every day.
I was always referring to the various books on babies to make sure that Jeannie and I were going through all the right processes. I think I read all the books we purchased or borrowed, from cover-to-cover.
Laura was easy to bring up. I remember there were many times when Jeannie had to travel due to work, or when I had to attend meetings at clients’ offices in full suit. Laura was right there with me, in the Moses’ basket. She was always welcomed by all my clients.
Laura has always been a happy child. She always loved playing hide & seek with her grandpa; waitress, taking food and drink orders from her grandma, and always had long conversations with her Kong Kong and Mama (Jeannie’s parents), keeping them entertained with her stories.
Every night, I used to tell her bedtimes stories, including The Three Bears. She loved to hear of Jeannie’s and my travels. Her favourite was the time we were in Amsterdam, Holland; where we stayed in a hotel by one of the many canals. Our room was on the ground floor with a sliding door leading out to the garden by the canal. There were four mandarin ducks in the garden. We fed them with some crushed biscuits. This led them to want more and they came for us. Jeannie and I got back to our room quickly and shut the glass sliding door. The mandarin ducks came right up to the glass sliding door and pecked at the glass, trying to get into our room. This little story always fascinated Laura because I told it to her many, many times – she’d always ask for this story.
Jeannie saw to all Laura’s fashion needs and accessories and was always the perfect mom. We recognized that Laura seemed to be musically inclined and enrolled her in music school for kids when she was 1+ year of age.
By the time Laura was 6 years of age and was in pre-school; we started her off in swimming lessons. We did not have big swim plans for her. It was that she would be with her friends. The same friends who were also in her Sunday School, Mental Maths class and Mandarin tuition.
One day, after her daily training at the swimming pool; Laura decided and declared that she wanted to be a world champion swimmer. This was the time that she had just begun training to be a competitive swimmer. Jeannie and I were enthusiastic and excited for her. We told her we would give our total support to her as long as she put in her commitment towards training and preparation. She was 9 years old at this time.
Laura committed to swimming totally. Along the way, she developed other athletic talent; 100m and 200m running (one of the Malaysian national athletic coaches saw that she had potential and offered to help develop this), cross-country runs and netball. Jeannie and I left all decisions to her. She decided to focus on her swimming.
Laura loved to travel as well. She was with us on many of our travels, always making the best of them.
At the swimming pool, training, school, church, family gatherings, swimming championships…Laura always had fun. In that way, she gave her best in all that she did.
She was selected as a state swimmer to represent the state of Selangor, Malaysia; at the age of 13. She trained hard, represented Selangor and PADE Club on club, state and national level in many, many championships, at the same time focusing on her studies.
Years of tough training and many swimming championships later; it was time for her to move on to the next phase of her life – University / College.
The time came for her to pursue her tertiary education in the U.S. She wanted to continue competitive swimming and pursue her education in Entrepreneurial Studies. The U.S. was the right fit. Applications and enrolments done, Laura was off to the U.S…..
It has been almost two years now.
At the airport to her next frontier…
On the team of Millikin University Swimming
20, today; she has many, many more fascinating life journeys ahead of her. May she continue to inspire others along the way, too. Jeannie and I have always been very, very proud and happy for her.
HAPPY AND BLESSED 20TH BIRTHDAY, LAURA
We love you much more than forever!
Note: I still entertain Laura with “Kung Fu Fighting” once in a while.