“What time is it, May?”
“3am daddy, go to sleep”
“What time is it ah?”
“It’s 3.11am daddy, go to sleep.”
“What time now?”
“Eh, can you stop disturbing me or not?! I need to wake up early tomorrow to go to work. Get out!”
“I am hungry, can you make something for me, May?”
SLAP SLAP SLAP
That was the first time, I saw Mummy slap Ah kong.
I watched in horror as the old man lost his balance and stumbled back head-first into the big wooden cupboard next to Mummy’s bed with a great thud. Terror filled my gut as Ah Kong burst out into tears on the cold tiled floor. Rushing by his side, cradling the back of his head in my hands, I could start to feel a bump growing in my hands.
“Your son is dead! Why do I have to be the one to take care of you?” shouted my mother, as her words burned into the deepest recesses of my soul.
I was in a drunken stupor because I could not believe that Mummy did that. Mummy is the sweetest and kindest woman I know. She is no pushover, but I never thought she would be capable of something this horrific. My bottom lip started quivering, my breath quickened, and I wailed at the top of my lungs.
I was only 14 then.
It started with the months of the year…then days of the week. Before long, Ahkong was unable to remember the time of the day. This placed a huge deal of stress on Mummy as Ahkong’s primary caregiver. A family dealing with the stresses of dementia is never an easy situation.
The added stress of dementia, the sole responsibility of taking care of two teenage sons, and the death of a husband can send even the sweetest of souls into a frenzied madness.
Unfortunately, the abuse carried on until I was 18.
Mummy would pinch Ah Kong till his arms bled whenever he stole bread and biscuits from the kitchen. He would leave a trail of crumbs all over the house and ants would line up to feast on the food trail which left Mummy livid.
Ah Kong’ would meet with tight slaps across his face when he made a mess of himself. He was getting older and he could barely make it to the toilet without urinating all over himself. Sometimes, he would soak in his own faeces for hours without realising it.
Sometimes, I would see my mother grabbing Ahkong by the collar while on her knees, begging him to die so that she could be relieved of her suffering. Ahkong would just stand there solemnly without a word with tears welling up in his eyes.
Thankfully, as I got older and stronger, I managed to lighten Mummy’s load as Ahkong’s caregiver. I began to see an embittered and sour relationship develop through the years - and it all started when Mummy, guilt-ridden and muddied by shame, asked for forgiveness on her knees.
As a bed-ridden Ahkong lived out his final days at a nursing home, Mummy would visit him diligently every single day to spend time with him - feeding him Lontongand chicken soup. Ahkong would hold Mummy’s hands and ask her about her day on those visits with a smile on his face without a care in the world.
I tell these stories - no matter how painful - because I believe that elder abuse in Singapore must be highlighted. It is more commonplace in households all over Singapore than one might think, and the statistics speak volumes.
According to a The New Paper report in 2019, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) noted that elder abuse cases more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, 126 cases were reported to MSF - an increase of 49 cases from the 77 cases the previous years.
Though I realise that abusers are also often victims of their own circumstances, there is no excuse for abuse in any form, fashion, or kind. I am not proud of what Mummy has done and she will have to live with the guilt and shame knowing what she has done, but I am glad that she had the chance to repent and see to Ahkong’s final days. Many do not get that chance to do so.
I hope my story serves as a grim reminder that even the sweetest and kindest of people are capable of monstrosity. If you suspect or witness elderly abuse, do your part to lend a helping hand.