they paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 20:46

NB// I’ve installed FD’s Footnotes – useful, since I don’t like missing background detail; but writing a sentence and realizing that it’s a bit too long can be a bit tedious to read. Anyway, on with the post!


Say what you will, but perhaps pathetic fallacy isn’t just indicated by nature – a la the great tree mentioned in Jane Eyre that was struck by lightning before Jane’s wedding to Mr Rochester (who, it turns out, had a wife beforehand!) Rather, I’d like to think that even technology has a way of foreseeing things to come; and no, I’m not referring to weather forecasting technology or diagnostic tools in medicine.

On Monday evening, right after “seeing” off  le boyfriend via IM (I’m back in Malaysia for Easter, he was heading off to a family ski trip in the French Alps), iTunes starts ‘spinning’ “Big Yellow Taxi” (the Counting Crows version; even though I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell’s.)

And no, I didn’t suspect something amiss. Not even when dad “chose” to arrive home the moment this line played:

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…?”

So my dad “saunters” in – I say saunter; it was actually more of a casual, less-energetic “clump” in. I did what any (sane + loving, teehee xD) daughter would do and gave him a hug – before proceeding to chat about his day. The usual, you know; crazy-happy staff, bit of an insane workload (performance targets, anyone?) and then some.

Before I know it, there’s a bit of a silent moment – after which, dad asked if I remembered Uncle1 P.

“Yeah, I do…why?”

Our family have known Uncle P and his family for yonks – well over 10 years if I may say so.  An American who married a friend of my mum’s female boss2, they have two mixed-blood kids – K and S. We didn’t live close by; but we saw each other when my mum’s bosses organized get-togethers during the -many- festive seasons here in Malaysia – say Christmas, Chinese New Year, etc etc. They were generally good-natured people and we got on well; I even have some funny memories of him during the Christmas party games of years gone by. In fact, my family (bar me, I was in England at the time) last saw them during Chinese New Year, which was just last month.

I knew all that, yes; but all the information in the galaxy wouldn’t have prepared my for dad’s next words:

“He passed away yesterday.”

Whether it shock or empathy that I felt first, I wasn’t too sure. That shock would’ve been because as far as I remember, Uncle P was healthy; not suffering from any illnesses like cancer or such. For the love of guacamole, the guy was a black belt in karate (even a champion), swam, and would play sports with my brother and his two sons on occasion. For Uncle P to die there and then was very sudden!

The empathy? That would’ve been because their kids were about Jerry’s/my age (S ‘s probably in between junior/senior school, and K’s at least two years my junior.) True, losing your dad’s traumatic, irregardless of when it happens; but at such an impressible age…

Dad must’ve sensed the mix of confusion on my face, because he proceeded to explain what he knew from mum – who broke the news to him when she heard from her bosses this morning.

Drowning. Local swimming pool. Held breath for too long. Both sons were there. Those words somehow stuck out like a sore thumb whilst dad spoke to me.

It was about then when mum came back and continued to chat with us about this. “Their mum’s in a state; she’s blaming herself and keeps saying how she should’ve gone with them because she could’ve prevented it from happening. CF (mum’s boss) said that there’s nothing she could’ve done; even if she went with them, it’s not like she would’ve been watching them every single second…”

Shaking his head, Dad wrapped me in a hug and said, “Guess this will teach us all not to take life for granted.”

I still struggle to comprehend how something like that could’ve happened – perhaps it’s weird because a) it’s someone I know, and b) it wasn’t expected. At all. Perhaps what’s bad about someone dying so suddenly is not being mentally prepared for it; it hits you like a ton of bricks (cliche, I know.)

Mind you, for Jerry, it was an even bigger shock – especially since he’d seen Uncle P alive and well a month ago.

We’ve decided to attend the wake after lunch tomorrow (1 April ), just before skipping off to Holy Thursday mass. From what mum said, his funeral’s scheduled for Good Friday morning.

RIP Uncle P; we may not have been joined at the hip, but you were ever a great person.

PLUGORAMA// Skye (Chickadee’s merged with Skyefairy – welcome back! :D), Jackie


EDIT// Mum stumbled upon S’s deviantart which contained a blog update the night Uncle P died. Turns out they were doing lung capacity exercises; where you hold your breath and swim the length of the pool without stopping to breathe. At one point, Uncle P was hyperventilating to ‘try and build up more oxygen’ in his blood – “he wanted to swim the length of the pool twice.”
S looked away, and when he looked back, his father was at the bottom of the pool, motionless; but he and K thought that Uncle P was having another “breath-holding” attempt (again.) But when 5 minutes went by and he didn’t get up, they got worried and pulled him up. By then, he’d gone blue-lipped and pale-skinned, without pulse or breathing.

They feared the worst when CPR was being performed on Uncle P by some bystanders – “water kept coming out of him”. S and K had to back home when the ambulance took him away; but it was too late. They believe he probably blacked out while hyperventilating and drowned in the pool that way. Just reading that account sent chills down my spine – and tears itching to come out of my eyes.

EDIT 2// Jerry and I took it upon ourselves to read up on shallow water blackouts after that – S was right in that hyperventilating would’ve been the culprit; but that doesn’t ‘give you more oxygen’. Instead, Uncle P would’ve had an artificially depressed level of CO2 from hyperventilating; which, during a dive, makes you pass out from lack of O2 before CO2 levels get high enough to force you to come up for air. Then of course, water gets into your lungs while you’re unaware…

I’ve always been way too scared about the practice of hyperventilating; if anything, now I’m better educated as to why said fear isn’t unfounded.

  1. Unlike in America or the UK where you can address the parents of friends you’re familiar with by their first names, us Malaysians find that a bit “rude” since there ‘isn’t much respect in that’. However, “Mr Kang” or “Mrs Chen” is much too formal, so we address the older generation by tacking on “uncle” or “auntie” before their names, despite the fact we’re not related by blood. I address a lot of my parents’ friends this way when I’m home.
  2. My mum has two bosses who happen to be husband and wife. The wife’s Malaysian and a college friend of my folks; the husband’s Brit and hails from Hastings.
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One Response to “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

  1. Jackie says:

    April 8th, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Oh my. So tragic. You hear about these things all the time in the news but you never think it will happen to you or someone you know. Deaths like these are often difficult to cope with because they are so sudden, unlike old age or terminal illness where you can ease yourself into the situation. My condolences go to your uncle’s family.