The old man in this picture (taken in Hanoi) reminded me of an elderly person some time ago. I was on my way to see my ex colleagues from work to have dinner with them when I received a distress call.
Jenny, my ex colleague, asked if I could come over to our regular restaurant to pick up an elderly gentleman, believably to have lost his way.
I was puzzled with the request. I hope he’s not having Alzheimer or something, or else, we would need to take him to the police station till his next-of-kin come looking for him. And I loathed going to the police station.
When I arrived, my other colleague, Tan and Jessie were there too. They helped the elderly gentleman to his feet and ushered him into my car. The elderly gentleman was reeking with urine smell. Sensing my discomfort, he kept apologizing for wetting himself. I assured him that it was alright.
Apparently, he fell as he was walking on the pavement towards his house in nearby flat. His weak knees due to diabetes gave way and the heat was unbearable. He had been sitting on the same spot since lunch time. By the time, we picked him up, it was already 6.00 pm. How could this old man withstand the scorching sun without food and water? Since he couldn’t move, he had no choice but to pee in his pants.
How could anyone just leave this old man sitting under the sun for 5 hours? We cursed among ourselves that the restaurant owner didn’t do anything to help this old man as he was sitting on the pavement right in front of the restaurant. We didn’t go to the restaurant ever since.
We kept asking the old man, where are his sons and daughters? Where is his family? But he merely gave us directions to his house. As it was almost impossible to find a parking at Pekeliling flats (which was now demolished to make way for development), I waited in the car while the rest of them took him to his house.
My friends were very disturbed by the condition of the house. It was very dirty and there were graffiti everywhere in the house. This old man is staying with his younger brother. The brother was jilted by love and hence, he was disturbed emotionally and mentally. The graffitis were all about the woman. It was a good thing that the brother was not at home when my colleagues went to send this old man to his house.
The old man used to sell Yong Tau Foo when he was young and healthier. It was due to his sickness that he had to stop working. We asked about his family and all he could do was to smile faintly.
After we ensured he’s fine to be left alone in the house, we talked to his neighbours. It seemed that this old man has family. His children rarely come to visit him and for the past one year, they were hardly seen visiting the old man. He was pretty much left alone with his mentally ill brother.
Our colleagues bought some cookies and food for the old man. We couldn’t do much after that when the old man insisted that he is able to take care of himself and told us not to worry. He merely has weak knees and apologized profusely for troubling us.
We haven’t heard from him since. Despite us being sympathizing him on the fate that befallen him, we couldn’t do anything but wonder, how would our fates be like when we get old and turn feeble.
Some young people now do not have respects for elderly people. You could witness this happening everyday if you take public transports. Not many would give up their seats for elderly people or pregnant ladies anymore. They never realize that one day, they would grow old too.
Once I saw an elderly lady in Sg. Wang all alone. She was climbing staircase slowly as if the act was too painful for her to bear. She was unaccompanied. I offered help and walked with her slowly till the top. I asked her, where are her children? Is she lost? She said no. Her children went shopping and left her alone there since she couldn’t walk. She assured me that they would come looking for her when they are done and thank me for my kindness. I simply don’t think it’s a good idea to leave an elderly lady wandering around shopping mall by herself. You might as well leave her at home.
I remember my piano lessons very vividly. Not because I excelled in playing piano. It was my piano teacher. Since I went to her house to study piano, I would hear her screaming almost everytime I was there and witnessed how she ill treated her grandmother. I heard stories from my mom that, this grandmother used to be ruthless and ill treated her mother (my piano teacher’s mom) when she was young. I guess they obviously disliked the grandmother for a very long time and prayed to get even when they grew up. Eventually they did and it was payback time.
Being as unforgiving as I am, I still couldn’t tolerate an elderly person being yelled at. As terrible as they maybe when they were younger, I don’t think anyone should ill treat elderly people. Whatever that has been done, you couldn’t undo them. They were already in the past. Their final days are numbered. You reap what you sow. I feel, if you are reluctant to take care of your elderly, you might as well send them to old folks home. No elderly people would like to stay in old folks home. But I guess it’s a better solution than having to be yelled at all the time.
The grandmother passed away a few years after that. I was actually relieved to learn that as I do not wish to see her being ill treated further.
Where have all the filial piety values gone?