Photos and text by Cynthia Choo Xin Le
Pictures of my cousins adorn the walls of my gong gong’s (grandfather) three-room flat.
Photo albums line the shelves in his closet, in the compartment right beneath his medication. Among the collection of group photos, a lone portrait of gong gong when he was younger stands out.
It is hung right above his bed.
Below the frame, gong gong sleeps soundly as the afternoon idles away — his usual routine after the replays of serial dramas on television fail to keep him awake.
That was about two months after gong gong underwent a colostomy in July, rendering him bedridden for a month.
Earlier, he had also suffered from a stroke that caused him to have difficulty moving the left side of his body.
Since then, he has had to adapt to moving around with a walking stick, maneuvering about on an electric wheelchair, and daily reminders that his stool was collecting in a pouch attached directly to his large intestines.
“It’s been a while since I left the house, I want to go out with my children,” gong gong had said to my dad.
My relatives often talk about the physical challenges gong gong faces, but I often think he has had a more difficult time adapting emotionally — to being alone.