Tuesday, January 24, 2006

We Can Work It Out.

There's an official opening ceremony going on. Samy Velu is here to officiate the opening of the flyover leading to Damansara Perdana from places as far back as Bangkok and Shanghai, or Bombay. We've got the best view watching the event from the balcony as if it is a big deal. Well, maybe it is after what Aunt Su and I went through this morning.

She had been pestering me to allow her to prepare breakfast for both of us that I had to give in eventhough I know very well that I wouldn't be too happy about it because I just knew she would turn the whole kitchen into a disaster area probably worse than Pakistan and Bam put together.

I am in the living room watching her work in the kitchen, pretending that all this isn't happening which is difficult with the noises and the clanking of the cast-iron skillet on the range, and almost 2 tons of utensils in the sink unwashed. For a simple breakfast of mee hoon siam with tauchu, she has so far used four nice kitchen rags, one each for every drop of oil. I am going to have to clean up after her, which is fine but she will have to re-learn the skill of working in a kitchen like ours which is a compact unit built very much like that of a kitchen you see on a boat. A kitchen like this requires a set of work habit so you don't leave behind a messy trail of grime each time you prepare something as simple as sunny-side up, or ikan goreng. I remember how she kept her kitchen in the house in Penang where I used to stay with her and Pakcik Syed, and how I remember hating every little thing about her kitchen that I didn't want to have anything to do with anything that came out of it that Aunt had to provide me with extra money so I could have my meal outside. Maybe this is my punishment for the treatment I gave her. Maybe this is her payback time and I am going to have to endure this. If she is indeed my punishment then I must say that I should be thankful because this is indeed a mild one that has found its way to my kitchen.

I must say the meehoon siam tasted quite good that I don't have a heart to tell her about what a mess she has left behind in the kitchen. I wanted to clean everything first so we could have our breakfast in peace but she insisted that I sit at the table and consider this a special occasion and eat. You don't disobey an order like that coming from a princess named Sharifah Suraya and so I sat and ate like a humble begger, all the time thinking whether or not I should tell her that next time please don't leave the kitchen like that because I am not used to seeing a kitchen like that after a good meal has been prepared, and eaten. And so I said, you finish this up while I go clean up the kitchen.

(I shouldn't have said that because I could see in her eyes that she's hurt. Maybe she knew about Penang, about her kitchen, about why I refused to eat her cookings when I stayed with her and Pakcik Syed.)

I walked to the kitchen to clean up the sink, thinking, I've hurt an old lady all over a kitchen, a lifeless set of stainless steel that I evidently cared more about than the gentle feelings of an elderly who doesn't have anyone in the world to call a relative except me, a distant relative of her ex-husband. This doesn't make me feel good. I could sense that she has stopped eating, and she isn't drinking the coffee.

Ada baju nak basuh, Maksu?
Yup, I've did it good this time.

Maksu, I am sorry if what I said about the kitchen hurt you. It doesn't mean anything to me because you mean more than anything else in the world to me right now and so please don't be offended by what I've said. You must understand that I grew up like this, trained in the professional kitchen to keep the work area clean, and safe. I don't want you to get hurt, but if you don't develop a sense for safety, one of these days you will slip because the floors in the kitchen is the same as that of the living room and trust me, this is dangerous for someone like you. I care about you. I don't want to come home one day to see you all burnt to the bone because the kitchen had caught fire. You must understand, twenty years on the rig has made me this way. I am always thinking about hazard, and fire, and explosion. I will teach you how to work in this kitchen. It isn't hard, and you can do it.

We can work this out. We have to because there's only two of us and we need to stay together. I am not sending you back to the old folks' home because you don't want that, and I am not going back to the rig, not until they can clear me by way of a medical certificate. There's an opening in Saudi Arabia, a nice place. Aramco. Used to work there, it's like a small American town in the middle of the desert with its own TV and radio stations. But I can't leave you, eventhough the money is good. I need to be here with you.

We can work it out. I promise.


Blogger RedKebaya said...

Bergen - walau apa jua situasi semoga terus dilimpah nikmat & rahmat Nya.

Take care.

1:19 PM  
Blogger anedra said...

The old lady was just trying to impress you and probably thought it would be nice to "jaga" u for a change by making you breakfast. Close one eye to the mess she made, slowly instil in her your principles on safety and kitchen cleanliness. She'll get to it soon enough. You're doing good though! GodBless you!

1:32 PM  
Blogger Noni said...

Yes its hard to live with octogenarians 24-7. Its a damned-if-u-do-and-damned-if-u-don't thing. I'd like to believe at the end of the day it boils down to conscience.

I think Aunt Su needs more of an acclimatisation buffer than you do Berg. I am not alluding that Aunt Su belongs in that specie k?, but you know what they say about canines learning new tricks.

Meanwhile, let's just hope and pray that the only thing that might explode if at all would be an egg that Aunt Su stuffs in the microwave oven... NOT that i've done it b4... i think!

2:58 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

RedKebaya: Good to see you, ma'am. How have you been?

Anedra: You've got it right there. It's not so much the mess but her safety. I don't mind the cleaning up at all but it hurts me to see a kithen being abused.

Noni: I may have to draw up somekind of training programme for her so she will get used to the idea of working in a compact kitchen like ours. I've got enough experience dealing with the elderly in the institutional environment but this is totally different with Aunt Su in a common setting like this apartment where the place has no history linking either me or her to someone. In Dungun it's different because I could sense that she had somekind of unspoken respect for the house. We'll see how it goes. All I know is I've got to work hard to make this work for both of us.

6:01 PM  
Blogger torts said...

With time - insyaallah. God bless you and your dearest Aunt Sharifah Suraya.

11:23 PM  
Blogger LifeBloom said...

It will take some time to learn each other's rhythm and rhyme. And that goes for everyone - young & old!

But you have always demonstrated time and again that you know what matters most and you both will be just fine.

9:09 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Torts / Lifebloom: It's the decision I've got to live with. I went into this one with eyes wide open, and feet firmly on the ground. It helps a little that I know Aunt Su as a person over the years, visiting her at the old folks' home, and taking her out for a trip to boring places.

I believe you too have the experience in dealing with an elderly. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

Good day, ma'am.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Count Byron said...

Berg, I love your habits.. and I too love your Aunt.. Not a very easy compromise.. and in fact there is no compromise to it. Someone has to suffer in silence, either you or the aunt...

That my son, was my experience too..and suffer I did, until things are steered close enough to my norms of clean kitchen and all...

Sabarlah.. as much as I had.. but was I?? *smile*

4:41 PM  
Blogger dee3 said...

life is about compromise.
life is about working things out, and working things through...

but sure is hard to do!

in the end, one party will have to step down. and guess who am i putting my bets on? ;)

GO en. bergen GO! :D
en. bergen kan baik hehehe

11:46 PM  
Blogger I'm Not Female said...



- Monitoring Petaling Jaya's favorite modern township. Not affiliated with MK Land (obviously)

8:10 AM  

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