All I want for Christmas – Breaking Barriers – The Borneo Post – 19 December, 2015

All I want for Christmas
December 19, 2015, Saturday Peter Tan,

AFP photo
AFP photo

IN my mind, Christmas had always been a time of feasting and carols, and of course the Christmas tree gaily adorned with shiny baubles, colourful ribbons and sparkly fairy lights. Needless to say, this was my favourite time of the year, other than Chinese New Year, for the abundance of delicious food and merriment.

My father was a Buddhist but he never stopped me from joining in the festivities celebrated on my mother’s side of the family, most of whom are cradle Catholics. The faith has been practised in her family since the time of my great-grandfather. He arrived at the island of Penang in the mid-19th century as a coolie and was later proselytised by Catholic priests.

The spread for the Christmas party was the same every year, which was home-cooked food comprising curry chicken, fried noodles, prawn fritters and ‘loh bak’. Simple they might be but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Those were fun times especially when the church carollers came to the house. I’d sing along and join in the merriment. Christmas days then were mostly spent celebrating with family and friends at home.

Exchanging presents was not a tradition in the family. For the life of me, I can’t remember ever making a wish or receiving a gift during such occasions. Still, that didn’t make me feel deprived. I was contented to just soak in the cheerful atmosphere and be amongst relatives I seldom got to meet at other times.

Yes, I was that easily entertained as a kid.

Nowadays, long before Advent – the four Sundays leading up to Christmas – the malls are already decked in holiday trappings. All the major malls I have been to recently are filled with whimsical decors and Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes to evoke that festive ambience.

Carols are being incessantly played over the PA system. Signs are everywhere to remind shoppers again and again that this is the time for giving and gift-buying. It is hard not to be drawn into a jolly disposition by such concerted campaigns.

I don’t mind all that though – it brings back memories of those wonderful Christmases of my childhood years.

All that has infected me with the festive bug. To say that I am excited is an understatement. I have inadvertently caught myself humming ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ while going about my daily chores. Since I am in the mood and I have never really made a wish for Christmas, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted.

In many ways, I am lucky to be blessed with all I need for a comfortable life. Despite that, I truly wish for a respite from the lethargy that has been plaguing me and gotten progressively worse over time. Tasks I could previously perform with ease are becoming strenuous. I need long breaks in between to recover.

I find that I am becoming more and more dependent on my wife for many of my daily activities now. This is a great inconvenience as I am home alone on weekdays while she goes to work. Many times, I have to wait for her to get back to help me.

This deterioration is not unexpected. My physical impairments have made me work my body harder than I should. The strain has aged it beyond its years. It doesn’t help that I have advanced kidney disease and mild anaemia caused by thalassemia. The convergence of these factors makes it a triple jeopardy for me.

This is also the reason why I took up the challenge to help establish ‘Independent Living Centres’ in the country. I foresee that I would need the support services provided by such centres. As I grow older, my wife too will grow older. She may not be able to help me with the heavier tasks that she is handling now.

Don’t be mistaken. I am not sad over this. I have accepted that at some point in time, I will have to depend on the assistance of others for many of the tasks I am capable of now. This is a matter of time. It is just that the decline has manifested much earlier than I had anticipated and I am not fully prepared for it yet.

It will be nice to feel energetic and raring to go for once, particularly during this festive season. It has been so long since I felt fit that I can’t remember what it is like anymore. Friends used to tell me I look cool and composed all the time. The reality is that those were the times I felt drained and sitting still was all I could do short of lying down to rest my weary body.

This is all I want for Christmas. It will be a lovely present indeed. For a day or two, I don’t have to depend too much on my wife.

At the same time, she can just laze around without me interrupting her every now and then. What a merry Christmas it will be for the both of us.

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Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.