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[back] Wheel Power: Thankful for Dad Anthony Thanasayan (The Star) - 15 June 2006

Wheel Power (The Star Newspaper)

Thankful for Dad

Thursday June 15, 2006
By Anthony Thanasayan

Nothing delights septuagenarian Lew The Kun more than to be able to gather all his family members together to enjoy special occasions.

This Sunday's Father's Day celebration will be no exception. Though a simple get-together, it promises to be a rather "crowded" affair for Lew because apparently, everyone's turning up.

The grandfather is looking forward to meeting his nine children and their spouses, and 22 grandchildren.

Of course, Lew's wife, Chow Fai Cheng, 76, will also be there.

And so will their third daughter Sara Lew Lai Heong, who wrote to fill me in on the details."With Dad turning 77 last November, we are all aware of the inevitable: daddy won't be able to see many more birthdays or Father's Day events to come," says Sara.

"Especially after he was struck with Parkinson's disease (PD) 17 years ago. The toll on him has been pretty heavy, with him getting weaker by the day," she adds.

Sara explained that because PD had affected her father with uncontrollable trembling of hands, slowness of movement and body stiffness, in recent years the family had been forced to hold special get-togethers with dad at home for his convenience.

"Because of his condition, he's reluctant to venture far from home," says Sara.

Despite what PD had done - and is still doing - to her dad and the entire family, Sara says she can still smile. That's because of the kind of man that he was and the things he had accomplished for the family before PD stepped in.

A first generation Chinese born in Malaysia in 1929, Lew began his humble beginnings peddling goods by the roadside during the 1950s. By the 1960s, he had started his own textile business.

"Life was hard back then. We lived in a three-room wooden house with a well in the front-yard."

"My siblings and I had our share of climbing trees, flying kites, trapping spiders and catching fishes in the river."

"Dad was the sole breadwinner in the family and went to work early every morning. His main concern was that we had enough food on the table."

"When he wasn't at work, he would be at home to give us a good scrub during bathtime or he would be chopping wood which I collected and stacked neatly in a corner of the house."

Sara fondly remembers the times when she followed her dad to the market to buy meat and vegetables for the family.

"My father has always been my role model. He was a disciplinarian who commanded the respect of all his children, with his love, dedication and intelligence."

"Suddenly discovering that he had PD at the age of 60 was too much for him to bear, especially when it was also around the same time that my grandparents died within six months of each other."

"My dad slipped into depression and it took plenty of determination and support from the rest of us to help our dad accept the dreaded disease and to get it treated to delay its progress."

Tai chi exercises, vegetable gardening and the koi (Japanese carp) pond in her garden are some of the things that helped her father take his mind off PD, says Sara.

"Things also took a turn for the better when dad (and mum) joined the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association," says Sara, who is the secretary of the 11-year-old organisation.

"The last few years have been very challenging. Even though dad's condition continues to deteriorate, his positive attitude has helped him slow down the progress of the neurological disease."

"We now take turns to take care of dad every night. The sacrifices we have to make are nothing compared to what he had done to raise us to be who we are today. For that, we are ever thankful."

"Happy Father's Day, Dad!"