Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lost Cause

I have an uncle named Michael whom I haven't met for a good many years. I used to seek his advice when I was younger, especially during the years before I went to work in Brunei. He has a very interesting way of looking at life and perhaps more importantly, I feel he is a very "realistic" man. Well, I am a realistic person myself. So it's very easy for me to agree with most of his views.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from uncle Mike on Thursday. The first thing I did when I heard his voice over the phone was to laugh out loud. And he did the same thing too. I don't know why, but we have always enjoyed chatting with each other since all those years ago. I guess you could say that we have more or less a similar kind of sense of humour. We just sort of entertain each other with our stories without even trying to make ourselves entertaining, you see. It's not often that I can actually talk to anyone for hours and hours without feeling the time ticking away.

Well, anyway, uncle Mike was in town and was wondering if we could meet up late morning on Friday—yesterday—because he wanted to seek my professional opinion on the current property market in KK; but also to catch up a bit on old times. And so at about 11am yesterday, uncle Mike arrived at my office. We then went to a nearby coffeeshop and started reminiscing on old times. Little did I know, it must have been more than 10 years since the last time we had a proper chit-chatting session like that.

Lina, Fara and Hisham have all grown up and established themselves in KL. Apparently they're all doing well there, especially Lina and Fara. Uncle Mike is busy doing his own stuff and travels frequently between KK, Labuan and KL. The last time I saw Lina was when she was still in Form 3. I was then her private tutor for maths and science, the 2 subjects which she was particularly weak in. Now she's all grown up and has 2 kids of her own, and apparently she's earning well too! When I was tutoring her many years ago, I honestly did not think she could reach where she is today, but obviously I was wrong. I like listening to all these stories—of how people have moved on and progressed in life.

Then I started talking about some of the people in my immediate family circle whose lives have remained stagnant since like at least 20 years ago. These are very stubborn people who keep repeating their mistakes in life—they keep doing things exactly the same way and then failing to achieve their goals over and over again; and at the end of the day, they don't know what's hitting them! Now that they're within the twilight of their lives, they are getting even more desperate to show that they still have what it takes to succeed.

As I said, I am a realistic person. I don't expect everyone to be successful; that everyone will become the big boss and live a comfortable life. If these family members wanted to live their lives the way they do, then that is totally up to them. Unfortunately, because they are family members, it is difficult to just ignore these people. They are connected to us one way or another, and when there is trouble somewhere in the middle of the pond, it will generate ripples throughout the rest of the pond whether we like it or not.

Therefore, every so often one is bound to hear from these people sending out SOSes for their failed ventures. Yet every time help is given to them, it's just a matter of time that they will come back for more. Thus the cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Uncle Mike listened attentively. And then gave his advice. He said one must learn to draw the limit to everything. There will come a time when one has to be strong and deny help to these people, not even a small amount. Because the pleading for help will never stop. The simple reason is that these helps are for a lost cause. These people will never change. No amount of help can actually help them.

He said, "Always remember that when they keep coming back for help, don't blame them for what they are. Blame yourself instead. Because if you allow them to take advantage of you, then they will certainly take advantage of you!"

The kind of solution which I myself have thought of long ago, yet it's good to hear it from someone else. The only thing is how does one actually put it into practice when dealing with one's own father?


Anonymous said...

I have a friend dealing with this same issue. His father even "expects" to be helped because he is the elder. He thinks manual labor or menial jobs are just not worth it, and instead asks his son, expects his son, to help him out..

My friend has decided he is going to help him out until he dies. Since he is his father, he has decided he cannot cut him loose.

This would be hard for me, and I am not sure I could do the same, but wow do I admire my friend for his loyalty.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to look at this issue from different angles.We are asians by race and especially if we are chinese there is such a thing and obligation as fulfilling our filial duties.As children it is our filial duty to look after the welfare of our elderly parents regardless whether one is rich or poor. One cannot escape the fact that our parents are the ones who have brought us up in this world,rich or poor.What we become, rich or poor, after they have fulfill their parental duty to bring us up must be gratified and honoured. It is an endless circle best summarized as "what comes round,goes around".Now it is our turn to bring up our children in this generation. Next it will be our children's turn to fullfill back that filial duty and obligation to look after their parents.Karma has a role in this matter especially if one is a buddhist,Hindu or a believer.What we do now in this world has a bearing on wht our after life will be in the next one.

Cornelius said...


Your friend’s father sounds very much like my dad. I guess that’s one way of dealing with the matter, i.e. just keep helping him until he dies.

But how long and how far can one extend the kind of help the father expects of him? My dad has been using other people’s money to “gamble” for his doubtful business ventures for years now. I’m talking about hard-earned money just going down the drain. My sister had gone very far to help him out; she took up a loan which dad threw away, and she’s still servicing the loan up to now. So while the old man pursues his dreams of making it big, everyone else around him bleeds to a slow painful death. So who will die first, the daddy or the children?

Cornelius said...

Anonymous friend,

It is profound what you say here. I'm going out for a quick lunch break now; and I'll be back to respond. I'll think about what you're saying here over lunch. Be right back.

Cornelius said...

Anonymous friend,

We’re talking at cross-purposes here. I absolutely agree about filial duty. However, I must mention here that my dad has failed to perform his duty as a father. Taken as a whole, I’d say he did not even achieve 50% of his parental duty. That said, however, as a son, I’ve been making it a point not to miss his monthly allowances. He gets his money rain or shine at the end of each month, whether or not his business is running. As far as looking after the welfare of my dad, I have done my part.

But the issue at hand is about helping him out with his business ventures, of which after more than 20 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s just not cut for it! Yet, he doesn’t give up. He keeps chasing his dreams at the expense of other people’s money—other people’s hard-earned money. It is this kind of help that I’m talking about in the above post.

I used to help him a lot; and when I said a lot, I mean really a lot. But this lately I’ve thinking if I’m being fair. Firstly, am I being fair to myself? Secondly, am I being fair to my wife and daughter? Thirdly, is it not a sin to waste money by throwing it all down the drain?

This thing about karma—I’m not well-versed about the subject. And I’m not a believer (of religions). But I believe in being a good person. In my life I felt that I’ve been “protected”. In my darkest hours, I felt that luck always comes to the rescue. I think there is a reason for it.

A woman who had a choice between a well-to-do and educated young man against this poor lad, for some strange reason, chose me in the end. She was willing to endure the rough life with me; that she may well remain poor until she dies. She's truly a crazy woman! What was she thinking? Now that I have a bit of comforts in my life, is it fair to throw it all away down the drain? Am I being fair to my wife? Just because my wife never once questioned me what I do with my money, should I take her for granted?

Each time I see my money go to waste in dad’s business ventures, it pains me terribly. I would rather use my money for better purposes. Hence I made annual pledges to MAKNA and BUDIMAS, for example. Maybe I will get my rewards indirectly. Maybe I will get my punishment for denying help to dad. But I have a clear conscience. I have done my best to be a good person. But I realise dad may disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

I hope you had a good lunch.I fully empathize the situation you are in and sympathize with you for what is happening. I am not a counselor nor am I trained in the field of social science or human philosphy but just a "ta kung jai" (ordinary worker) in the occupational field.Like you I have also thought and ran over what you have opined over my lunch of chicken rice. I noticed that you have also brought in the issue of the woman in your life (your wife) when putting your points across here.Similarly I think we both miss the issue of the woman in your dad's life , who is your mom.Our wives, being our life partners, will always figures and have an important role in what is happening in our lives as we progressed through life's journey together.So in the same line of thinking, I think your mom have a similar important role,say or control in your dad's affairs by either controlling him from idulging in too much excesses or continuing in a failing business venture.I know it takes a strong woman, someone with character and strong beliefs to control a man, to be in a matronly position to tell her man what to do and what not to do and when to stop. Like me, I silently welcomed and appreciates the many times when my wife speaks her mind and reprimanded me against spending excessly on stuffs like notebooks, hand phones, not for myself only but also for our children. Like you, I feel there has to be a limit to everything a person can do especially when it borders or reaches the stage of excessiveness and wanton monetary wastages.A person can only do so much with so little time and space in this world. If you feel in your heart that you have done your best, so be it as your conscience is clear. I am sure when times goes by, your old man will one day "wake up" and "see the light" and appreciate what his children have done for him.I think you have raise up an important issue here which I think your readers will find to be of good reading.Normally I don't like to comment about such matters as I deem myself to be unqualified to give my opinions but ow that I have done so, I hope you will accept what I have said here as one man's opinion and not "Because I say so...."! Signing off..

delurk said...

The little I gather from reading your story here, it seems, to you it's all about the money.

Your wife has shown and proved to you it's not all about material things. Whatever qualities that she saw in you, are the same ones parents crave for.

Cornelius said...

Take it from me, delurk, when it comes to my dad, it's about the MONEY.

Cornelius said...

By the way, Anonymous friend, if my dad is one who listens to advice from others, he probably won't be where he is today. When I read your comment, I couldn't help but smile to myself. It is a romantic idea that his wife can tell him what to do (and what not to do).

The only thing that can result from his wife trying to advise him is the Third World War. You should meet the man to believe it.

delurk said...

Cornelius said...


Thanks for the link. Good read.