The number 3

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The number 3 has been starting to resonate with me of late.

For those of you who for some masochistic reason have read some of the articles I’ve written in the past will probably know by now that aside from Fabrique (and Fabrique Love Connection) and Stoic, Yingying and I have been juggling quite a few things both at work and on the home front. For starters, we have 3 kids, not to mention other animals in the house. We also bear the primary care responsibility of 3 elderly folks – my parents who have dementia and my sharp-tongued maternal grandmother (yes, she outlived the Queen amongst other people).

In December, we travelled 3,000 km across China for 30 days – 3 adults and 3 kids via 3 modes – high speed train, the slow train and by car. That trip alone is worthy of a lengthy article, but we’ll leave that for another day. We returned home just before Christmas, and just in time to admit my mother to the hospital on Christmas Day. Yingying and I – and later on my mother’s helper – were at the hospital every day trying to catch my mother as she slipped in and out of consciousness fighting pneumonia, in the hope that whatever we said to her in those 5 seconds mattered and that she knew she wasn’t alone. I wondered what the fuss was about covid, when there are simple things like chest infection and pneumonia that can be so much more debilitating. In a moment of sorrow and despair, I wrote a eulogy on New Year’s Day that I hope doesn’t see the light of day, halfway through what turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster for 33 days until she was discharged.

And for those of you who’ve followed our journey, you can appreciate the irony of it all when I say I stood outside the hospital bed curtain pondering the fact that the very daughter-in-law that my mother disapproved of was now painstakingly and caringly washing her bum in the aftermath of poor digestion. That same iron-woman has been running an army section sized labour force for the past 3 years ensuring the house with 3 elderly continues running like clockwork even under such circumstances. Not something she signed up for, nor was it something I wanted her to sign up for a decade ago, but she stuck with it(me) simply by reason of love and marriage.

So I have had trouble convincing or explaining to my 3 young interns why marriage was a necessity, at least until now. Sure, it’s enough to love each other, you don’t really need the formality of marriage to seal the deal right? Expensive to have kids? Sure, no need to have any. There isn’t really a NEED to get married or have kids, life is just as rosy without either. Possibly. I thought about that for a while, and imagined a world where Yingying or I didn’t exist or one that we could walk away from each other with a Whatsapp. My grandmother would still be lying in a cesspool too weak from food poisoning to call an ambulance or not have had anyone to navigate the maze of hiring a helper to avoid a regimental nursing home – she always said she never needed one and continued taking the bus until her late 80s. My mother would have been gasping for air alone on her bed on Christmas Day, lost in her state of dementia, unaware of what was happening. Sure, love is great and all, but her lifelong husband was in no better shape to call an ambulance either. Sure, we have helpers, but when it comes to being responsible for someone, it means making life or death decisions and seeing the consequences, an unfair burden for helpers whether your dependent is young or old.

Is it selfish to have kids just so you have someone to call for help when you’re too frail or weak to do anything but too early to die? What if you do a bad job and they can’t be bothered to talk to you? Certainly. But for those who have kids, you know what I’m talking about, and the crap that parents have to go through for decades just so that they have a helpline to dial in their 80s? Trust me, if it’s just for that, it’s not worth it, I’d rather bet on Elon Musk’s humanoid robots. So believe me when I say there is a deeper reason for the union of marriage and the formation of a family.

In any case, this article is not to preach about getting hitched, marriage or the virtues of having kids, I think our readers are all way past that. The point I’m trying to make, is that choices and decisions have consequences. Being alone is a choice, just as choosing a partner or to be with someone is. Not knowing what lies ahead is a common excuse, we all know, we just make different assumptions – mostly too optimistic. And when we don’t see those consequences, luck better be on our side. Just remember that no one is saying you HAVE to do this or you MUST to do that, it’s just so often that the advice comes through the wrong way in spite of the wisdom behind it.