On family life

I enjoyed the personal eulogies delivered by family of the former PM Lee Kuan Yew. It was interesting to subtract the politics from the old man. Of all the eulogies, Dr Lee Wei Ling’s was the most well written. She has a great voice. Nobody came close to expressing the intimacy in the family, or the heartfelt appreciation to the people who cared for her Dad. It was so distinct from her brothers and her nephews, whose version of family life felt as if he was there but not really there. (Of course, there was his job.)
In re reading their eulogies for their mom, I felt that the brothers’ eulogies were a better read than their sister’s. It felt like Dr Lee drifted away from her mom after childhood ended while Hsien Yang tried to pull their family closer.

I wonder if who was the favourite child. Were they hard to manage as kids being so clever all of them? Did they have favourite parent moments? To do activity X, ask Mama. To do activity Y, ask Papa. How do they resolve unfairness amongst themselves – is Hsien Loong the mediator? Is Hsien Yang the party organiser? I wonder how they felt when they found out about their parent’s secret marriage from a memoir. I think in normal households they would have talked amongst themselves. (“Why didn’t they say anything? An abortion? TSK!” etc). I’m not in their universe, it strikes me as unusual that as PM’s children they were “in every danger of being spoilt, indulged, and led astray”. Why would they be in more danger than other kids? I had thought that in the matter of being led astray, they would be well protected from it – having 24 hour supervision from school to home. I wonder if it could be the rationalisation for their deprived and perhaps overly strict childhood. If they had friends, I suppose they are carefully vetted to avoid trouble. Personal life must be hard for them.

They had rifts amongst them – Dr Lee said she left home once. What about Hsien Yang who tried to distance himself from his father by changing the spelling of his surname from Lee to Li? This act to separate feels as if to accentuate that he is not his father. A clean slate for his own family. At the dinner table, what do they talk about other than politics and school/work? As the single sister, Dr Lee took on more than her fair share of filial duties. Are all chinese families alike?


One Comment

  1. I think I enjoyed this post so much because you indulged in one of my favorite activities: observing others and imagining their lives: what they do, what they were like as a child, how they interacted with their families, were they the favorite, what are they like in the privacy of their homes when no one is watching? So thank you for playing the game with me.

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