Updated version which I sent to MI .
JAN 1 — My late father drove a car until the very day he died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of almost 90. He got his heart attack not while driving, but in his sleep.
When he was 78, I used to tell him that he should consider taking buses and taxis and stop driving. Not that he was a bad driver; on the contrary, being old, he drove very carefully and always stuck to the official speed limits. He also never ventured to KL from PJ; for that he always took the bus — there was no LRT then.
He drove mainly for certain errands like going to the bank, to the market and to his barber, all around the neighbourhood. Being careful, he never had an accident, not even a scratch on his car.
I was however worried that at his age his reflexes might not be that good and that he might hurt himself and others, if an accident did occur.
He replied that he was OK, and he had never had an accident before. Well, being an investor, I quoted the maxim of investing to him that ”past performances do not guarantee the future”. A past safety record would mean nothing if something happened, I said to him.
So we had this debate again and again. When he was in his 80s, still strong and walking as fast as me, and even able to travel to Huangshan in China on his own, we had this argument again.
I remember him saying this: ”Well, why are you always bringing up this issue when the government gives me a driving licence and renews it every year for me? If the government renews my licence, why should I stop driving? Legally I am recognised as fit to drive.”
Do you know that the Road Transport Department will renew your driving licence even when you are 80 and does not require you to go for a medical checkup (for saloon cars then, at least during the ‘90s; for commercial vehicles, everyone needs to go for a medical checkup).
Then some time back, I saw a documentary on TV about a woman trying to seek a restraining order on her mother from driving in the United States. The mother is more than 80 years old. The woman did it for her mother’s safety. But the mother’s argument was that she needs to drive to be mobile, to go about her normal activities, and that without the car she would be like a prisoner in her own home.
After seeing the TV documentary, I realised how much my father must have resented me for asking him to stop driving. To be old and immobile, a person would just be like a prisoner in his own home.
We have not put ourselves in their shoes. As an old man with no work, life can be very boring and to break the monotony, he needs to go out and mix around. Even saying hello to a shopkeeper means something to the old folks.
For those of us who were much younger then, we sometimes tend to neglect how our aged parents must have felt. How lonely they must be feeling even when they are staying with their own children, who have their own work to attend to.
Now that I am older and nearing retirement age, I realise that most of us did not spend as much time as we should to sit with our parents and talk to them.
My great consolation is that both my parents stayed with me until they died at a very old age. And I did attend to their every need, be it medical, social and financial. But still I thought I could have spent much more time with them. I could have accompanied my father on his various trips to China; I did not because I had just started my own practice and was working very hard then…
Once they are gone, we miss them; and the older we get, the more we would understand how they must have felt.
I hope younger people out there, who are lucky to have their parents around, will spend more time with their parents. Let them move around. If they are healthy and free of illnesses, let them continue driving, as long as the government renews their driving licence.
Chat with them, listen to them. Let them repeat their stories over and again and pretend to listen as if you are hearing it for the first time.
After all, without our parents, we would never be here. Without their upbringing, we will never be what we are today.