Dad's birthday this year's was special. He had just retired a few months ago and
was beginning to show his boredom at home. He was beginning to feel
unappreciated and was snapping at everyone. We could not turn up the volume of
the television or music. We could not yell or scream at each other as we usually
did when we got back home. We could not even laugh loudly at jokes. He would get
irritated and would march up to his room in a huff.
At first, we shrugged and
laughed at his 'childish' behavior. Then, Mum explained that it was the
'after-retirement syndrome'. After working for so many years, he was at a loss,
not knowing what to do. So, we put our heads together and came up with a
marvelous idea. We would celebrate his birthday in a different way. No more
bearing little gifts, wishing Happy Birthday and going back to watching TV or
sleeping (which is my favorite pastime on Sundays). We would take Dad and Mum
out for a treat and make him feel appreciated!
We checked out all the hotels, restaurants and activities organized in town
and out of town, and finally decided on a trip to Genting Highlands. My elder
brother and sister, the only working members in our family, agreed to sponsor
the trip, and we booked into a hotel for a night. Not wanting to spoil the
surprise, we did not tell Dad about our plans, or the reason for going there. We
had to listen to him grumble about wasting money all the way to the hotel that
Saturday afternoon. We pretended not to hear him and kept our spirits high in
spite of his grouching. Finally, realizing nobody was listening to him, he
lapsed into silence.
When we reached the hotel, we checked in and whisked him up to his room
immediately before he decided to take up where he had stopped - on the present
state of economy, inflation and the importance of saving money for the future.
Poor Dad, he simply did not know what was lying in store for him.
That night, we took him for a show. A famous magician was on the itinerary
that evening, and we clapped and cheered loudly when he conjured up a motorbike
on the stage, among others. We stole a look at Dad surreptitiously, and saw that
he was smiling and enjoying himself too. Still, we did not enlighten him. That
was to come the next morning. But one good thing had come out of the
entertainment. When we went up to our rooms that night, he was his usual
cheerful self. He forgot to grumble for once!
The next morning, we knocked on Dad's door at sharp eight o'clock. Mum let us
in quietly. Dad was still snoring away blissfully, so we organized everything
before waking him up. Breakfast was brought up by room service, the cake was lit
and all our presents arranged strategically so that he would see them when he
opened his eyes. Then, we began singing Happy Birthday. He awoke with a start,
confused and befuddled with sleep. When he finally realized what was happening,
his eyes misted and he was lost for words.
"You brought me here for this? Thank you, my children," he said at last,
reaching for the knife and cutting the cake. He then made it a point to feed
each one of us a piece of cake before opening the presents. We had a fabulous
breakfast in the room amidst laughter and jokes.
After breakfast, we decided to do the theme parks. We gave him a choice of
Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum, the Climbing Wall, Snow World and the fierce
wind turbine tunnel for a simulated skydiving adventure. He chose to go to the
Snow World, saying that his heart would not be able to take the others. We
joined him, stepping into a winter wonderland and taking in the sights of a
snow-white landscape of Snow World, including the Cresta Run snow slide. After
this, we went outdoors, where I went for some fun rides, while the older
generation watched or ambled around. It was there that Dad met Mr Lim, his
former boss. They spoke for a long time before they went their separate ways. We
then went for lunch before checking out.
Dad declared that it was the best birthday he had celebrated because the next
day, Mr Lim called him and offered him a contract job at another branch of the
company. He accepted it with joy, happy that he was going to be useful once