Yi Fong and Eleanor during their recent vacation together
“Just before Chinese New Year, something heartbreaking happened, and I thought a lot about how unpredictable life is. At times like these, you’d realise that there were so many things that you didn’t have time to do or put off doing, which is why the first thing that came to my mind was that I didn’t spend enough time with my family. I don’t know how many years I have ahead of me, but even if I have decades more to live, when I look back on how I’ve spent my time, I realise that I haven’t spent enough time with my family,” she mused.
“The time I spend with them can never be enough.”
That didn’t spur her to take on any grand actions, however, as Yi Fong shared that a typical day with her family would be going to the market with her mother, walking around the neighbourhood together, eating, laughing, and just spending time with her family.
Her younger self, she shared, would have a long to-do list of places to go, things to eat and new trinkets to buy whenever she returned home, but her priority has since changed.
Yi Fong also mentioned her grandmother during the interview, and how getting Eleanor home was an important decision that she was glad that she made.
Eleanor and her great grandmother
“My grandmother had a stroke about eight years ago. She doesn’t recognise anyone except for meimei (referring to Eleanor). It’s perhaps because she came to Singapore to look after Eleanor when she was younger, and they used to spend a lot of time together. She’s also the first great-grandchild, so my grandmother doted on her a lot.”
Yi Fong continued, “Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be either, and before Chinese New Year, I showed her a video (of Eleanor) and she started crying while hugging my phone. It’s been three years since Eleanor last saw her because she’s so busy in Beijing, but I told her that she had to come home this time around.”
When Eleanor first stepped into the room, her great-grandmother couldn’t recognise her, but once the family members prompted her with Eleanor’s name, the old lady started trembling and drew closer to her precious great-grandchild.
“She started crying and hugging Eleanor while glaring at us and not allowing anyone to go near them,” she laughed. “It was heartbreaking, but at the same time, I was really happy to witness this.”
After spending 10 days in Taiwan, Yi Fong then went to Beijing with Eleanor for another 10 days, where she took on her mum duties once again.
“I feel like she’s living purely on takeout food, and no matter how healthy they say it is, there’s no way it’s better than home cooked food,” she sighed. “Eleanor’s so busy, and even her assistant is so busy that there’s no way that they have time to cook, so I feel that cleaning up her house and cooking for her is the least I can do.”
Yi Fong takes her cooking duties very seriously, as evidenced in past photos
Before she left Beijing, Yi Fong also made sure to stock Eleanor’s fridge full of nutritious foods made with love, and when asked if she felt sad to bid goodbye to her daughter after spending close to a month with her, Yi Fong stopped to think about this before replying.
“I used to think that way and miss my family a lot once I had to fly back to Singapore, but these days, I think of it another way – I know I can fly over to see them if I really miss them too much, be it my daughter or the rest of my family, so there’s no need for me to feel sad about it. Instead, as long as we spend the time that we have together meaningfully, I think that’s enough.”
There’s another reason why she won’t be missing her daughter too much: the mother-daughter pair will be reunited for good soon.
We asked Yi Fong if she has plans to relocate to Beijing, or for Eleanor to come back to Singapore permanently, and she seemed startled at our sudden question (we swear, we’re not mind readers) before slowly replying with, “Yes, we’re planning for one of these to happen right now but now’s not the time to talk about it. We’ll share more about this soon.”
This might be jumping the gun a little, but we’d be glad to welcome Eleanor back to our sunny island anytime.