What I now know about...


I know He's there, and please don't ask me to explain how I know. I have such a basic, unquestioning faith in God some people must think I'm stupid. But I have felt God's power in my life many times and it's unmistakeable. I baptised my children to be Catholic like me, then my son grew up and declared he's an atheist. Just like his mother when I met her, though later she ran into God herself and now they're in a relationship. My daughter goes with me to mass and reminds us all of the rules. There are good Catholics who'll tell you I'm not Catholic enough. Actually they call people like me Supermarket Catholics who trip along the aisles picking up the parts of the religion we like and leaving behind the stuff we disagree with or don't care for. That's not very nice, but Catholics have confession to help us sort things out. We also have Mother Mary rooting for us. She's pretty cool.


Love is a wonderful gift and the surest way to tell we are human. Love is the most surprising thing because you just can't tell when it will hit you or who you will fall in love with. Or why. When my wife and I lost our first baby at 20 weeks, she was grief-stricken and I wept uncontrollably for days after I held that little girl in my arms so briefly in a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland. I never imagined it possible to fall in love so instantly, so deeply, so completely.

We lost another baby, but we had Nicola and Zachary. Loving your children is such an inexplicable love I am sometimes just dumbfounded by where it flows from, and how that source never dries up. Of course I loved my wife first, before the children came, and she loves me in spite of my peculiar ways. I have a few dear friends I like so much I must love them too. Love is like that. If you feel it, grab it and never let it go.


You know I have family issues. But still. How does it make sense that just because you were born into a small group of people and spent 20 years or so in their midst, you are expected to get along with all of them for the next 60 years, no matter who everyone turns into? Liars, conmen, emotional blackmailers or just plain nasty - basically, people you'd know instantly to keep at arm's length if you met on the street?

Come on. The conventional notion of family is overrated. Our real families comprise the people who care about us and treat us well even though we are not related by blood.

That's family to cherish. Some people are fortunate enough to come from genuinely happy, loving families; they should write books and have TV shows to celebrate how they do it. Everyone else, if your family members treat you badly or aren't people you'd like to have as friends, rewrite the script today.


As I've got older, random people have taken to asking me: Where do you see yourself retiring? They mean in which country do I want to live out the last days of my life. They have suggestions: Australia. Malaysia. Thailand. Cambodia. India. I'm staying at home, I say, and I mean Singapore. This country can be a little scary at times - it's an expensive place to be; everyone's so tech savvy and each new gadget and app pushes old people a little further behind; people look at their mobile phones, not each other; city life is so fast-paced; there are some parts of town where old is not gold, hip or welcome. But never mind all that, this is my home, even if my children move away like I did from my first home. I am optimistic things will get better for older people in Singapore because Baby Boomers never die, there's a million of us growing old at the same time, and we're not a generation to sit in the corner and be quiet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'What I now know about...'. Print Edition | Subscribe