An 'itinerant' mum with strong familial roots

An 'itinerant' mum with strong familial roots
Madam Tan Bee Wah may not have any savings but her life is rich in terms of her children's love and care.

Madam Tan Bee Wah is constantly on the move, dividing her time between her four children.

"I will spend three to four days at my son's house, then go on to my daughter's house. It's like a tour. I spend two nights at one place and can complete the circuit in a week," says the 64-year-old.

As all her children have maids, she does not need to do much.

She just dishes up the meals, or minds her grandchildren if their parents have to travel for work.

"I decide where I want to go. Sometimes they will call and ask when is their turn. I am constantly busy but I think they want me only because I can cook," she jokes.

When she is not busy cooking up a storm, she volunteers as a hairdresser at a home for the elderly, or helps out at a temple. She also plays mahjong with her friends, and sometimes visits her father and siblings.

Life, she says, is good and she is contented.

But it was not always this way.

Just six years ago, she was sickly and reclusive, battling a debilitating bout of depression.

Her woes began in 2004 when her husband - a businessman - was diagnosed with liver cancer.

They soon faced financial problems because of his medical bills. Her children had bought an insurance policy for her but not for their father, thinking he already had a policy.

"My husband did not have insurance. He bought insurance when he was running his own business, but none of the children knew he had stopped paying the premiums," says Madam Tan in Mandarin.

At the height of his illness, they paid more than $10,000 for each chemotherapy session, which included a three-day hospital stay, at a private hospital.

The children chipped in to help but things got so dire that Madam Tan had to sell their home, a maisonette, at a loss of more than $30,000 in 2005. The couple - and their youngest daughter - downgraded to a three-room flat in Tampines.

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