SINGAPORE - People with children can apply for much-needed childcare leave when the little ones fall ill or, for some other reason, require their full attention. How odd that I cannot apply for a week of parental- care leave when the ageing adults who tended to my childhood fevers need a little extra time and attention in turn.
My father was adamant that no parent of his would end up in an old folks' home, even if it were a retirement village that offered classes in senior aquarobics. So we lived with his parents until their deaths.
My grandmother died only a few years ago, and my father organised family holidays around her desires, took her to doctor's appointments and battled with her sweet tooth and the need to monitor her sugar intake daily.
My mother's parents lived on the other side of town under the care of another daughter, but my mother visited at every opportunity.
She took a part-time lecturer's post nearby so she could drop in after morning lectures and oversee lunch. She switched her bank account to a branch on that side of town and found numerous other reasons to be near her parents.
At the time, I was a gawky teen and my parents were god-like heroes to me. They managed their elders, monitored my homework, put food on the table and were the go-to problem solvers for an army of friends and relations.
In hindsight, I realise how stretched my heroes were.
Bookworms who took both their young children to spend long days at the local library, they stopped reading until very recently.
There were idyllic stretches when the family laughed and bonded over games and picnics, but also strained evenings when both my parents were too tired after work to engage with either children or elders dying for conversation and entertainment.