My Family History
My grandfather, How Kim Sia, was born in Muar, Malaysia on 7th March 1936. I have decided to write about my paternal grandfather, as I know little about him and his experiences in the past. I have always been quite distant from my grandfather but I feel that through finding out about his life story, it brought me closer to him. Since he is the oldest member of my family, learning his life story will also help me learn more about my family history.
Around the year 1920 after their marriage, his parents, my great grandparents, had emigrated from China to Muar, Malaysia in search of a better life for themselves and their future children. They settled down in a small and cramped attap house they could barely afford. They became farmers to make a living, waking up at the crack of dawn daily to tend their crops and feed their livestock.
Born into a family of nine, my grandfather was the middle child among his six siblings – two brothers and four sisters. Despite this, his parents gave just as much attention to him as to his siblings. They never practiced favouritism because they knew the importance of love in a family and loved each of their children equally.
As there were only two rooms in the attap house, space to sleep was an issue for them. To deal with this problem, the daughters slept in one room while the sons shared the other room with their parents. My great grandparents shared the one bed they owned while the children slept on the floor.
Growing up, my grandfather and his siblings had to juggle school and helping out their parents at the rubber plantation they came to own. They went to a school in Muar Bakri but were unable to complete their education past primary school because they simply could not afford to further their education. However, this did not stop my grandfather in his pursuit for knowledge. He borrowed books from his neighbours and would stay up all night reading them with nothing to illuminate the pages but moonlight. Even though he only goes to sleep at the wee hours of the morning, he never failed to awake when the rooster that roamed the area crowed loudly at first light.
Although he was not one of the oldest, he was one of the sons and he felt that it was his responsibility to work and earn money for the family. Throughout his adolescence, my grandfather worked his hardest to support his family. On top of working in the rubber plantation and staying up late to study, he also went around to every house in the area looking for odd jobs he could do to earn some money, no matter how little. Even up until today, he continues to put his family before himself.
The year 1954 was a year of change. In that year, my great grandparents had fallen very sick and were bedridden. With barely enough money to afford medical treatment, my grandfather and his younger brother left home to look for higher paying jobs so that they could afford the treatment their parents needed. My granduncle moved to Kuala Lumpur while my grandfather moved to Batu Pahat.
The first few months in the new and unfamiliar environment were hard for my grandfather. He lived in a room that he rented and had to share with more than 30 other people. That was until he got a job as a lorry driver to transport timber and earned a steady income.
In 1963, when he was 28 years old, he married my grandmother, Tham Moy. At that time, my grandmother was working as a seamstress in the town centre. Together, they bought a small two-room house with a large backyard in Batu Pahat. This was where my father, his two brothers and his sister grew up.
In 1984, my father at the age of 13 passed a selection test and was given the opportunity to study in Raffles Institution in Singapore. He accepted the offer and moved to Singapore to live in a hostel. Later on, his brothers had moved to Singapore as well to further their studies. Only my aunt remained in Batu Pahat to take care of my grandparents.
Recently in 2013, my grandmother passed away after suffering from a brain hemorrhage. This was a heavy blow to my grandfather, as he truly loved my grandmother. During my grandmother’s wake, I had heard many stories from my grandparents’ close friends about how my grandfather would never fail to buy lunch for my grandmother and eat together with her no matter where he was.
Now at 79 years of age, my retired grandfather lives in the same two-room house in Batu Pahat with my aunt. He no longer needs to worry about earning money and occupies his days by spending time with his friends. His favourite time of the year is Chinese New Year, when his children and grandchildren visits and spends time with him. We always try to visit him as often as we can because we know it makes him happy.