Up until the plane took off early Saturday morning, I was unsure if leaving Alphonse for a few days was a good idea. I had packed hesitantly the night before, throwing things haphazardly in three suitcases (one each for my husband, Alex, and myself) and taking them out just as soon, so unsure was I that we were doing the right thing by Alphonse. I wanted to stay behind. I tried desperately to convince my husband that I was needed here but he gently reminded me that we have two children- not just one- and Alex deserved just as much of our time as his brother did. With my sister coming in to pitch in to help and Alphonse’s schedule covered by his teachers and nannies, he felt Alphonse would be in good hands.
And he was right.
For each of the four days we were gone, we received text messages and e-mail on regular intervals, assuring us that Alphonse was alright. He was busy the whole day with his teachers and nannies. Although he pined for us and waited till late at night by the gate, he would soon be overcome by sleep that getting him to bed was not such a problem for his caregivers. And while there were some moments of tension and irritability, these were short-lived and generally manageable, they reported.
I could not immerse myself in the excitement of the trip as I constantly waited for updates from home. So ingrained was my worry that I could not sleep until after they sent us messages to tell us that Alphonse had gone to bed. My heart was always in my throat as I prepared for the worst. But for the first time in weeks, I slept for long, unbroken, dreamless hours. My husband was right: Alphonse and I needed to be away from each other, even for just a short while.
In Singapore, we caught a matinee of the play The Lion King at the Marina Bay Sands. We were fortunate to get tickets to the show that day. I cried as soon as the opening sequence started, as I remembered Alphonse at home. (The Lion King was the first full-length movie he ever liked and he watched it daily for a year.) We visited the ArtScience Museum and stayed for hours, savoring the uniquely wonderful exhibits of The Silk Road, Genghis Khan, and Shipwrecked Treasures.
We rode the cable cars to Sentosa and spent a whole day in Universal Studios where we were met with sporadic but strong rain. The rain was a wonderful respite from the humid heat. With just a small umbrella in our handcarry, we bought flimsy raincovers sold at SD2 apiece but this, we discovered, did not protect us from getting soaked to our underwear at the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Still, we were too wussy to try out any of the rollercoaster rides (I have a broken neck- that’s my excuse).
We walked a lot in Singapore, more than we did at home anyway. We rode the MRT like locals and Alex was proud of his newfound skill. We went to the malls in Orchard Road to look for presents for family at home. Alex bought books at Kinokuniya and I picked up some Sylvanian Families at Takashimaya. And we ate together as a family, sitting on chairs with real tables for the first time in months. We had chicken rice and kopi and beef pepper rice. We devoured double quarter pounders at McDonald’s. We picked up breads at 7-11 and ate them late at night with instant cup noodles and Cokes purchased from the vendo machine on the second floor. It was a brief vacation, but worth every second of Alex’s smiles.
It’s not easy balancing the needs of everyone in our family. Alphonse’s special needs have constantly come in first in our lives and we have often overlooked Alex in the process. We always took for granted that because he was bigger, smarter, and wiser, he would need us less. This has always been my regret- that one child has sometimes felt less loved and less wanted as we focused so much on another. I hope, that as Alex grows older, he starts to truly understand his parents’ intentions and actions. That even as our actions sometimes spoke otherwise, there has never been a day when he was out of our mind and our hearts.
We hope you enjoyed Singapore, dear Alex.