Mr Tan returned to his apartment in Chinatown and suddenly realized that he could see much better in the dark. He felt different, better and free of pains. He looked around at his apartment and opened his cupboard and checked out his old tools which accompanied him for many years until he lost his job.
Mr Tan was an elevator repairman since he graduated from polytechnic. He has been working at his job for many years until his vision got worse and he was asked to retire at the age of 55. Even though he fully paid for his apartment, he felt like he never had enough to retire on. His wife who was a housewife had a fall and went to the hospital. As she did not have much savings, Mr Tan exhausted his medisave on her operation and the rest of his savings, but it still did not keep her alive.
Mr Tan had bad vision because of his cataract and when he visited the public hospital, he was given an appointment 10 months later, and this got pushed back another year as the doctor felt that the cataract need to get worse before operation. When he went to the public hospital as he felt that he could not hear, the ear examination was also 6 months later.
Mr Tan told his friends at the open area under his flat at Smith Street and they told him to stop complaining. "The government is very good. World class facility. We have the best doctors and people all over want to come to Singapore for hospital. Of course good things must wait lah... why you so ungrateful?"
But when his time for the appointment came, it was 2 days after his wife passed away and he was busy preparing for the funeral and did not go for the checkup. When he was available again, the doctors scheduled another appointment and it was for another 10 months.
When he visited the National Eye Center and inquired about the procedure and costs, the doctors could not tell him about the cost and the website did not have much information. Mr Tan tried to talk to the CPF board about his Medisave and CPF, which he had money inside, but they could not answer whether he could afford the operation.
Mr Tan lived frugally. He managed to stretch his $15,000 in his bank account and that was inclusive of his $5,000 from his CPF as he could not afford the minimum sum stated by the government. Mr Tan was a month short of 65 and his savings was running out. With the last amounts spent on the funeral, Mr Tan felt that he could not afford to see a doctor as he spent all his medisave amount for his wife's hospital stay.
Mr Tan picked up the photo album and browsed through. He had a great time with his wife and they could afford a car in the past, but it seemed like their quality of life had gone down as they could afford less, yet their HDB flat in Chinatown seemed to be worth more. He felt rich but could not afford anything.
Mr Tan sat on his favorite rattan chair and turned on his fan. Rattle.. rattle.. rattle.... He smiled as this was the sound he was used to as the fan worked for more than 20 years. Mr Tan went to the kitchen and saw his wife.
"What are you doing here?" Mr Tan asked.
"It is time to go." His wife said.
"Go where?" Mr Tan asked.
"To move on." His wife said and stretched out her hand.
"I felt much better now." Mr Tan said.
"Everybody does." His wife smiled and held his hand.
Mr Tan looked at the letters on the kitchen counter and the calendar. "20 more days before I can collect my CPF." Mr Tan muttered. "6 more months before my cataract operation and 2 more months before my ear examination."
"You don't need it now." His wife said.
"How did I die?" Mr Tan asked.
"You did not go to the clinic after my funeral and collect your medicine." His wife said. "You needed the blood thinners as you have high blood pressure."
"But I think I exhausted all my Medisave and the medicine was $900 for 3 months, even with the pioneer generation card." Mr Tan said. "I can't afford it."
"Then perhaps it is better this way." His wife said.
"I guess you are right." Mr Tan said. "I have so many things in Singapore I have not seen. The Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Formula 1 night race... Seem like very popular events that I would like to go one day, but could never justify the cost."
"This is life in Singapore." His wife said. "You work hard to buy a HDB, and work hard to pay it off. Then it is time to go."
Mr Tan held her hand and put his arms over her shoulders. "I miss you so much." Mr Tan said and opened the front door and unlocked the gates. There was a bright light in front of them and his wife smiled and nodded at him as he was staring into the light. "There is nothing to be afraid of. This is the end and everyone has to go through this."
There was a sense of calmness that went though Mr Tan as a gentle breeze blew towards him. There was a smile on his face and all his constant worries about bills and how to get by went away as he walked into the final light.
-- Iron Bowl