My parents serving tea to my father’s parents on their wedding day
To understand this story of mine, there are three things to know. First, in East Asian societies where Confucianism informs the way of life like China, Japan and Korea, carrying on the family name is viewed with utmost importance and the responsibility always fall on the sons of the family. Second, it is a widely-held belief that mistakes and burden accumulated by a past generation can have an effect on the current one, ie. karmic retribution.
Third, my paternal grandfather was my great-grandfather’s first son (from the second wife; he had three), my father was his eldest son, and I am my father’s eldest son; hence I’m also the number one grandson with the family name. My younger brother is the only other grandson with the family name. So yeah, no pressure at all.
My parents on their wedding day
With all that out of the way, I can carry on telling this story. So for the longest time now, family and relatives have always been trying to fix my “problem” of being unmarried and childless. I know my mother especially yearned for grandchildren of her own, if what her siblings tell me are true. And then the problem slowly morphed from being solely mine to being predestined.
My mother relayed her thoughts of karmic retribution to me a year back. She said that perhaps there had been some problems or issues in the family a few generations back and that is why myself and my brother are unmarried and childless, and why the Ooi name might stop with me and him in our family. Sounds plausible if you believe in that kind of thing. Or perhaps the idea of carrying on the family name is gradually becoming outdated.
The name “Ooi” is indeed a rare one that originated from the Hokkien people who settled down in Penang in the colonial days. But since then, I think they have been prolific breeders. Just google it and see. At last count, there are about 300,000 results for “Marcus Ooi” alone. So yeah the name won’t die out just because me and my brother are not producing heirs to the throne.
Anyway so my mother is now not encouraging marriage so that I can produce more Oois in the world and has now changed tack. She said to me, “You know I don’t even care about not having any grandchildren anymore. I just don’t want you to die alone.” The woman if nothing else, is very blunt.
I said to her, “Don’t worry mom, when I’m old there will be robots who will service me in that department.” I know what you are thinking about how my mother reacted and you will be right. To which I answered, “What? The robot will check if I’m alive every hour … amongst other ‘things’.”
Look at that face and all that procreation and name propagation potential