Pa was bed-bound for the last two years of his life. That was something he dreaded when he became wheel-chair bound. He did not want to contemplate life without the freedom to move independently. The idea revulsed him so much that he uncharacteristically shared his feelings with me. Patriarchs of his generation only barked orders and assumed total control of their families. Patriarchs would never share their worries openly and they certainly would not reveal any hint of anxiousness to their children. When they said “one, it is one” (yi jiu se yi) and “two means two” (er jiu se er), they meant there weren’t other ideas to be entertained. They were decisive men whose tolerance for nonsense and tardiness was zilch. Pa was a gentle patriarch – he got his way with kindness and persuasion, never once was I belted or roared at. Roar he could – I heard him. The neighbours along the 12 terrace shop-houses from 3 to 3K Penang Road would have heard him too. Perhaps too often, Pa and Ma engaged in shouting matches. He had an unfair advantage. He was a lot louder than Ma – after all, his lungs were designed for him to perform the lead role as Zhuge Liang in amateur productions of Three Kingdoms in Peking opera. So, I knew he could sing and dance but I never saw him do any martial arts. So, maybe he was not the consummate performer. There was an old Er Hu in the house but Ma many years later told me he was a lousy student. But, I know not to take the assessment of a wife seriously. My own, The Mrs once blocked her ears with her index fingers when I played my violin to her. She asked to be serenaded. I thought my version of Monti’s Czardas was pretty good, considering I had not touched my violin for some three years when I first met her in Sydney. That was the first and last time I bothered to serenade her. It was also the first and last time she asked for a performance below her balcony window. I used to bring Pa and Ma home on Tuesday afternoons. He would spend the few hours watching or listening to old recordings of my sons’ concerts. His favourite VHS tape was the one by ABC Classic FM. That was a recording of four soloists in different instruments, competing to be the winner of a national competition in Australia. His grandson’s performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was so good he won. A huge win, really. One of the prizes included concerto concert opportunities in Shanghai and Beijing. They never eventuated and it made us forever cynical about prizes from Chinese corporations. Never mind, Pa said the boy and his brother were going to be world famous. A grand-dad has every right to be super proud of his grandsons. I chose not to debate him on how remote the possibility was of that happening. I wouldn’t have won the argument anyway. Once the patriarch’s mind was made up, only the matriarch’s could change it. Besides, his George Peppard good looks were passed on to the grandsons and that X-factor would surely take their fame further than anyone could envisage. I imagine he might have harboured that thought. I do not remember what Ma did when she was here on those many Tuesdays. Perhaps auditing the fridge and freezer, and examining the stock in our pantry for prices and use-by dates. The Mrs would cook extra sumptuous meals on Tuesdays. We could see how much Pa enjoyed his meals with us. He would sit himself at the dining table and drum his fingers softly on it and before too long, dish after dish would magically appear in a train-like manner in front of him. Their visits continued even after Pa was moved into a nursing home. Nursing home food would be one good reason for anyone to want to shorten their life. Everything was mashed and presented like Neapolitan ice cream in three big round scoops but that was where the similarity ended. They only looked delicious but they tasted bland and fake – green was supposedly blended broccoli, vanilla was actually made from powdered potatoes, and the insipid orange was purportedly pumpkin. Ma the slow-eater would take far too long to start her dinner for Pa to wait. Ma was always busy in the background – I never figured out what kept her so occupied. After all, as a dinner guest, there was nothing expected of her except to relax and enjoy the meal. It was a customary practice of hers to have the sudden need to use the washroom when everyone was seated at the dining table. By the time she re-appeared, Pa would have finished his meal. Often, Pa would ask to be driven back to the nursing home before Ma had even taken her seat at the dining table. They were the first odd couple I knew. Pa was “fast hand fast leg” (khwai shou khwai jiao) quick to attend to matters whereas Ma would treat everything like an embroidery that required extreme attention and finesse. You could tell Pa was from equatorial Asia the way he used water from the tap like the rain would never stop whereas you would think Ma dry-cleaned her vegetables and pots at the kitchen sink. You would never hear the sound of falling water from her faucet. I cherished the Tuesday night rides with Pa back to his nursing home – it was just him and me. It reminded me of our day trips to Sg Petani to inspect his rubber plantations when I was a wee boy. I did not just drop him off at the door and return home to resume my dinner. That wouldn’t be right. Instead, I would make sure he was safely tucked in his bed, after a good wipe-down with a warm towel. Helping him with his dental hygiene required me to brush his dentures thoroughly. Difficult as it was in transferring his bulky frame from his wheelchair to my CR-V and vice versa, I never hurt my back once. I figured out the safest way was to help him lift himself off the wheelchair and sit him on my right thigh and then use it as a springboard for him to transfer his weight onto the front passenger seat. On Goldilocks mornings when the weather was perfectly fine – not too sunny and not too humid, and the breeze was just right – not too strong and not too cool, it was not uncommon to see an Asian man in his early forties pushing his heavy-set dad in a wheelchair to a Chinese restaurant a few hundred meters away from St Basil’s nursing home in St Peters for lunch. We knew every inch of the side streets and avoided the ones that needed repairs and those with speed humps. One Tuesday night, on the way back to his nursing home, Pa told me to help him end his life should he be bed-ridden eventually. Euthanasia was illegal in those days but Pa was always ahead of the curve. He said he wouldn’t tell if I didn’t tell. No one needed to know but I did not know the tricks to hide such a crime. I was not ignorant of Dr Death, Philip Nitschke who founded Exit International. He has legally assisted terminally ill people to end their lives but even today, it is still illegal to assist someone to die with dignity in South Australia. We can only rely on Common Law to grant a competent adult under an enduring power of attorney to authorise a specified adult to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment should the principal become incompetent. I should have said much more to Pa but all I said was he would be looked after. It was about two years before it was eventually too difficult for him to use his wheelchair. I cried inside when I first saw them dispatching him from his bed to a wheel bed using a mechanical lifter. He was hoisted in a sling like how a sedated rhinoceros was dropped onto a lorry in a David Attenborough documentary. But, the ignominy of being hoisted like a sack of rice was a small price to pay. He told me it did not hurt him to be strapped tight although it would have hurt his pride. It did not stop us from our usual Tuesday outings. Instead, he travelled in a Des’ minibus taxi on his special wheel bed. Unfortunately, Des’ punctuality was often lacking and the extent of their lateness was always measurable by the decibels of Pa’s banging on the table with his hands. I miss those times terribly. They were not menial tasks I had to do for Pa or awkward back-breaking manoeuvres to move or sit him comfortably. They were opportunities to spend precious time with him and privileges for me to show my love for him. I still miss him. Today is the 13th anniversary of his departure from this world. It happens to be Good Friday – the Christian world remembers the death of their saviour. I will remember the sacrifices Pa made for us.
Ever since I read about David Sinclair and Stephen Wu’s research into NAD, I have been mad about NAD. I must admit I have yet to read Dr Sinclair’s book, Lifespan. It was on Joe Rogan’s programme that I first heard about his idea that ageing is a disease. More importantly, that the disease is treatable! That is right, it made me sit up and take notice. What he meant was one day we will not have to age. He wasn’t talking about extending our lifespan per se, but actually extending our health lifespan. Now, that makes sense, right? Who wants to live longer, unless we live healthily for longer. As I was listening intently to Dr Sinclair, I could not help but allow Pa to come into my thoughts. It was too late for me to share with Pa about IF, intermittent fasting and how that could have reversed the early onset of Type 2 diabetes when he turned 60. It was also too late for me to share with Pa about NAD and how one day that could actually be the elixir of life that grants us eternal life or eternal youth. NAD, short for Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, has many roles in metabolism. It has two forms – in a chemical reaction, NAD+ accepts electrons from other molecules and becomes NADH. It is the discovery of sirtuins in 2000 that got the scientific world excited. They are a family of proteins that regulate cellular health and the implication is that sirtuins affect ageing and apoptosis. It is hoped that clinical evidence will support the theory that sirtuins can provide longevity benefits (The sirtuin SIRT6 regulates lifespan in male mice. Kanfi Y, Naiman S, Amir G, Peshti V, Zinman G, Nahum L, Bar-Joseph Z, Cohen HYNature. 2012 Feb 22; 483(7388):218-21.) Sirtuin functions have been described in the central/peripheral nerve system, cardiovascular system, immune system, liver, bone, skeletal muscles, stem cells, and tissue regeneration. They have also been associated with most major diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, and osteoporosis, all of which are age-related. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21497775/)
Why NAD then, you may ask? Well, sirtuins can only function in the presence of NAD+. In February 2019, I wrote to David Sinclair asking him to include Ma in his clinical trials. I was surprised he wrote back, but although he and his colleague Lindsay Wu are both attached to UNSW, their clinical trials are being conducted in Boston. “Sadly, Australians can’t yet be part of it. If that changes, Lindsay or I will make an announcement publicly.” Lindsay Wu also surprisingly wrote back to say their work is still under development and would not be able to have Ma involved in their trials. “For the moment I can recommend exercise and a varied diet as the best ways to maintain healthy ageing – in particular, I believe that resistance training is useful in the elderly.” I hope these guys will make their breakthrough discovery a huge success for mankind. But, Ma does not have the luxury of time. Last year I found a product called Tru Niagen that was only sold in the US. I ordered them online but my excitement for Ma to be supplemented with NAD turned sour. Australia did not allow unapproved “drugs” to be imported. A few weeks ago, I received an email from Tru Niagen that they are now available in Australia! You should see the way I jumped with joy, yeah like in the Toyota advertisement. Two days ago, my first shipment of Tru Niagen arrived! I look forward to sharing photos of a rejuvenated Ma in the next few months. For benefits of Tru Niagen visit https://www.mypillapp.com/tru-niagen-review/