I live very well, but I support a lot of relatives.

– Joan Rivers, American comedian

I am thankful I have many nephews. Recently, two of them — Kiong and Lai — visited my mother and I and brought us great joy.

Kiong and Lai lived with me while studying in an all boys’ school in Kuching. Now, married and fathers with their own kids, I am glad they have not forgotten their roots and still remember my mother and I, and the house they once lived in.

First to come was Kiong, my younger brother’s son. He came on his day off to bring my mother and I out to lunch.

After that, he took me grocery shopping. That day, I spent quality time reminiscing about the good old days, talking about things we did not talk about before. Both of us agreed that as we aged, we had become more open and dared to touch real matters of the heart.

“When I was young, there were things I did not want to discuss,” confessed Kiong.

Even though he had a busy life, I was glad he remembered my mother and I and appreciated the way we looked after him when he was young.

The lunch and dinner treats and shopping sprees were his ways of thanking us from the bottom of his heart.

Lai, my elder sister’s son, came next to the house to repair a coffee table and install a trellis for my vegetable garden. These tasks were long overdue.

Hopeless in furniture repair and carpentry, I was glad he finally came.

Otherwise, I would have to throw away the old coffee table and let my vegetables grow without any support.

I was also glad that Lai decided to give my coffee table a new look by ordering new custom-made steel legs for it.

I am all for saving the environment and if we can recycle certain things, why don’t we?

With so much rain lately, the vegetables and weeds are competing for prime space in my overgrown backyard garden.

Ever the joker, Lai often describes my house as an orphanage. When he was growing up, there were many kids in my house.I guess Lai’s description of my house then was not far from the truth.

He, Kiong and other cousins lived there when they were growing and studying in Kuching.

I gave them food and signed their report cards. They only saw their parents who lived in Sibu and other towns during the year-end school holidays.

Years later during one of the family gatherings, Kiong and Lai confessed that sometimes they copied my signature and signed their own report cards.

This happened when they failed badly in their subjects and did not want me to scold them. Yes, I was a stern auntie who never failed to emphasise to them the importance of doing well in school.

Now that they have children of their own, Kiong and Lai also stress the importance of doing well in school to their kids.

When Kiong, Lai and their cousins left my house to seek their fortune and pursue their own lives after completing their studies in Kuching, it took me a while to get used to the complete silence and emptiness in the house.

In the beginning, there were many young boys and girls Then one day, there was none.

Looking back at life, I am thankful to God for the opportunity to share my nephews’ and nieces’ lives when they were young. Despite the challenges of looking after many children with different personalities, these were among the best times of my life.

When I shared Kiong’s and Lai’s visits with my best friend, she encouraged me to share my feelings with them.

“Yes, do let your nephews know how much you appreciate their visits and how much you’ve missed them. Then, they will realise you are not a super woman as you appear to be and that you are vulnerable and have feelings, too. After that, they will visit you whenever they can,” she said.

Even though the kids in my house did not come from my womb, in my heart I consider them as my own. Even though they are all grown up and have their own lives, I miss my nephews and nieces as much as I would miss my own child.

When they were growing up, I baked them cakes, took them shopping, made them laugh and hugged them. Things their own mums might not have done.

My friends, if like Kiong and Lai, you had once lived with your auntie or grandma, don’t forget to visit them or call them once in a while despite your busy schedules.

I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.