Ahmad Ali

reliable source of wise counsel

I wish I had done more

That is the thought of a son who had just lost his father suddenly.

Abang Udin doesnt talk much about personal stuff. Why should he. A very successful single man living the dream. Years older than me, a very successful business with the gift of the gab. The longest and meaningful conversation we had were centered on hobbies and he had been influential in my hobby development – which changes frequently.

First there were the model aeroplanes – his favourite being F-14 while mine was F-15. Now you can understand why Im so into Top Gun till these day. My wife was sweet enough to have it stored in my iphone. During weekends, we would visit all available Hasegawa, Tamiya and US manufacturer Revell shops to browse and get our tools.

Then there was car racing, something he still enjoys today. He was saddened by the lost of his idol Ayrton Senna. He vowed to have tahlil on every death anniversary. I remember how he would call me to get me set up his electric car racing set in his room as his friends would coming over later for a duel.

Then there was astronomy. That time, it was the Halley’s comet craze in 1986 I think. I read all the star gazing books be bought. Memorise all the stars and constellations and galaxies. He brought me to the Science Center that night when Halley passed our way. I saw it although it was a little hazy. Our sky is not good for star gazing.

When he got his first computer, I would wait eagerly at the door for him to return home from where ever he was. Zaxxon was our favourite. I would sit hours on end playing that game remembering how hot the joystick would get. Those days, they were all solid metal. He would ask me to complete the toughest levels in computer games while he sleeps so that the next day he would continue the next level.

He often took advantage of my naivety. Once I was made to sing “Uptown Girl” along the corridor of our flat. He said he doesnt know the lyrics and I eagerly showed him my lyric song exercise book. Do not ask me where I got the lyrics from because I couldnt remember. I mean there was no internet then. While I was singing, my mum was looking and giggling behind us. I only realised now that he pretended not to know the song. Come on, for someone who continuously sings “Woman, I can hardly express” there was no way he could know “Uptown Girl”.

Taking advantage of naivety has always been his forte. “Amir, if you polish my car, you will also become Karate Kid.” Man, at that age, being karate kid was like sooooo wowie. So I polished his car. First it was together. Soon it was just me alone. I remember after a polish, he would get me to sit on the bonnet in front of his first car, Datsun 100, while he drove round the car park. I enjoyed the wind and felt the freedom like flying. Of course everyone at the hawker center was looking on.

Ive never seen him sad. It was either happiness or short temper. Oh boy, he does have one. He cant stand being late. Everyone has to be punctual. Everything has to be organised and orderly. He is methodological. He doesnt care who you are. He would blow his top off if you got on his wrong side – especially on his birthday. I think he doesnt like mushy stuff. I remember how he would run over to our place and sit for hours when there were guest over at his home. After knowing my brother in law, Emi, I think his relatives were always asking him when he was going to get married. That was probably why he always came over. Well, that was my assumption.

He couldnt stand for frivolous small talk. Everything has to be to the point and intellectual. I remember the time we were at Science Center and he was conversing with another star gazer. He mentioned something like watching history. Me being young and naive, brain still developing, asked why watching history. He looked pissed off of course and never did explain it. It only dawn on me later what he meant. Much much later when the brain got slightly bigger.

Devastating News
When my mum called me at 4.15am to inform me of the passing, I was very very sad. Although it was a news that I come to anticipate but had refuse to accept. I had denied all those times during my visits to the hospital by imagining this will all be over and I will be once again at their home to enjoy Mak Yam’s nasi minyak with pacri and ayam masak merah. Another part of me was asking what if it did happen. Oh no, not another one. One by one they are falling around me and each time makes me feel very very sad about what I would eventually face in the future.

A lot of things raced in my mine as i hastily drove to the hospital. His wife would be very sad as they had spent every single minute of their lives together. The last outing they had was to Tekka as the mrs had met them there during the fasting month – all slow and frail. As I got to the hospital before 5am, I was thinking of Abang Udin. How he would put a spin to this. How he would joke about it to make it all trivial and cool.

I got up to the floor and saw him sitting solitary looking for some phone numbers on his iphone. I placed my hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at me and called my name. Then his face changed to one of wanting to cry. I stooped to hug him tightly. He held me and cried. Not the wailing cry. Just a cry. We held for a few minutes after which he pushed me away. He told me where his father was. I went over and there he was, lying still. His face was very pure and clean. His mouth was gaping and I tied a hankey over to close it. So serene. I didnt cry. I couldnt. I was stricken. I just brushed his forehead with my palm.

This was it. This would be a dry run for me. There had been so many dry runs notingly last year on this date, my grand mentor had passed on. The the death of an uncle, the last uncle on my dad’s side. This was different. This would be an exact replica. How Im going to cope with this will be how this day was going to pan out.

Abang Udin was making arrangement for the funeral. I sat there to say my prayers. We waited for the casket to come. I had sent Abang Udin to block 9 earlier. When I first heard it, I asked where was block 9. “Well, its not a place where we usually visit.” he said with a smile. He couldnt help it. “Its the mortuary.” Ah, that one I know.

Car Ride
He thanked me in the car and was worried I had something to else to do. I replied no worries. I was telling myself that I was going to see this through. Cik Sani was an adopted father. When mum told me one night that Mak Yam needed help putting up the curtains during the fasting month, I went over immediately. Cik Sani usually does this stuff and he couldnt do it any longer. When my mum gets angry at us for not doing the housework like cleaning the windows or painting the walls, she would always refer to Cik Sani.

“Korang ni semua tak macam Cik Sani, Rajin lap rumah semua.” was her usual cry.

Only seeing them once in a blue moon made me blind to their plight and hide their true condition. Why cant everything stay the same. Why time has to take its toll.

Both of us remained silent all the way to his place. There was nothing that I could say to make this any better. Further this was Abang Udin, there was nothing you can say that he doesnt already know. It was an awkward silence but I am good at this because I know what was wanted by the other party. Being Abang Udin, I let him to his thoughts. He would mutter. This is what he usually does whether it was for school or work. At least that was what I thought. The only time I understood what he was thingking at the moment was when he blurted what was the difference between speculation and gambling.

Then just before we hit the CTE, he said, “I wish I could have done more.” God. I was actually thinking the same thing. I meant he must be thinking that since his father was hospitalised and then passed on, he must be thinking that there was more that he could have done. I would have thought about it if I was in his shoes. I was overwhelmed by this. This was the least I had expected. I didnt reply.

“You know he was in ICU for 9 days. When I returned from my trip and saw him, I thought he was a goner. With all the tubes and being assisted to stay alive, you know.” I nodded.

“Then he was transferred to the normal ward yesterday. He was fine. It was a miracle you know. He came off his sedation and was talking.” Abang Udin sniffed. I drove quietly.

“He was already in the state of delirium. He had told my mum to tell me to fetch him home last night. He was unclear of where he was.”

This one was true. On the night of the first day of raya, my family and I went over. He had guest at his ward. He picked up his phone to call his wife. He was angry at her for being late. It was only realised later that he had told her to go home as it was getting late. At one point, he told me that there were drinks under the table drawer. I was stumped because he was referring to the table at his home. “Its ok Cik Sani. Dah banyak minum.”

Abang Udin continued, “Days before he was hospitalised, he had informed mum that he had dreamt his parents came to visit him. You know how one can have premonition when one was going to go.”

“He told you about his parents coming in his dreams?” I asked to keep the conversation going.

“He told my mum and mum told me.” he replied.

“He asked my mum, kalau saya takde, awak duduk kat mana? Mak Yam answered kat old folks home. Dad said nonsense because masih ada anak. My mum replied you talk nonsense then I talk nonsense. So dont talk nonsense.” he sniffed.

“He asked me about his house. I told him that its his house. You are coming back to your house.” he smiled as he said it. I smiled as well. There was a long silence again as we tried to find a police post to register the death.

“Yesterday, he wanted to drink teh. I asked the doctor whether he could have some. The doctor disallowed it because he might throw up. He wouldnt allow a sip of it. Father said nanti saya mati kempunan tak minum teh.”

This was it, or at least one of it. The small matter of not letting the father drink the tea must have guilt him to have asked whether he has done enough.

“I hope I have done enough.” he said it once again.

Exudes Calm
Abang Udin was the calm and thankful person that day. He was cool and relax in his dealings with relatives. He thanked each one for coming, explained to the necessary what was going to happen and the processes. This was a different side. A side that I had never seen. Dont get me wrong. He is the man in charge. He has always been. But the full sentences and all of them in Malay was…wow. The respect, soft, relax sentences exudes calm throughout.

We had to make our way again to another police center as the police post was close. Along the way he was calm. He asked about the cleansing of the body of the dead. I said that this is how it is done now.

“Maybe I can design an eco-friendly one…mesra alam. I just learned this.” he joked.

While we were waiting for the death cert at the police post, he sniffed a little. If only I could see the bubble over his head.

The body arrived home at 8am. I saw Mak Yam and salam her. “Cik Sani tinggalkan Mak Yam, Amir…Cik Sani tinggalkan Mak Yam…Dia cakap dia tak tinggalkan Mak Yam.” I hugged her silently. “Semalam dia nak balik, Amir…semalam dia nak balik.”

“Dah Mak Yam, Mak Yam dah bawak dia balik kan.” I replied. I dont know whether it came off as a joke or to comfort her that she had fulfil his wish. She smiled a little.

By 10.30am, we made our way to cemetery. I rode with him in his XC-90 as we have to make way to the Cemetery Office to register for a plot. He was back to his usual self. Joking here and there. The Garmin GPS he had was the topic of the whole ride as it insisted we took another route.

“Amir, lucky you came along with me. Im sorry, I dont go to the cemetery often. The last time I was here, I wanted to star gaze. I thought I was the only one but there were so many.” he joked.

As Cik Sani laid to rest, Abang Udin sobbed. I told him that he could take his time. My Dad chimed in “Dont have to rush. Take your time.”

“It is not the physical presence. He will always be in my heart.” Thats Abang Udin.

“Abang Udin, you have done enough.” I said.

“I hope so.” he replied.

We drove home. Silent. I come to no closer to knowing how it will be as I look at the back seat and hearing my dad’s voice. All I know I have to do more.

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