My goodness, it has been almost two years since the last time I updated my blog. Where have I been in those two missing years? Before the end of May, two of my favorite people are coming to visit me. I am all excited and grateful that I going to see them again. The spring is here, although the temperature is yoyoing between 40F and 50F, teasing us the NewEnglanders as usual, but it is my darling Spring.
Not a very long time ago, someone said to me, "you like to talk about your childhood........" I wasn't sure if she said it because she got tired of listening to my endless childhood adventures, or because she thought I have nothing else to talk about because my present grown-up life isas plain dull. Well, she was right aboutthe latter. I work with homeless men and women in recovery and in domestic violence situation. How dull can you get?
I have to admit, advocating, counseling, listening, assisting, supporting, assessing and all that come with this line of work is far from boring to individuals who are really into social work. I met people at parties, summer cook-outs and gatherings who firmly believed that the undesireable compensation in social work is the main factor that throw them off if they were ever considering another career. Well, they are absolutely right. Unless they happen to be part of Doctor Drew's team in Celebrity Rehab or some private super expensive rehabilitation centers for the rich and famous people, the compensation is probably half of they are taking home.
Some people do not want to hear about other people unfortunate life, especially when they are homeless, relapse, poor, sick, overdose, have their children removed from the home by social worker from (DCF) Department of Children and Family because of child abuse and neglect. I no longer surprise when I meet women who blame women in abusive relationships.
It is easy to talk, to pass a judgment and blame the victims when we sit outside the lines.
I didn't have a hard time to leave my family behind after spending four or five weeks with them in my previous visits. I hugged and kissed Mak a few times. I cried and kissed and hugged her again and again like I never wanted to let her go.
I cried, I kissed and I hugged my sister KakNgah many times. I walked past a divider, I stopped and I turned around, pulled Mak and KN and hugged them again. I cried as I waved goodbye to them. I cried as I walked away toward a departure gate.
With all the tears, and kissing and hugging, I didn't experience an overwhelm sadness as I experienced last Wednesday. I never felt that kind of lost and longing as I experienced on the day I flew back to Boston.
The last time when I walked into my apartment, I didn't feel loss like I felt this time. There was not a single moment I felt my heart being squeezed dry and replaced it with sorow like I felt last Wednesday. Not even once. But last Wednesday, I felt like my blood being painfully squeezed from my heart and replaced it with longing and helplessness.
20 hours layover at Kowloon Int'l Airport didn't faze me. I was busy feeling sad and missing KakNgah. All I wanted was to go back to Pokok Asam and be with her again.
Back in my apartment 46 hours later, I sat at my computer and poured through all the photos I took with her while I was home. My luggage sat wide open in the living room. The hand carry luggage stood near a dryer in the kitchen.
I didn't call any of my best friends to let them know that I was back. I skyped with KakNgah, my grandnephew D'Haikal, my baby brother Adik, and my niece Muna. I chatted for an hour with KakNgah. I told her I already missed her as soon as I untangled my arms around her at Bayan Lepas departure lounge. Her lips quivered when she said she wished I could stay longer.
The next day, I walked around my apartment in daze and sleep deprived. I still felt loss. I called my best friend Prisca. I told her how I felt this time compared to tmy previous visits. I choked over the words and wondered to her why?
She listened and didn't say word. Finally, when I stopped, gently and tenderly and as calm as Ridge A, on the Artic Plateau, deliberately and slowly, she said, "It's mortal."
The sound waves struck the transmitter and made it vibrates. And the word went right to my core.
I burst into tears. The tears couldn't stop as Prisca shared her same experience when she went to viist his sick uncle in Singapore a few months back.
When we were younger we didn't think much about dying, about leaving behind the people we love. Like any Malays, I learned about dying when I was still young. When we visited dying neigbors, relatives we know they were dying. Some of us have witnessed the process of dying of our grandparents, parents or relatives. We recited Surah Yasin when we visited the dead.
And like most Malays I know, I watched the process of preparing the body for the burial. A ritual purification of ablution prior to shrouding.
I sat next to Abah when Mak whispered Shahadah into his ears. I saw him mouthed the words. He did it three times. The last time he said the shahadah with his eyes. I saw his last breath left his body. Calm and quiet.
I didn't notice it before. No clue whatsoever. Nada. It's not like I hadn't get sick for the past 17 years since I've been living in this lovely four seasons unpredictable city I call home. I get sick almost every winter.
I said almost because I didn't get sick three years in a row after I had a chiropractic treatment back in 1999. I cannot say, chiropractic treatment alone had strengthened my immune system and protected my body from getting sick. I think it was a combination of my healthy living style and the treatment. I love to go back for the treatment, but health insurance doesn't cover chiropractic treatment. Damn. Would it be nice if it is covered?
Three weeks ago I was so sick I didn't leave my place for two days. Prisca called me three times a day to make sure I was all right.
Prisca: Call me anytime if you need me okay? I love you kak.
Me: Love you too dik Prisca. Over. (Cough, cough, cough-sound worse than before).
Prisca: (Chuckled on the other side) Kak, can you stop being funny for a second, you crazy woman.
She dropped me a homemade chicken soup which I finished it in one sit. Yes, I'm one of those people who still can eat despite the aching muscles, throbbing joints and all that craps that come along when you are sick.
I realized how messy my place was when the phone rang and I couldn't find it. Dirty clothes, towels and socks scattered on the bed, bedroom floor, bathroom and living room.
Five dirty mugs lined up under the coffee table stuffed with tissues. An empty bowl with cherry pits under the couch.
On my working table, my running bra draped over the sewing machine. "What the hell? How did it get there?" The bra wouldn't have lasted a second on the sewing machine if I wasn't sick.
Then, my eyes fell on Kamus Dewan on top of chair-side table.
Whaaaaaaaaaaaattttt? My red satin slipper stuck out from the dictionary. Did I use my slipper as a bookmark? Was I hallucinating? Was I that sick, the satin slipper was mistaken for a bookmark? I picked up 2.5" thick dictionary belong to my later father. I ran my hand over its cover. My father loved it. He just loved it.
We always debated over the words that didn't sound Malay.
Bendera and sepatu were originated from Portuguese he told me once.
"Betoi ka abah?" Really dad?
The good thing is about being sick, I didn't feel guilty when my place looked like a shipwreck.
Fall is like an onion. Layers and layers of its beauty and surprises hidden behind the ever changing color leaves, the twigs on the ground that snapped under my feet, the branches curled like number nine or commas. Once, while I was running along Charles River, I came across a very, very angry looking beast- my childhood imaginary monster that hidden under grandmother kitchen stairs. But as I got closer the monster turned out to be willow tree roots that grow overlaped onto each other.
A few years ago I developed a habit of guessing a number of commuters in a car I boarded onto every time I took a subway. In my first attempt I came up with 12 people too many, the second time, 9 commuters went missing, the third attempt I narrowed down to five. By my fourth guess, I had two extra passengers on board. A couple of times I got the exact numbers.
After I made a guess I counted them. The counting part had to be done in the most delicate and unsuspected way. It had to be quick and efficient, like when you debone a chicken. When the process is over, you have an opened butterfly, flattened chicken on one side and the bones are on one side. I did all of these not because I was bored out of my mind. I was trying to learn to be HERE and NOW. I figured if I couldn't be HERE all the time, at least I could be here sometimes.
I've always been a dreamer. Within a few minutes I sit down or standing in line, I could be anywhere in the world. Flying between the sweet puffy cloud that taste like halwa rambut , with my satin-hand-made-wings fluttering like a dragonfly's wings. The dream was endless.
That was many years ago. I no longer guess the number of the train passengers even though I'm still dreaming. I can't help it, I'm a hopeless dreamer. But during those times when I disciplined myself to count the passengers, I guess somewhere, somehow I trained my mind to stay on the ground most of the time.
How many of us while surfing on the net and maneuver our ways through the web and come across the name you believe s/he was in the same class as yours 34 years ago? I, for sure would be delighted , excited and couldn't wait to say hello. Well, not this woman. Yesterday, I received a reminder from FaceBook that I had a message left by this woman.
I clicked the link and read her message. From her description in first paragraph I was positive we were in the same class: Form Four Science One (1973),and Form Five Science Two (1974). I tried to picture her face, her seat in the class in both years, but it came back blank. I just couldn't remember who she was. I remember a bunch of names but for some reasons my memory couldn't locate her at all.
Anyho, as I was writing the response how excited I was to get her message, I noticed the second paragaph and when I read it all I could say was: Wow......
aku ni mencari kawan-kawan KIK dulu tahun 73 aku 4sc1, 74 5sc2 sebabnya aku tak berapa pandai bahasa orang puteh.
Aku rasa janganlah mu pakai macam dalam gambar tu malulah, jatuh maruah bekas pelajar sekolah agama.
I was a little shaken after I read her message, then outrage at her audacity, but at the end it saddenned me more than anything else the way she reached out to a classmate she hasn't seen for 34 years. I thought the least she could do was a simple greeting: Assalamualaikum or Apa khabar. But then we see ourselves in different light and angle.
And I'm fully aware that when I put my pictures out on the web I couldn't stop anybody from making any types of comments. Thank you Puan Ribuan Salleh for your concern.