Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak (15)
Rembering Mak - May 22 2007
Something stirred inside me the other day. I didn't realize it then but it was Mother's Day. I'd like to talk about it today. I know the day is over. But didn't someone say that Mother's Day is everyday?
I am bad with dates of "days" - you know Father's Day, Press Freedom Day, Teachers' Day.
The only celebrated day I never forget is Labour (May) Day.
I was meaning to visit Mak's grave at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery last weekend.
I was meaning to but I did not. Never got around to doing it. And since the cemetery is a place that I pass by almost everyday to go to Bangsar or Section 16 from my home in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, I really have no excuse.
Yes, something stirred inside me on Mother's Day.
I know I have talked about Mak, but I don't think I have ever really gone into detail about her.
Like all daughters (or sons, for that matter), I looked to my mother for comfort, strength and fortitude.
Mak was Hamidah Hassan. The selfless matriarch, loving wife, devoted mother and doting Andung (grandma). She died on June 2, 1990 of a heart attack, triggered by complications due to long-term diabetes. Although she was diabetic, modern medication gave a her a new lease of life. It enabled her to lead a normal life for as long as she could.
The treatment of diabetes has undergone tremendous progress. Even during Mak's time, it was considered advanced.
Mak needed daily injections to keep her sugar level in check. She trusted two other people, besides herself to admininster the injection -- Abang Med and I.
Abang Med had no issue with needles. I did and still do. I have an aversion and a fear of needles.
But when Mak asked me the first time whether I could help her with the insulin injection, I did not hesitate in saying "yes".
The first time I had to poke the tiny, miniscule needle into her flesh, I almost fainted. How I managed not to still baffles me till today.
I did not realise it was Mother's Day until I received the first smses in my cellphone. I was already opening some old albums.
I was thinking about Mak. I counted the years from the year she died. Mak would have been 81 if she was still with us.
She died at 63.
It was as though her prayers were answered because she had often enough said that if she died, she hoped it would be at 63 years old, "just like the Prophet".
(Prophet Muhammad SAW "wafat" or died at 63.)
When she died, my whole world must have crumbled. Although I was prepared for her death as she was admitted into Pantai Hospital and remained there for four days before she died, I still was not able to accept her passing.
I don't think any of my siblings could, either.
We grieved for a very long time.
And for a very long time too, Bapak would spend long hours at the nearby Al-Malik Faisal mosque after maghrib prayers, reciting the yassin, right through Isya'.
When Mak passed away, Bapak had already retired from the NSTP as editorial advisor. He was guest lecturer at Universiti Malaya then, and was still writing his column, "Bila Sauh Di Labuh", for Berita Minggu.
A few days before she died, she had gone to Johor Baru to stay at one of my older cousin's house where she was getting together with my aunts who were coming from Singapore.
Bapak was still "persona non grata" in Singapore, so Johor Baru was the regular rendezvous.
Mak enjoyed these get-togethers and was always looking forward to them, as though she was going for a tryst, of some sort.
The last time she went, Kak Olin's eldest daughter, Khairena who was then about 6 years old, accompanied her Andung to JB.
Khairena was very close to Mak. In fact, whenever she was at Mak's, she would not leave her Andung's side.
That night, they took the "Senandung Malam" train at the (old) Railway Station in KL.
I remember how excited Mak was before she left for the railway station.
I was cradling Adel who was then 4 months old, in her room, as she was getting ready to leave.
She looked at me and bade goodbye. She bent over and planted a kiss on my forehead. I kissed her hand.
"Alah, Kesian anak Mak ni. Siapa nak tolong jaga Adel. Kesian cucu Andung ni. Tak lama. Hari Minggu Andung balik, ya", she said.
I told her to "kirim salam" everyone in JB and told her to have a good time.
"But please, jaga makan," I remarked, as I watched her traipsing out the door. She seemed happy.
Mak had chest pains when she returned home from JB on Sunday.
I remember she asked my maid to "urut" her. She thought it was just exhaustion. We all thought so too.
She did not tell us until later that she had a feast in JB -- lots of sweet stuff and durians too. the surge in her sugar level precipitated a chain of reaction in her body.
None of us imagined then that it was her heart that was giving way.
Mak was admitted into Pantai Hospital the next day. We thought she would be okay, that she would recover.
We took turns to care for her but Kak Eda and Nina were the ones by her side most of the time.
Nina was an amazing young lady. Still a law undergraduate at the International Islamic Universtiy then, Nina was Bapak's and Mak's personal assistant/advisor/chauffeur all rolled into one.
She was (is) our youngest and she could put us all to shame when it comes to household management.
I think one of the most heart-wrenching moments I had ever experienced was when Lalin returned home from England after Mak had taken a turn for the worse.
At one point, we thought that Mak would be ok except for some complications with her kidneys.
I remember Bapak, Abang Med, Kak Piah, Kak Ton as well as my brothers-in-law Abang Dzul and Abang Ani, discussing the need to turn the library downstairs into Mak's (and of course, Bapak's) room as she might need dialysis treatment.
I felt there was hope.
Lalin could not get a flight home because there were no available tickets. Her good friend whose father was with an airlines helped and she was able to get the next flight home.
Lalin was extremely close to Mak.
Mak was everything to her. Mak was her world.
Lalin was restless throughout her flight home. She knew something was not right.
When she arrived at Subang International Airport, what she saw confirmed her worst fears. At least, that was what she had thought.
Kak Olin, who was at the hospital earlier, was waiting for Lalin at the arrival hall of the airport.
The minute she saw Kak Olin, her heart missed a beat.
Kak Olin was clad in a baju kurung and wearing a tudung, as though she was from a funeral.
"Oh No! Mak...." Lalin cried inside.
Kak Olin comforted her.
"Let's go to the hospital. Mak is waiting for you at the hospital..."
I saw Lalin approaching the corridor near Mak's room. Everybody fell silent, fearing the next gripping moment when Lalin would see her beloved Mak lying motionless, unconscious, helpless on the hospital bed.
When she reached the door, she looked at Mak, her face turned so pale. She just slumped at the door.
I think that was when, for the very first time, I let my defences down.
I felt so much for Lalin. For all of us.
Mak died in the wee hours of Saturday, June 2, 1990. She never regained consciousness after going into a coma the day before.
She was our pillar of strength , our salve, those years of Bapak's incarceration. She made sure none of us would be forced to quit school or college.
How Lalin remembered Mak tap-tap-tapping away on her faithful typwriter late into the night, trying to meet the deadline for her articles in Berita Harian.
Or those times, she was opening and reading letters from troubled souls (mostly women), and helping them find themselves or find answers to their problems because she was agony aunt "Cik Sri Siantan".
But could anyone help solve her problem? Ease her pain?
Lalin would be staying up with Mak those nights.
When Bapak was released, Mak was overjoyed. She was smiling like a blushing bride.
The day Mak died, Bapak was very calm and composed but there were moments when he would stutter and stammer. The only time we saw him break down was when Pak Cik Melan (the late Melan Abdullah) arrived for the funeral and hugged him.
Pak Cik Melan was the older brother Bapak never had and he loved Mak like his own sister.
How we all remember Mak's words, during our dinner table talk about life in general: "Ibu seorang boleh menjaga 2, 3 atau 10 orang anak, tapi 10 orang anak sukar untuk menjaga ibu yang seorang."
Mak. I hope we had proven to you that, for once, you were wrong. We love you and miss you dearly. You are in our prayers, always.
(Photos: 1. top left: Mak in 1985 at Kak Eda's place. 2. Mak at home (during Bapak's detention). On her lap is Jehan (Kak Ton's youngest). Wearing glasses is Lalin. At left is Jasmine (Kak Ton's eldest) and making faces in the foreground is Nina. 3. Portrait of Mak and Bapak.)