During the time we were already in serious relationships with our boyfriends (read: guys with whom we thought we wanted to spend our lives), Bapak was still in detention.
I'm not sure if we could ever have those customary father-daughter talks if he had been around to witness the goings-on in our lives.
Perhaps, it was meant to be that way. To a large extent, and something which I have acknowledged, absence did make the heart grow fonder and we became much closer to Bapak those years, than we could, perhaps, ever hope to be.
Well...God moves in mysterious ways.
Those growing-up years, unlike today when I am pretty much "involved" in my kids' private lives, though very discreetly, we kept our personal and private lives, very very private. Away from prying parental eyes.
What they didn't know, wouldn't hurt them was our mantra.
The only give-away were those darn stray telephone calls we got after 8pm.
Only when we felt that they were "the one", that we were ready to introduce them to Bapak, and of course, Mak who would, by the time we told Bapak, have known the identity of these suspects.
Of course, Bapak knew our regular guy friends, as opposed to our serious boyfriends. Bapak could tell if these guys were our buddies and I suppose when there's nothing to hide, then there's really nothing to hide.
It was a baptism of fire for our boyfriends-soon-to-be-fiances-then-husbands. We must make sure these were "the" boys-to-be-men. Because meeting Bapak was not to be taken lightly. Our real fear was that they'd flee in fright after the first dose of Bapak.
The reassuring thing, if it was any reassurance at all, was that if they could face Bapak, we were sure, they could face anyone.
Kak Olin got married soon after she returned from England and secured a job with Kompleks Kewangan, while Bapak was in detention .
After Bapak was released, Kak Eda got married.
Bapak got on famously with their husbands.
By then, lucky for us, Bapak was somewhat "mellowed", not the younger, fiercer, more energetic Bapak whose roar was worse than his proverbial bite.
By the time I was into a very serious relationship, Bapak was engageable. But, we never touched on my personal relationship or the guy I was dating.
We talked about other people's relationship, other people's problems and well...life in general.
I was about the oldest child still unmarried, single and swinging when Bapak was released, through his return to the NST.
Bapak - my siblings will attest - never meddled in his children's marriages. If they had any trouble -- and which marriage does not have -- he'd not give unsolicited advice. He'd listen if they wanted to talk to him but he'd not take sides.
He believed couples should sort things out and in time, things would get sorted out.
He told an older relative (who shall remain unnamed) of a certain someone who came to see Bapak following his first marital blow-up, this:
"We as parents cannot interfere. We can only give good advice for we do not know what actually happened in the bedroom. We only hear one side of the story. They both will give their version which is always favourable to them. They will sort it out. We'll come in only when we should, and if things get out of hand".
I remember during our omong-kosong after-dinner ramblings, in reference to someone's marital problems, he said:" You know....you cannot push a man to a corner, or a wall. There is a limit. Dia diam-diam, terdesak, dia akan fight back."
And when a female relative complained that her husband had roughed her up, Bapak told her to take up silat, judo or some form of self-defence art.
Bapak reckoned that a woman is helpless when she is home alone with a violent husband. One solution is to be equipped that way. Not that she should engage in a duel with her hubby, but she could learn to avert the blows. And then, I suppose, flee to safety.
Serious. And it makes perfect sense. If your husband knows you know some silat or judo or aikido, he'd think twice about roughing you up. Not that husbands are generally wife-bashers, but you know, in the heat of the moment, someone can get hurt. We know this happens.
If we had any problems with our signficant other, we'd think twice about going to daddy for comfort.
"Aku tahu anak-anak aku ni...." That meant it takes two to tango.
So it was that I took his advice seriously since. Sometimes, of course I forget.
I'm not sure I can give good solid advice to my own kids.
But...aah. I'll keep it simple. Que Sera Sera.