Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesdays With Bapak

The Twilight Of His Life -- Tuesday May 13, 2008

These days, I slap myself every time I am unable to visit Bapak.
I have pictures in my head -- of being somewhere when I should be with him and then, ominously, getting that dreaded call on my cellphone.

I shiver, I shudder without fail.

Bapak is old. Very old. Very frail. His eyesight is failing him so, most times, he may not be able to see your face clearly. Some names may elude him. Some don't, especially if they belong to very, dear old friends.

There are people he remembers. There are those he is unable to.

We had a birthday gathering for Bapak about two weeks ago. It was a small one with just family and very close friends.

For me, hosting a gathering for Bapak is easy because we "share" the same friends. He knows most of my colleagues and close friends at NST. So, the invitation list would always be easy to draw up.

We decided to hold a simple dinner and made sure the guests really knew Bapak, so they'd understand why Bapak may not be as spontaneous as he used to be.

It was nice that his friends did not insist on seeing him when they arrived for the dinner.

"Oh..Bapak rihat, ya..Tak apa, tak apa," said one of our old-time neighbours on being told that Bapak was in his room and would only be out a little later.

I remember a few years ago when an old friend of Bapak's visited him at Pantai Hospital.
Bapak was in for treatment of his diabetes.

Bapak's friend, (the late) Shahril Lembang, was an editor in the Berita Harian group when Bapak was at NST.

Shahril had not met Bapak for a very long time and on hearing that Bapak was in hospital, did not hesitate to see him.

I was there in Bapak's room when Shahril and his wife came. My step-mum was also there.

I could see that Shahril was so shocked at seeing Bapak.

You see, Shahril remembered the robust and animated Pak Samad. And possibly someone a few pounds bigger.

What greeted him was a very frail and thin man who seemed to have aged so much.

Shahril broke into tears as he "salam" and hugged Bapak.

Dear arwah Shahril. A gentle and soft-spoken man. (Al-Fatihah.)

That was years ago.

Today, Bapak is far less mobile. Just as frail and thin. And older.

A guest at Bapak's birthday dinner thought Bapak was not just "tua", but also "nyanyuk".

He made the remark in the presence of my brothers-in-law, not knowing, of course, that they were Bapak's sons-in-law.

I suppose Bapak did not recognise him. Nor remembered who he was. So, he concluded that Bapak's failing memory must be due to senility.

None of us knew who he was as he was one of the four people (from a certain institution of higher learning) whom my step-mum had invited.

My step-mum had invited them as they had earlier wanted to host a birthday gathering for Bapak.

We told our step-mum that it was not a good idea, given Bapak's frail condition. We told her it was, nevertheless, a nice gesture on their part.

I supposed she did the courteous thing by inviting them to Bapak's birthday dinner instead.
That was fine by us, of course.

We don't hold that person's remark about Bapak against him because Bapak must have seemed senile to him.

I'm glad though that by and large Bapak remembered most of the people who were there.

I met P.C Shivadas at the launching of the new Malay Mail at Nikko Hotel two weeks ago.

He told me he was not able to attend the dinner but he made a point of visiting my dad earlier.

Shiv (as he is known) was NST journalist (and group editor) and has known Bapak for -- ever.

I asked, a little curious: "Did he remember you?"

Shiv: "Of course. Why shouldn't he-lah?"

Me: "No-lah...just wondering. You know. He's old. He may not remember some people."

I'm glad Bapak remembers many of his old and not-so-old friends.

That evening, the Prime Minister called him to wish him well.

I didn't have to prompt him but I still had to ask him whether he remembered Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"Of course, I do," he snapped at me. He was not amused. Yep. I could have slapped myself for asking him that question.

And no... there was no trace of senility when he chatted with the PM.

So, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's words:

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."


The Ancient Mariner said...

When I introduced myself to Bapak, he wanted to hear more about my life at sea. So I jokingly asked him, "How much time you've got?" and he laughed.

Thanks for inviting me to his birthday dinner.

mn said...

A.kum Bapak Tan Sri,

1. Semoga bapak Tan Sri sihat sejahtera.

2. Mari kita kenali bapak Tan Sri lebih dekat.

a. Lahir di S'pore 24 Apr 1925
b. GERAM, PAP, PENA, Utusan Melayu, B.Harian and New Straits Times...all him.
c. Novelis - 'Patah sayap terbang jua'. Esok Rabu mungkin ada yang terbang kerana sayap belum patah!
d. ISA - (1976-1981)

3. My mother in law Puan Sri Hamidah Hassan? Opp sorry this is ibu Nuraina not my mother in law.


Anonymous said...

Nuraina, spend as much time as you can with your father. The things that a father has gone through for a child can never be totally appreciated by a child. All fathers love their childtren though they may not have been very expressive, at times.

Anonymous said...

A'kum, I'm not one of those ppl in NST or one of the journos but I would like to say that I love they way you wrote the story.It has soul. Keep up the good work Kak Nuraina.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nuraina,

I can very much empathise with your fear of getting that dreaded call, I had been down that road myself. Novice101 is right, just spend as much time as you can with your Bapak.

Take care and don't be too hard on yourself.

zaitgha said...


You made me thinking about my late dad now...nice writing and thank you for sharing....

Anonymous said...

I have an 80 year old father myself.He chose to live all by himself 200km away ,much to the chagrin of me and my siblings who are all here in the Klang Valley.Many a times we had arguments in trying to get him to move over here.Until I had to give up for fear of being 'kurang ajar'.Although he is still fit and healthy in mind and body,there is no bigger anxiety than to always have this fear of your dad passing off without anyone knowing.
Old-age do make people forgetful, sensitive and sometimes very insistent.
Having your Bapak close by and and being able to care for him is such a big blessing.
Salam to your Bapak.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kak Ana.

I am very touch by your description of Pak Samad or bapak.Send my salam to him.When I attend the majelis tahlil for Tan Sri Naza recently,the Maulana or Imam who conduct the tahlil remaind us that as a muslim we should read surah al Mulk before we sleep.He said by reading this surah,if we pass away,Allah will make his spirit live in comfort in alam qubor.Amin.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ena,

This is a poignant one!

Happy Belated Birthday to Bapak!

Most of us would never have as much life in our years as him.

I totally understand your wanting to cherish every minute you have with Bapak. Parents, robust or frail, are our mainstay. Will always be, actually. They are where our hearts return for solace even when they are gone.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

since i am very foreign in the world of journalism, i only got to know Pak Samad through your blog. related this to a friend sometime ago and he said i must have lived in the borneo jungle somewhere not to know or at least have read about him. thats partially true. no i did not live in a tree house. i was merely a foetus when he was arrested under the ISA, a kid during his peak and was struggling with my life when Pak Samad decided to hang up his pen. so only through TWB that i get to learn about this great man. thanks!

The Phoenix Foundation said...

She sits grandly as always, in her arm chair,
she stares at me, her eyes are not vacant, but in a faraway world & time,
where is this place u are in Mum?
We call out to her but she only occasionally responds with a grunt at the most!
You were there when the Union Jack was lowered!
You were there when Papa got rights for the Workers!
You built,coached helped about 10,000 displaced girls find a place in life! You created Methodist College!
Where are u now,Mummy?

NAS! U pack a wallop when u write & speak! Bapak has met my Mum & late father!


Anonymous said...

Sis, sorry to use your blog to make my issue known.
I am so happy I voted for PAKATAN RAKYAT. BN is good at wasting money and enriching themselves. Recently, my son who scored straight 10A1 was rejected a PSD scholarship. Hello, Pak Dollah wake up lah, ini modal insan that you been talking about. Well then again you only talk never walk the talk. Sad really sad. Dissappointed indian, Makkal Sakti, Makkal Sakti,Makkal Sakti

Unknown said...

Salam akak...

Happy Belated Birthday to Bapak ya...

Reading your entry makes me ponder that I should 'jenguk' my bapak too...he lives just afew block away... i should be sitting down with him more often and chat like we used to do...

last weekend we celebrated Bapak birthday too...lamanya saya tak duduk berbual macam tu kak...that nite, rasa mcm taknak balik la pulak...

love u sis. Take care. muahhs!

BaitiBadarudin said...

ya, I too was offended when my sis' helper liked to say that my late mother was 'nyanyuk' if she forgot where she put things; guess some ppl think they'll never grow old and forgetful
anyways, happy belated birthday to pak samad (if I hadn't wished him already) and cherish the precious moments together

Anonymous said...

Hi Nuraina

Your post reminds me so much of the time when I took care of my mum during her dying days. It was hard and painful to watch someone so close to us slowly drifting away. Till this day I still think of her and miss her dearly. I am thankful for having a mum like her and I am glad God hath given me the chance to look after her and spend as much time as possible with her.
Though he is frail, I am sure your dad appreciates your presence and you'll always remain his darling little girl in his heart.
Take care and thank you for sharing.

Ginger (2)

Anonymous said...

Nuraina dear,

You just know how to tug at one's heartstrings. i was moved.

As for that insensitive person, i hope he remembers that his old age will come one day.

Don't people ever learn? When one does not have anything nice to say, it's best to keep one's mouth shut.

God, i pray that You'll keep and bless Pak Samad that he may continue to be a pillar of strength to those around him. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nuraina.
Yes, do make up extra time to spend with your Bapak... we all know the inevitability of this circle of life, but I'm sure those extra precious moments spent with him will carry you through to the next circle of life. Take care & salam.


Capt Yusof: Thank you for coming..

Su-KJ: Terima kasih....boleh tahan nakal, ya?

novice101: thank u...

azad: thank you... and i have visited your blog. you have a lovely family.

sesat: thank you.. i certainly will do that.
and i'll try not tobe too hard on myself.

zai: you're welcomed.


wak segen: I totally understand your concern....

anak angkat pak samad: yes...thank you

kerp: u're welcomed, kerp.

jeyapalan: that's good to know.

radengaloh: precious moments they are! take care..

baiti: thanks and take care.

ginger: you're welcomed. And thank u for visiting.

ewoon: thank u....Amin!

dhahran: thank you, and salam.


mekyam: thank you, mekyam..
exactly, couldnt have said it better!


Going through your lines I ended up in tears. My mom, my ayah is no more with me. I'm a yatim piatu.

Pak Samad is always in my mind whenever I write. I still remember what he told us in one discourse I attended.

"You don't have to say sorry" - on what you have written and published.

Sad to see journalism of the day is tarnished by envelopes writers.

My doa for U.



thank you. do take care...