Saturday, July 13, 2013

Abah and Mommy...

He's 83.

She's 73, and will be 74 in November, in sya Allah.

And they will have been married for 57 years in November this year, in sya Allah.

My Abah and Mommy.

To say that they are as different as chalk and cheese would be an understatement.

Abah is one very authoritative man. Whatever he says, goes. There's no two ways about it.

While Mommy is the timid one and is always obliging.

Abah became an orphan at the age of 12 when both my grandparents passed away within 3 months of each other. All his siblings were "distributed" amongst their uncles and aunties to be taken care of, and Abah was put under the care of his uncle who replaced my late grandfather as one of Orang-orang Besar Jajahan Perak. Being raised in an "elite" family, so to say, he had his own maid to serve him throughout his youth.

His marriage to Mommy was an arranged one. He was 27, and she was 17 when they got married.

Mommy did everything for him - chose and prepared the attires he would wear to go to work every single day, from A to Z, f you know what I mean. He didn't know where everything was kept, or maybe he felt he didn't have to know because everything would be ready for him every morning.

He didn't even know where the pots and pans, the plates, the cups and saucers, let alone all the cutleries were kept.

In a way, Mommy basically took over the tasks of his maid where the maid left off

Abah was so used to having his own maid who personally served his meals in his room when he was growing up, and I guess it became a habit of his to eat alone.

Ever since I could remember, he would eat alone at the dining table. Mommy would make sure the table was ready for all his meals, and we could only eat when he was done eating.

We were not to speak to him unless spoken to.

He never laid a finger on us while we were growing up - not to change our diapers, nor to give us a flick or cane us. He was never an affectionate father, I have to say. I guess, being an orphan from the age of 12, and brought up by his uncle and aunt, he was not really sure as to how a real father should treat his kids. But, he cared for us in his own ways. Very much.

He was (and is still) the ultimate disciplinarian. He never needed to raise his hands to spank us. His raised voice or even his stares would leave us whimpering and shaking like a leaf.

And I also remember Abah not being home that much, and we were never close to Abah because he was very strict and regimented. We grew up fearing him.

We were never allowed to go to our friends' houses to play, so, the kids from the whole kampong would congregate at our government quarter/house in Assam Kumbang, Taiping every evening to play all the games under the sun that were there to play.

He was a primary school English teacher, but he used to hold Bahasa Melayu tuition classes for MCE students, who were mostly Chinese at our house. And a very good one at that, too. He prided in the fact that almost all his tutees scored "A"s for their Bahasa Melayu paper for MCE. That certainly was a feat for him as their tutor.

Mommy, on the other hand, was a different thing altogether.

Mommy has always been a housewife. I remember her going about cleaning the house every single day, cooking delicious meals for us, hand-washing our clothes, folding and ironing them until the wee hours of the morning. Day in, day out.

She would sew the curtains and of course our dresses and baju rays herself. Year in, year out.

She made the simplest meals seem fit for a royal feast

I remember - sometimes when she had too many things in her hands, me being the youngest, she would send me to our next door Indian neighbor, who was more than happy to look after me while Mommy finished her chores. For years after that, even after the good neighbor moved away to Tanjong Rambutan, my brothers and sisters would call me "Anak Achi", and Mommy would scold them every time.

And I remember Mommy as always being there for all of us.

Whenever we were reprimanded by Abah (even for the smallest unintentional misdeeds), she would be there to pacify us - after Abah had left the room, of course.

And growing up, never had we seen displays of affections between Abah and Mommy.

I guess it was just the thing of that generation.

Fast forward - years have gone by.

My siblings and I all have gotten married and we all have a family of our own, safe for my eldest sister, Yong who now looks after Abah and Mommy.

Abah has mellowed down. A LOT. But, somehow, we still feel as if there is a barrier between us.

I guess Abah realized that, and in a way, he knew that it was how he brought us up that had made our relationship rather awkward. And he somehow made it up by having a better relationship with his daughters/sons-in-law.

He can joke with Abang Rosli, Tuan Doktor, Kak Ros and Nora quite easily - something which he still finds awkward to do with his own children.

However, he is still the strict disciplinarian that he was with all his grandchildren. But, somehow they try not to take him that seriously (in a good way, that is!).

Abah had survived through 2 episodes of Nasopharyngeal Cancer (1995-1996 and 2006-2007), and he has hypertension. Apart from that, he is healthy, albeit is very frail due to his age.

He refuses to go out and prefers to stay at home. Even if the children hold functions or makan-makan at our houses, he would prefer to give them a miss, and would always pesan for the food to be packed for Mommy and Yong to bring home for him

Mommy, on the other hand is a diabetic patient, with history of heart disease and angioplasty done (3 stents put in in 2006), and she had a mild pontine stroke in 2003. And like Abah, she also has hypertension. She has what we call the "Penyakit Tiga Serangkai".

My Sister Lala and myself have always wanted for Abah and Mommy to stay with us, so that we can take care of them. Not that Sister Yong can't do the job, but, when she goes to work, Abah and Mommy will be alone at home. Both very frail and not well. What if anything happens to them at home while Yong is at work (Nauzubillah...)

Lala is a housewife, and in sya Allah will be home most of the times to care for Abah and Mommy. While I have Bibik Dar to look after them while I'm at work, in sya Allah.

But, because Abah is so set in his ways and prefers to sleep in his own bed, shower and do his business in his own bathroom and toilet, sit in his own sofa and watch his own TV and control his own TV and Astro remote, he refused our offer time and time again.

As for Mommy, even though she is frail and in no position to be looking after Abah on her own, she feels obliged to stay by his side and take care of him.

My brother Eddie who's teaching in BU would make a point to go and see Abah and Mommy as many afternoons as possible after school to check on them before going back to Sungai Buaya, when Yong is at work.

So, that had been the case for a few years now.

However, we feel that this has to change now, whether Abah likes it or not.

Mommy has been diagnosed as having a tumor behind her right eye, which is slowly pushing it outward.

She is due to go for a biopsy next week.

And for her to be given the green light to go ahead with the procedure, she has to have the all-clear for all her health conditions.

She had gone for an investigative review last week whereby she had to go for her chest x-ray, echocardiogram, blood tests and also to check her BP.

So far, we have not received any of the results, except for her BP which shot up to 225/78 during the review which nearly resulted in her being admitted. Syukur alhamdulillah, after a few hours of monitoring it went down to 154/76.

She is required to go for another review this Monday. And if her BP is still high, she may not be given the all-go for her biopsy procedure.

And she can't afford that. As it is, the swelling of her right eye is getting worse day-by-day, and we would want the procedure to be done the soonest possible.

And we know that the least we could do is to make sure that her blood pressure is controlled.

And we know that as long as she is at home, taking care of Abah, that will not happen.

Because Abah is still very dependent and very clingy on Mommy.

Out of years of habits, he still would ask Mommy to take even a piece of tissue paper for him, even though, Mommy is probably resting downstairs and the tissue box is just a mere a few feet away away from him in his bedroom upstairs.

He still would call out for her to pour his drinks for him, even though the fridge and his glass are just a few feet from him, even though the pot of tea or coffee is just within his reach beside his bed.

It's not that he can't do it himself, but, because all these years Mommy has been doing it for him, he just does not know how to get out of the routine.

And we also feel that he just wants to see her as often as possible, not realizing that he is really putting pressure on Mommy who has to attend to all his requests.

And it doesn't help that Yong also has 20 cats at home. Even though most of them are kept in the cat house, Mommy still needs to feed them at least twice during the day while Yong is at work. We feel that that is another thing which we need to get Mommy away from.

So, my Sis Lala and I have decided to separate Abah and Mommy from each other, at least until Mommy has undergone the biopsy procedure, and hopefully for the rest of Ramadhan (if Abah does not put a fuss about it, that is!)

We both feel that IF one of us takes care of both of them, it will beat the whole purpose because Abah would still get Mommy to do things for him even though Lala or Bibik Dar is there to do them for him. He would still be asking for Mommy.

So, desperate times call for desperate measures.

We have decided that Mommy would stay with me while waiting for her procedure, while Lala would take care of Abah.

And I had to pujuk Abah and convince him that that would be the best arrangement for both of them for the moment.

It took me nearly 45 minutes on Monday to slow talk to Abah and lay down all the reasons why I needed to take Mommy with me. Abah was very okay with that, and in fact he was very happy that Mommy would be staying with me. I guess he could see how frail Mommy has become in the last month or so, and he could also see how Mommy's eye has become worse day-by-day.

But, what he was not okay with was the fact that we wanted him to stay with Lala.

He kept on saying that he would be okay alone at home and he gave all the excuses under the sun as to why he should stay at home and not follow Lala.

But, I had to put my foot down this time. But, not before bawling my eyes out crying in front of him out of frustration because of his stubbornness.

That somehow did the trick.

Abah slowly bowed down, avoiding my eyes, and said, "Okay...okay... Let me speak with Abang Rosli (my BIL - Lala's hubby) first..."

On Monday evening itself I helped Mommy to pack all her clothes, medicines and her buku-buku agama to bring home to Sri Damansara, after which I helped Abah to pack all his stuff. One thing about Abah, he is a hoarder and he keeps every single piece of paper with him, and of course he has to bring all of them with him to Keramat. I let him handle that part, and only helped him pack his clothes.

And as Mommy and I were just about to leave him, Mommy went to Abah to salam and seek for forgiveness.

And the most amazing thing happened.

Abah suddenly said, "Come here, come here..." - with his hands gesturing to Mommy to come nearer to him.

And he said, "Nak sayang... Nak sayang..."

Mommy went to him, and he hugged and kissed her on her cheeks, and she hugged him back.

THAT was the first time I had ever seen a display of affections between Abah to Mommy.

And without realizing it, I started to cry and had to look away.

I guess, I felt guilty to be there - in their most private moment together.

Or even more, I felt guilty to have to separate them from each other for now. And I kept telling myself that this would be the best arrangement for both of them given the circumstances.

Lala and Abang Rosli went to fetch Abah and bring him to Keramat the next day.

And, without fail, from the day they were "separated", Abah would call Mommy at least three times a day to see how she's doing.

Both Lala and I feel more at peace now, having one of our parents with us to jaga their makan minum, tidur baring, and sakit demam, especially during Ramadhan.

We just hope that Abah will stick to the current arrangement for as long as possible, not just for his sake, but also for Mommy's. I can bet you that if he decides to go back home, Mommy will not stop worrying about him day and night - and that will surely not be good for her health.

I make doa for Allah SWT to panjangkan umur Abah and Mommy, dan kurniakan kesihatan yang baik kepada keduanya, tenangkan jiwa keduanya dalam menghadapi cabaran dan dugaan hidup dalam apa bentuk sekalipun. Limpahkanlah kasih-sayang yang berpanjangan kepada keduanya, dan lindungilah serta berkatilah kedua Abah and Mommy sentiasa, in sya Allah...