I used to think that I was a wonderful daughter, being my parents’ only rose among the two thorns.
Now, I’m not so sure anymore.
Growing up, I was close to Dad, always running to his loving arms every time he came back from work. There were times when we were apart due to his work or my studies, but somehow, we were always there for each other.
We made it a point to always call, even when we weren’t around.
But we didn’t have our last goodbye.
I really wished I was there for him right before he left me forever, like how he was always there for me.
Dad had been sick for quite a while. He had diabetes, kidney failure, heart problems, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He had to go for dialysis treatments and medical check-ups constantly.
Mom used to send him over to the dialysis centre and hospital for treatment and cared for him at home. I helped bring them over to the hospital once in a while on my days off, but somehow, those just weren’t enough.
I should’ve done more.
Dad used to be a diligent and brave police officer. He was fearless. He served in the force for close to 30 years and had plenty of stories to tell.
After retirement, he planned on working on the family farm and orchard back in the village. He had it all sorted out, down to the T.
He was an eager beaver, constantly raving about stuff that he was going to do, anticipating obstacles that might get in his way while working in the farm – and solutions for them.
Fate got in the way and he was diagnosed with kidney failure and had to go for dialysis, on top of other illnesses. He was just a few months into his retirement.
From such a courageous and lively man, he became a timid, cranky old man. He had his good days where he’d chatted about things that happened while he was in service, or current affairs.
But there were times where he became sullen and moody, tired and in pain after all the hospital trips and treatments.
It was heartbreaking to see your own father like that. The once talkative, happy and lively man now reduced to someone constantly cranky and in pain.
But as hard as it was for me to witness that, I think it was harder for Mom as his wife, his partner and caretaker.
She had lived with this man for almost 40 years and had gone through all the ups and downs with him. Even at his worst, Mom stood by him.
“I’ve made a promise to stick by him. You know, like those vows that people often recite on their wedding day: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” she said.
And that kind of love is something I seek for myself.
As Dad’s conditions got worse, I was offered a lucrative job up north. He urged me to go, saying he’d get well soon to hop on the train to come and visit me for a jalan-jalan cari makan trip.
I listened to him after getting the reassurance from Mom that all would be okay and went there.
I resigned after two months however, as Dad’s conditions deteriorated rapidly. I came back to be near my parents and got another job.
The plan was for me to help ease Mom’s burdens and responsibilities by taking care of him. But Dad wanted her by his side and refused to let me clean and feed him.
He was OK with his sons taking him to the bathroom and dressing him up though. But not me. Mom cajoled me by saying that Dad was embarrassed and thought I wasn’t strong enough to carry him for bathroom trips.
“To him, you’re still his little girl, his Princess. And he still wants to be your hero, capable of doing everything,” she said.
I still resented it, even after Mom said that. After all, I gave up a lucrative life up north just to be with him.
How stupid of me to ever felt that way, especially now.
Since I felt I wasn’t needed, I buried myself at work. However, I would still visit Mom and Dad once every two or three days.
On that fateful day, mom rang to check if I could take over taking care of him just for a few hours. She needed to make a quick trip home to handle some urgent matter.
I told her I had a deadline to meet and assured her it would be okay for Dad to be on his own for a while. He was supposed to be on dialysis treatment for those few hours anyway, so he’d be attended to by the nurses.
I told her I’d come over once my work is done.
She was reluctant but left him under the care of the centre. I continued my work and hadn’t noticed how much time had passed.
Until I got mom’s phone call, almost 5 hours later. That dreadful phone call.
Frantically, she told me to go to the dialysis centre right away, as the staff rang her saying there was an emergency.
I was too late. Everybody was.
My dad had passed away.
He was on his own. I was supposed to be next to him, but instead I chose work.
In a split second, I could’ve made a better decision. I didn’t complete that stupid deadline anyway, and I missed being by my dad’s side.
My Old Guy who was my first love, who had always been there for me was let down by his own daughter.
I felt like an anak derhaka, the ungrateful child, the selfish daughter.
I still couldn’t forgive myself until this day. The guilt will stay with me forever.
I wondered what went through his mind during those final moments:
Did he feel that I was still his little girl till his last breath?
Was he proud of me?
Was he angry and upset that no one was by his side?
Did he love me still?
And those questions had been haunting me since.
Forgive me, Ayah.
For more stories about parents, read 4 Important Life Skills My Mom Taught Me That Still Matter Today, and How Your Relationship with Your Parents Change After They Get Older.