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The year was 1978.

I was instructed by my mum to stop at Dada’s house after school. I did just that. After school, Pak Cik Wan, the van owner dropped me at my grandpa’s place. It was a huge surprise to see my dad there waiting for me.

Since I was not close to him, we skip any of the hugging and kissing and acknowledged each other by merely a simple greeting. My Bah gave his special greeting to me, “Hi Jiggedee jiggedee boy, how are you?” I had no special greeting or words for him, although I could still remember the Hairy Caterpillar song we used to sing together in Saigon many years before.

Bah asked me if I am not tired, he would love to walk with me to my mum’s house. No problem for me, the problem is only the distance, which is about seven kilometers away. Nevertheless, I agreed. 

Few years back, while in a sauna with two fellow producers in Hadyai, I related this long walk to them. I told them, how I am proud of that moment. It was the only time I could spend an hour alone with my dad. I never had the chance to be with him as long as that before, and I never had the chance to do it again later in life.

Nothing special about the walk. There is no such thing as holding hands or what so ever. We were merely like two strangers walking towards the same destination. He asked few question about school, I gave him the simplest answers I managed to come up with. Lots of silence in between, as he tried to think of other questions. He never got used to me. I never got used to him.

Nevertheless, deep inside, he knows I missed him, while I know he loves me. Thats about it.

Looking back, it should qualify to be the most boring walked in my entire life. But then, it was our only chance. Honestly, we, and I mean both of us, screwed that moment pretty well. We did it fantastically.

I told my buddy producers, the reason I remember that day was because I knew I am going to lose him soon. I knew at that moment, his cancer is spreading fast. I knew that there would not be another raya with him and there would not be another chance for me to ask forgiveness from him.

The climax of the hour-long walk was when we walked pass the houses in Lorong Pak Dir, where it is about fifty meters from my mum’s place. Everybody stood still and stared at the six-foot-two-inch-man with a stout Arab built. I knew that all eyes were on him. It was total silent. Slowly, I squeeze my small palm gently into his. He looked at me and he gently grabbed my hand.

For once, I felt that I actually have a father and my father is walking hand in hand with me.

The next day, I skipped school and he took me to buy my first football boots. After that, I never saw him again until I am at secondary school.After he left, my mother told me the reason my dad came to visit.

He wanted to tell my mum that he is going to get married, again.

I felt betrayed. I swore I washed my hand over and over. I felt terrible. I felt so embarrassed. I threw those boots away. All hope of my mum and dad back together are now gone forever.  

In school when my BM teacher asked the whole class to write a short story about our father, I wrote in my opening, “Ayah saya hidup mewah di tengah-tengah kesibukan kota Kuala Lumpur. Itu sahaja yang saya tahu tentang ayah saya”. That was how disappointed I was.

However, that was not true.

As I grew older and managed to put the time line together, I began to know the truth. After he left the army, my father faced a very tough time adapting to civilians life. He hopped from one job to the another and most of the time he is out of job. My step-mum had to finance their life.

At the same time, my mum had to “visit” one pawnshop after another to pay for our expenses.

That was what we had to undergo.One day, my father was admitted to SJMC for a heart attack. After, his condition was stable, we transferred him to IJN to be in the good care of my football buddy, Dr. Sanjiv Joshi. After his third day at IJN, I received a call from Dr. Sanjiv, requesting me to meet him that morning. He suspected something cynical on my father’s lung. He asked me to persuade my father to do certain procedures at nearby hospital, which Dr. Sanjiv kindly arranged.

That night, Sanjiv gave us the bad news. On my way driving  home, I clearly remembered how I wind down the window and threw my half-full box of Marlboro and never smoke again, until recently.

For the next two years, my step-mum took a really good care of my dad. I knew if my mum was in that position, she will not have the energy like my step-mum. My dad was a lucky man.

One night, I received a call from my step-mum asking me to drop by the house as soon as I could. She sounds so calm. I took my own sweet time. Once I arrived, I saw my dad coming up from the toilet, buckled his belt. Comb his hair. Wear his socks properly and slide in his shiny black leather shoe. I ask my step-mum where is he going and her reply was, my dad had difficulty in breathing and I need to drive him to SJMC. I was shocked.

Once in the car, he suddenly had difficulty to breathe and kept pulling my driver’s seat. All hell broke lose and I practically “fly” my car all the way to the hospital.

When we reach in front of the emergency room entrance, I dived out of the car. However, my dad still manage to walk out by himself but he signal the nurse for oxygen tank.

Subsequently, they attended to him and we waited.Twenty minutes later, the MO who attended to him came and said, “I am sorry, I think he will not make it this time”.

“What do you mean doc, twenty minutes ago he still manage to jump out of the car…”, “Sorry sir, but his turning blue, you better be by his side”.We went inside.

I could hardly recognised him. His lip was dark blue. His eyes looked wild. My step-mum kept reciting prayers for him. Then, my lawyer sister arrived at the scene. She was so distressed and practically wanted to sue almost everybody there until the specialist arrived.  

This is what the specialist had to say, “You only have two choices, I can ventilate him but no guarantee whether he can tolerate it or not. Or we can let nature takes it course. However, if you choose to ventilate him, you might want to ask yourself, why you want to do it? He is suffering from cancer; you know how serious it is”.

Since I was his only son there, he looked at me and said, “You have five minutes…” As they pushed my dad to the ICU, I stopped my step-mum and ask her to make the decision. I told her, the decision is entirely hers.

Without much hesitation, she decided now and then. Ventilate him.

I do not know how it is being done, but as we waited anxiously outside the ICU, we can hear the Specialist screaming inside the room. Screaming and yelling only stopped after forty-five minutes; he came out and said, it is done. We have to wait and see. We hope he would survive at least until my sister arrived back from UK.

36-hours later, they started the weaning process. As we bring our mum in to see him, he asked for a pen and paper. He wrote this, “Please forgive me for all those years”.

That was the only time I could not hold back my tears. I tried to remained calm and be the pillar of strenght to all my sisters. Nevertheless, I felt so sad at that moment and couldn’t hold back to cry shamelessly.

By midnight, Dr. Sanjiv Joshi from IJN dropped by. My father managed to give him a salute and wrote a thank you note. After three days, they removed the ventilator and soon he was transferred the high-dependency unit.

However, that evening, his heart stops pumping. The doctor resuscitated him and a massive stroke followed suit.Nevertheless, Bah never gave up. I saw him kicking his legs and struggling until they had to strap him. They tried to do MRI but because of his situation, it fails. One of the specialists told us, he suspected my father suffered from brain-stem stroke. Which is fatal. He reminded us of what happened to the late Japanese Prime Minister.

We made the decision to stop all procedures.

He had suffered enough. If it is time for him to go, we shall not stop him anymore.