The last wave of goodbye

Tuesday, December 13, 2016. 3:59 a.m.

I cannot go back to sleep. My aunt from my mother side, whom we, her nieces and nephews, all called Mamah Rida passed away yesterday. Before I heard the news of her death, my cousin Gita, Mamah Rida’s daughter, messaged me that Mamah Rida was just back from the hospital for a check up. Her hip condition had been worse for a couple of days.

She had this pain in her hip for a few years now. One day she was trying to lift a big bucket filled with wet laundry and something in her pelvis system broke. That incident changed her and she became a large woman with a limp. But she was as cheerful as clear morning skies.

Anyway, back to the day I heard the news, I thought there was nothing serious with Mamah Rida. I thought it was just an unusual spike in pain in her hip that would be mitigated by drugs the hospital gave her. I phoned my mother to tell her this news and urged her to see Mamah Rida but she couldn’t because my father took the car.

I still remember how my mother said it, thirty minutes after our last call that afternoon. “Kak, Mamah Rida maot.”

And I still remember how my body reacted to the news. Sudden weakness on the knees. Excessive need to sit down. I was in a wedding favor shop with V and she thanked the attendant guy and rushed me back to our parked motorcycle.

It was hard to grasp considering Gita just told me not long before – only few hours before – that Mamah Rida was home. I was so naive to think that someone with an illness is better after they see a doctor.

On my way to the motorcycle, after experiencing utter disbelief, I finally bursted into tears. What triggered it was the memory from my childhood: I was about 5 or 6, in my grandparents house with my brother and Gita. Just the three of us. And Mamah Rida as our caregiver.

She took care of us during the days when my mother and my father went to work. She was sometimes mean to us and how at that time I hated her and was so scared of her. She shared this glare with my mother, the glare that terrified me (still does), and I couldn’t wait for my father to come home because by then Mamah Rida won’t be so mean to me.

And to see her, wrapped up, lying lifeless in her cramped living room, in her tiny house, my heart ached. To see her figure under the sheet there… so quiet and still.

When my mother finally arrived at Mamah Rida’s, she untangled the head tie and made Mamah Rida’s face visible. And I couldn’t help but cry like a baby. To see her, eyes closed, with the frown that once scared me, with her lips went grayish, I wonder whether death was painful to her. And I hope now that what pained her was the damage in her hips and that death was what set her free.

After the funeral, I went home and arrived at 10 p.m.-ish and super tired after the hike to Mamah Rida’s final resting place up in the slippery muddy hill. I went to bed straight after taking a cold shower and devouring the leftover pasta we cooked the morning before.

And then here I am, waking up in the middle of the night to the fact that I just lost an aunt. A funny and cheerful aunt. I kept thinking about her tiny house. The sad place she lived and ultimately died in. I recognize most of the furniture as the one that was once in my parents house. Mamah Rida had so little in her possession so she took used cabinets, clothes, utensils, and many things and junks my mother decided not to use again.

I heard later that she managed to travel to Sukabumi few days before her death to attend to something I didn’t know of. Her pain worsened right after she went back home. I hope that she was happy on that day when she was away.

But I couldn’t help but feel deeply sorry for her. In other version of stories, she could have at least led a productive, happy, and prosper life. She may not be a college graduate like her sisters. But she was really kind. She would love to cook us seblak or bala-bala with pempek dressing or extra spicy noodle during our visit to her house and vice versa. I could see that that was her happy moments. She loved to serve and help others. I felt sorry that her life was cut too short.

Then I remember something that Dumbledore said to Harry.

Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.

I want to believe with all my heart that the life Mamah Rida lived was full of love and joy and that others felt this too in her presence.

It’s hard to go back to sleep. My mind kept rewinding Mamah Rida’s exciting contagious high pitch laugh in my head, her voice when she spoke to me, her fondness of saying “Dasar boneng!” and her repeated story of how I always asked for a present every time she was back from work when I was very little.

“Dulu kamu pas Mamah Rida pulang kerja teh sok minta kado. ‘Mamah Rida, koda! Mamah Rida, koda!’ Gitu ngomongnya. Inget gak?”

I always liked it when she told me that story. The last time we met was this year’s Ied holidays and that story came up.

I will surely miss hearing it from her again.

20161215_191110-01

The curtains were blowing in the gentle morning breeze. Looking at the children, Death said quietly, “Cry, Heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.

Glenn Ringtved


This is originally written as my journal (ahem, diary) post at the time I couldn’t sleep. I suppose I could share it here for others who may recognize themselves in the story and may find some consolation, if any.

Featured image courtesy of Lukas Budimaier via Unsplash

The medical adventure

For better or worse, life always has many surprises. And like surprises, it’s abrupt and, well, just surprising, and at times shocking. One of the surprise that life has thrown in my way recently is in the form of appendicitis.

Everyone’s born with an appendix (maybe, I haven’t done the research), this part of our intestinal system that some claim has no purpose or contribution at all to human body, although that’s still debatable. This appendix of mine went crazy in the most abrupt manner which resulted in me lying down on a surgery table, unsure, and excited about my first and my last appendectomy and how I thought that the appendix did serve a purpose after all.

***

On the Tuesday, April 5 evening, after a USG scan, after the doctor found a large inflammation in my lower right abdomen, I was hurriedly taken on a wheelchair to a surgery room and asked to strip and wear an ugly brown gown that barely covered my butt.

While I waited for them to summon me to the surgery table, I thought of Rebecca Solnit book that I currently read at that time. In one chapter, she talked about her own surgery, calling it her medical adventure.

You might be interested: [Book review] The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

This surgery would be my medical adventure too, though it’s rather unwanted and I was afraid of the idea of being torn open and stitched back like I was some kind of a fabric. But it’s still an adventure in a sense that it’s a journey to the unknown which also means many firsts for me: blood being drawn, urine being tested, getting anesthetized, losing consciousness, parts of me being taken away, and most of all, having to trust my life and survival to a bunch of strangers.

In the surgery waiting room, I also thought of my last roller coaster trip and told myself: “you’ll never know, you may come out of this okay and get to tell one hell of a story about it.” Acknowledging that you don’t know a thing about the future, that it’s unknown and that it holds mysteries, sometimes calms you down.

So when they called out my name, I was excited. Afraid and scared, yes, but mostly excited. The surgery table was shaped like a cross. They told me to lie down on my back and spread my arms like Jesus. They installed medical apparatus on my arms and gave me anesthesia. I could feel the strange substance traveled through the vein in my left arm and to my heart. The next second, my legs went asleep and it seemed that somebody just turned everything off in my body. And then I gave in. As I closed my eyes, just before I passed out for good, I let myself cheered: “oh so this is how it feels to be anesthetized!”

It felt like a fast forward to the future, skipping the moment when some doctors made an incision in my belly, cut off a part of me, and sewn me back. I found it odd that I could miss the most violent and possibly horrifying moment in my life, that I could get through it without having to feel pain, although it did left a scar. To be anesthetized is to be amnesia.

I stayed at the hospital for about two days and people came to see me, mostly my parents’ colleagues, bringing a lot of bounties. I told my manager and coworkers that I couldn’t show up at work for the next several days and they sent me lots of good wishes (and the HR granted me extra five day paid leaves. Woo!). When I made my way back to civilization, my friends came to my kostan, bringing the most delicious sweet martabak I’ve ever tasted and stories about people with weird names and laughter that hurt my not-fully-recovered abdomen.

My girlfriend, she is just the best. Juggling between college and work, she was able to give me the unwavering attention and devotion. She took care of me with compassion, patience, and love.

And my parents, they do what parents do during my crisis. I remember that when the anesthesia started to wear off and I was still half conscious, my mother and my father gave me a kiss on my forehead. It was the first time in so many years. And I remember holding their respective forefingers and saying “thank you” before I blacked out again.

***

The night before the surgery, I felt a blinding pain in my stomach. I went to the doctor that evening and she told me I was having an acid reflux, that nothing was serious. But the pain stayed even after I took the expensive medication that the clinic had me buy. It was so excruciating that I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking that I was going to die that night, that death was just a blood puke away. It was just like when I had a major asthma attack in the fourth grade. I was suddenly very aware of my mortality.

keep-screenshot-1
My death wish that night. Yes, I can be very overdramatic.

It turned out that I survived the night but the pain remained and was worse. By the morning, I decided to go home to my parents house on an Uber and asked for their help.

That’s right. I was asking for help.

I used to think that I could be entirely, totally, independent of my parents. I used to arrogantly think that I didn’t need them or anybody else for that matter, that I could be just fine on my own. Then, appendicitis adjusted my perspective a little bit. And I came across this on my hospital bed:

Illness mitigates solitude in another way that it attacks any notion that you are separate, autonomous, and independent. You require bone marrow or blood from another; the care of experts and of the people who love you. You are made ill by a mosquito or a virus or an unknown environmental toxin or by an aberrant gene you inherited or some exciting combination of these things. You cannot ignore that you are biological, mortal, and interdependent.

Then I think to myself: I survived appendicitis, and many calamities that happened in my life, because I had asked for help and because people had helped me.

Before appendicitis and before The Faraway Nearby, I always thought that asking and receiving help or generous gestures would put me in debt and thus it did feel like a burden. Little did I know that this kind of indebtedness actually would bind people together.

I didn’t tell my friends that I had a surgery. The reason why I did that was unclear. They eventually knew and when they came to my kostan, they told me: “Lain kali mah ngomong kalau ada apa-apa teh.

“…There are gifts people yearn to give and debts that tie us together. Sometimes to accept is also a gift.”

To wrap it up, let me just quote yet another lines from The Faraway Nearby, the book that my kind girlfriend got me for my birthday in January.

A major illness or injury is a rupture that invites you to rethink, to restart, to review what matters. It’s a reminder that your time is finite and not to be wasted, and in breaking you from the past it offers the possibility of starting fresh.

So I guess the appendix serves a purpose after all, at least for me. It turned into an illness and the illness, with the help of the wonderful book about stories and empathy that is The Faraway Nearby, turned me into somebody new who will not hesitate to ask for help.


Featured image courtesy of Gratisography.

The day I stopped calling my parents’ house my house

This year is my second year since I moved out of the house where I grew up in. Ever since that day I packed my stuff and moved in to my first crummy little kostan room with non-en-suite bathroom, I stopped calling that house my house. I now simply call it my parents’ house.

I don’t really understand why this slight change in the sense of possession of that house occurred. I should’ve realized it earlier because technically that house is, and has always been, my mother’s. My brother and I (and to an extent, my father) were basically just a bunch of freeloaders.

When I told people that I moved out of my parents’ house, most of them gave me a wry, condescending smile. Some told me that moving out should happen after you’re married and it should be your husband taking you out of that house and put you in another. Some of them told me that instead of spending my money on paying the rent, I should stay and save to buy the house of my own.

Some said: “susah kok dicari?”

Actually, the last one was my mother’s saying.

I understand why I got a lot of such uninspired comments: I’m still living in the same city as my parents and their house is only 6 miles away (30-minute drive) from my place. Besides, it’s not common in our culture for a single woman to move out of her parents’ house and live independently by her own means unless there’s a condition like having a job in another city.

The only thing I could do to respond to those people and their comments is giving them a shrug and, of course, zero fuck.

It’s my life to wreck, you self-righteous bitches.

Of course I don’t tell them that. Something else I don’t tell them is the fact that I don’t really have many happy memories in that house or with its residents. It’s always been the issue with young adults who are inclined to leave their parents’ house.

I had always been dreaming about moving out of it since I was a kid. I remember when I was ten or eleven, I once made an attempt to run away because I didn’t want to wear the dress my mother bought me.

Even then I knew I was different and eventually there came a time when I realized that this house would never ever accept me for what I really am. I had to put up with its inhabitants for so long (and the other way around obviously).

When I finally got my first real job and was quite sure that I was financially independent, I took a leap of faith and fled the nest.

But I gotta say, it’s not easy living on your own, especially if you’re a twenty-something millennial with a low pay job.

When your friends go out having coffee in a hip cafe, you’re thinking about what to eat for dinner. When your friends post holiday pictures on the Instagram, you’re thinking about how to pay bills and rent and make it to the next pay day.

You might be interested: Why we hate it when our friends become successful

Now, I’m not complaining, alright. I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s my choice and I’d rather live in a cramped room than live in lies.

To some people, living with parents affords the luxury of having not to worry about bills or rent. The other perks is that you have the chance to save. In return, you have to be a nice, good kid, a kind of mirror that reflects the self-image your parents want to see.

And there is where my problem lies: I can never be such a kid. Ever. So I ran away. Yeah, in a way.

See, most kids regard their parents as their role models, an example of what they should be when they grow up. They inherit values and practices from their parents and will likely pass them on to their own kids in the future.

That’s not the case with me. I don’t have as my birthright what Rebecca Solnit calls “an adequate or at least unquestioned sense of self.” My moving out of my parents’ house is an act of reinventing myself, finding my own ground, exploring the terra incognita beyond the circle of my comfort zone. And maybe also a little bit of rebellion against my parents’ values and their expectation of me.

People might think that I’m an ungrateful brat, a deviant. But being biologically related doesn’t always guarantee love. And there are asshole parents out there oblivious of their own shortcomings.

And of course, yes, I’m an asshole kid too. No doubt about that.

Yet still, I respect my parents and that’s the best I can do as a child. I try to be on my best behavior when I’m around them (that’s why holiday seasons are the hardest). I’m only doing it to honor the time they fed me, clothed me, bathed me, wiped my barf off my face when I was still a wee baby. Not to mention their utmost generosity to get me proper education. I really admire what they did.

So yeah, I moved out of my parents house. But not out of their lives I ain’t. Well at least not yet (I have yet to come out). In fact, my relationship with them gets better over time I’m away from them. And even though I don’t live in that house anymore, I somehow still call it home.


Featured image courtesy of Elizabeth Lies via Unsplash.

I Gotta Work, But…

I gotta work. But, hey, BuzzFeed just posted a new article about Justin Bieber. Oh so he’s no longer an asshole now? Hmm, good for him. Just a matter of time.

Now where was I? Oh, right, work. Must fire up Microsoft Word. Jeez, this computer runs like snail. Better check Instagram on my phone.

Scroll, scroll, scroll. Good photo. Like. Meh. Like. Ew, mediocre. Whoa, now that’s a great latte art! Like! Wait, who’s this? Oh, the new girlfriend. Let me see the profile. Scroll, scroll, scroll. She’s not bad. Back to the main feed. Close the app.

Now where was I? Oh, right, work. Ready to type! Ugh, writer’s block. Maybe I should seek for inspiration on Twitter, you know, I follow only smart and important people, as well as international publications covering a whole lot of important subjects. BuzzFeed, Mashable, Co.Create, NY Mag, The New York Times, to name a few. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Productivity tips. Life hacks. How-tos…

God, it’s overwhelming, so many articles. I still have work to do. Ugh. Back to Microsoft Word. Type something. Yeah, I got this. Whooo, I write like crazy. Ideas spark in my head like firecrackers.

But, wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s a new notification. I cannot skip this, it could be… Yes! Someone likes my status on Facebook. I should check how much thumbs I got today. Load the app. Ugh, what’s going on with the Wi-Fi? I really have to work but I have to see the status of my status. Come on now… Yes, thirty five likes! Not bad, man, not bad.

Okay, where was I? Oh, right, work. Proceed. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Hey, whatever happened to that high school friend of mine? The last time we bumped into each other she said she’s getting married in September. It is September! Better check her Facebook and see what she’s up to. (and where is the invitation?)

The WiFi is bad, maybe I should do it on desktop. Open new tab. Type Facebook.com. Type her name. Here she is… Hey! The reception was yesterday! And I was not invited? Who does she think she is? Screw you, bitch, I’m gonna unfriend you and I wont congratulate you, you piece of shit.

Where was I? Oh, right, work. Shit. This anger is draining me and I need something to crack me up. What about cat videos on YouTube? Good idea. Type “best cat videos 2015.” Oh my god, it’s so cute and hillarous. LOL. I love cats! LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL.

Phew, where was I? Oh, work. Right. Ugh. I’m exhausted. I need a break. How about doing it tomorrow when I have all the energy in the world? Sounds good. Now, it’s time for Candy Crush!