Tonight I got news that a dear friend of the family has passed away. He left behind a house, a few dogs, cats and chickens, a couple of kelapa pandan trees, a number of cars left without having the chance of being repaired (he’s a mechanic), and nothing else. No wife or kids to cry for him. No siblings that really cared. All his worldly possessions left to no one. Maybe the dogs and cats and chickens will cry for him. But not a single person. I do know two who will miss him, but they are not his family. They are mine. Abah and Ummi will be missing him, and they will be missing him much. This is to Uncle Ah Sang, the ever cheerful and generous doctor of cars.
Once, it took three days for anyone to know that he was having quite a fever, and it would’ve taken more days if not for my father checking up on him. Nobody cared about him. His siblings I don’t really know about, but they live somewhere else. They have their own families, so Ah Sang was left to his own life. I don’t know how much they cared for him, but from the looks of it, they cared very little. But I’m not one to judge, as I do not know them personally. However, I do feel enraged seeing him left all alone. Was it by choice, or was it by force? I do not know. Every time the question pops up, Ah Sang would laugh it away and say “Tidak apa. Saya sudah tua bah. Mereka ada keluarga sendiri sudah bah.”
And why no woman in his life? That also I do not know. Maybe fooling around during his younger days taught him something. Maybe he just hasn’t found that special one. And he for sure will not find it now. Maybe starting a family is too much hassle? I don’t know. Perhaps, his little life that seems pitiful in my eyes are only there to stay in my mind. Maybe he had a wonderful life. Maybe that’s his dream life, to live simple and die simple. No obligations, no strings attached, and non to be left crying at the end of his life.
Abah and Ummi had deep affection for Ah Sang, especially Abah. Initially, it came surprising and odd to me. I mean, why would my father care about someone like Ah Sang? He does not gain anything in doing good to him. So why? Abah would call him ever so often just to ask about his well-being. Ah Sang would occasionally give us chickens to slaughter and coconuts to drink from. His chicken were fed with corn, so their meat taste different. Its perfect for making chicken rice and chicken soup as the meat is sweet and fragrant and soft on the stomach. Not like our modern day chickens harvested after a 38-day cycle of feeding and rearing. And the coconuts were plentiful of milk and meat. Usually, Abah would slaughter the chickens and ask Ummi to cook a meal out of it, and they will invite Ah Sang over for lunch on the weekends, sharing stories of everyday events and occurrences, laugh at silly jokes, and thank each other, Ah Sang for the chickens, Abah and Ummi for the meal.
Maybe Abah and Ummi is what Ah Sang consider as friends, and Ah Sang is what Abah and Ummi consider as friends too. Seeing Ah Sang well and happy made my parents happy, and seeing him sick made them weary too. Since last year, Ah Sang’s health had been faltering every once in a while. That I know, because Abah had asked me to drive Ah Sang (by force, that is) to the clinic and hospital each time I was in town. Ah Sang usually resisted with much force, but Abah didn’t yield to his resistance. Thus the frequent drives to the clinic and hospital. Last time I was in town was during the raya festivities. Abah had planned to visit Ah Sang, then hospitalized, but time was not on his side as he got papers to mark. I don’t know if he got the chance to visit before Ah Sang went back to his sibling’s in Tawau.
I suddenly remember a conversation I had with my father, where I said it seems like he is Ah Sang’s only friend. “I’m not his friend” was his reply. When I asked in return “Then what are you to him?” he didn’t answer. I don’t know why. It still boggles my mind. Maybe I’ll know in my later days, when I’m old and rusty. That is, if I live that long. In the end, we all turn to dust. There’s no escaping death.
This is to Ah Sang. Uncle. Doctor of cars. Friend. Rest in peace.
Edit: Just found out that Ah Sang’s last words to my father was “Please bring me home. My death is near. Please bring the police so that I can get out of this house.” He was in Tawau at that time, and my parents incidentally had planned a trip to Tawau back then. But without an address and without means of contact, searching for him was futile.
So he did know that his death was near..