The last chat with my brother left me with a despondent mood that is not about to lift any moment soon. As usual the topic of conversation was Mak. She was insisting that some one takes her back to the house that Pak built for her. But that is nothing new. She does that on a daily basis these days.
Yesterday, as my brother was getting ready to go to work, she insisted that he takes her to work with him, and leaves her at a certain junction where she would proceed to her house. Considering where he works is somewhere near Melawati, she has got a long way to go indeed, back to her home town in Alor Setar.
But what is more worrying is that when Ajie asked her where her house is, she went quiet and looked very confused and couldn’t even remember where her beloved home is. And this is sad. The house that she keeps yearning to return to, the one that is keeping her alive in her waking hours and one that fills her dreams when she goes to sleep, is nowhere near her radar screen these days. In her mind, the house still has a garden that is perpetually in full bloom and orchids with a riot of colours that would stop people in their tracks and stare in admiration. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, they are still there, awaiting her return. But for now, she couldn’t place where that house is.
These last few years, Mak has used the same excuse that Pak never wanted her to leave the house that he built for her. We never heard this when Pak was alive. Pak would have wanted Mak to stay where she would be cared for by her children. And that is where she is now. There is no denying that Mak feels closer to Pak when she is there. She wants to go and visit his final resting place and offer her prayers. She also wants to offer her prayers to Tok, but that big house is no place for her, not even with a companion or a carer. For now it has become a place to go back to during Raya, and once in a while in between. And that is certainly not enough for Mak.
That Mak is feeling this attachment with Pak who left us some thirty years ago, is rather touching. When we were growing up, we never saw even a hint of lovey-doveyness between them. I suppose in those days, a public display of affection, even in front of their own children, was a no no. There was no Yang or Abang, or any such terms of endearment that we heard. But the loyalty and devotion were obvious for she cared for Pak right until he breathed his last. The companionship that they shared was evident. They were hardly apart – except of course when she went to Mekah and when she spent time looking after Kak when she gave birth.
Looking back, I remember that they spent most of their time together in the big kitchen. While she prepared food, he helped peel and chop the onions so finely and top and tail the taugehs. At other times, he kept her company reading the Straits Times or doing the Crossword puzzles while she went about doing the chores.
Pak was housebound most of the time since his accident and this meant Mak was practically on her own when she went to kenduris and do’s or visiting friends and relatives. Pak was contented with being at home with his newspapers and TV. Once in a very long while, he’d take us to the cinema – in two trishaws. And that was a treat indeed. One treat that I remember to this day, was the trip to Penang where we stayed at a resthouse. And yes, he bought us Black Magic chocolates, which in those days were like gold dust.
It is anyone’s guess what still remains in Mak’s mind. Whatever it is, it must be some beautiful thoughts and memories of time spent with Pak, in the house that he built for her.