“Dia tu dok belakang rumah Zaharah, ” Mak said.
“Sapa, Mak?” asked Kak Cik puzzled.
“Dia tu laa, yang dalam TV tu. Masa Mak pi London, dia dok di belakang rumah Zaharah,” she told Kak Cik.
Kak Cik almost dropped a few stitches upon hearing this. The “dia” in question was none other than America’s queen of chatshows, Oprah Winfrey. And how she came to be my neighbour behind the house, was Kak Cik’s mission to find out. Thus the text message that she sent me.
These days, text messages from my siblings about Mak would throw me into a gamut of emotions. This one had me almost rolling on the floor laughing before sadness set in with the realisation that Mak’s memory is getting from bad to worse. What goes on in that mind that used to be so sharp, no one knows.
Over the years Mak visited me three times and she certainly enjoyed her stay, not once complaining about the cold. Abang used to tease her; "Mak pi London berapa kali dah, tak pass, pass pun!"
Before her first trip, Abang had prepared her with a few important English words. He told Mak, “Kalau immigration tanya apa-apa, Mak kata; Yes, No, Alright!”. And she’d just laugh because Abang was forever teasing her. She had missed Abang a lot when Abang was in Belfast but it was impossible to visit him, not when bombs were exploding everywhere. And again it was impossible to visit Kak Cik when she was in Kansas. With me in London, and Tok Su and Mak Cik also in London and Kak Niyah in Kent, she felt it was time to visit.
Mak came in the summer of 1980, bringing with her, her crisp cotton kebayas and kain batiks and high heeled shoes. She was quite stylish. No amount of coaxing would make her wear trainers or walking shoes when we went walking in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park. She loved the parks as she loved the roses and the summer blooms.
The second time Mak came was after Nona was born. Again it was in summer. I remember how my friends would look forward to dinner at home because it was truly home cooked food. But what I don’t remember is anyone with any remote resemblance to the chat show host and now close friend and supporter of Obama.
But we do have a close friend from Kenya who visited us often when Mak was around. Perhaps it is Jane then that she had mistakenly thought was the great Oprah. But if Mak wants to believe that Oprah was my neighbour, then let it be.
I hear Mak is now chirpy and happy. And without her teeth. She had misplaced her set of teeth that had sent everyone looking under the bed, under the pillow and even in the bin. But it is gone. The last time she misplaced it, it was found in the drawers. This time it is gone forever. But Mak will be flashing her happy smile soon, because a new set is waiting for her at the dentist!
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