In the last few days, during my daily routine sitting in front of the computer, reading news and random updates on social media, I read more about fatherhood and parenting. I stumbled upon beautiful stories on the father-and-son or father-and-daughter.
Many of beautiful stories. And, a question stroked into my head: how’s my story with my father? This questions leads to another simple yet difficult questions to answer: How do I describe my relationship with him? How I see him as a person? How he taught me life lessons?
My father passed away in November 2014. It was on Friday. For me, it was the second worst moment in my life after my mother passed away in 1995.
Life was not easy in the first few months after I lost my mother. He still dropped me to school every morning, made sure that I went to school in full stomach. It was hard. I wished I could do something to ease his days, but I felt that I was too stupid to know what I was supposed to do. He was so strong. We didn’t talk much during that period; but seeing how he struggled everyday spoke more than anything. There was a time he told me to pray to God, send pray to mom. I knew that he prayed a lot before going to bed because sometime I can hear his pray at night.
After few years, my father married to another woman. I was probably too young to understand the situation at that time. I didn’t feel angry, but I didn’t know what kind of feeling I had at that time. If I have to choose a single emotional feeling, I chose to be happy. And, I was happy.
I was happy knowing that he’s not alone in raising a son and daughter. I was sure that he loved my mother more than anything. He didn’t tried to hard to show me how much he loved my maiden mother because I could see myself. And, I called her mom since the day they married. I just don’t like the word “step mother”. A mother is a mother. Period.
If they’re happy — and I know they were, why should I be angry?
He worked as civil servant and that made him very closed to information as he was responsible to provide the information for his department. One of his responsibilities was to provide photography stocks for publication and documentation.
Everyday, he took photographs. And, most of the time, he left some frames for me to finish. At that time, while other kid in my age already deal with the semi-automatic cameras, he always give the last few shoots from his SLR camera for me. Sometime it was only five or six shots out of 36 (and sometime 24) shots. He’s the one who taught me some basic photography skills like focus, aperture, ISO, composition, and more.
When the camera roll was full, he usually took me to the photo studio to get the prints. It took hours to wait. This happened for few years. Sometime I was nervously waiting for the results. When we got the results, he showed me one by one and give short comments.
My father is a teacher.
Few years later, when I had school event, he lend me his camera. He gave me money to buy the film myself. And, when the photo studio owner recognised me as my dad was one of their regular customers, I always got discounts! And, every time I printed there, I even got almost 30% discount of the normal price! Awesome!
He didn’t give me too many DO’s and DON’Ts on the list. He told me some (probably) basic rules: be responsible, don’t get yourself into troubles. There are few things I still remember until now during my conversations with him one day:
- The hot porridge principle. He said, “Solve the problem like you have a hot porridge in plate. You will not eat the hot porridge from the middle because it’s the hottest part. You will start from the (rather) cold one.”
- The sun and lens. He said, “The sun is hot. But, it can not burn because the heat was not focused.”
- Go with the river flow, but don’t get drown. He said, “You can make friends with anyone, and experience many things whether they are good or bad. But, don’t let yourself into problems. You have to be wise.”
When the big earthquake hit my hometown in 2006, our small family also got affected. Our home was gone. That 6 x 19 meters building was gone.
There were hundreds of people losing their homes at that time. It was not easy to be in the situation when you had everything before sleeping at night and everything was gone the next morning. When I met my parents on the day after the big quake, he told me, “Yes, our house is gone. But, at least we’re still alive. All of us [family].”
It was honest.
It was brutal.
He kept calm, even I knew that he didn’t hide his sadness. He didn’t came up with any plans do deal with the situation right away. It was shocking. I’m sure my parents were shocked also, just like hundreds of families who got stroked by the big earthquake that morning.
The next few days, I was contacted by some friends who wanted to help. Some of them said whether I could help to distribute some funds for those who needs them. I told about this to my parents, and they said, “Just go, we can handle it from here. I’m sure that the people here will help each other in the neighborhood.”
I contacted some friends also whether they wanted to join me. I spent the next few days going to one place to another distributing some basic needs. We started early the morning by making a shopping list based on the latest information we got the night before, went shopping, and stopped in the evening. This run for about a week.
A friend who represent some donors in Jakarta reminded me that I should also get something because I also need it.
My parents briefly told me, “We already have everything we need. We have more than enough right now. We’re sure that there are people need more than us.” At that time, the word ‘enough’ had its own new definition.