Sunday Vibes

Chasing shadows: A daughter's tale of regret and redemption

IN the hushed confines of our podcast studio, where time seems suspended between words and memories, I pose a question that lingers in the air like a whispered prayer.

"Is there anything you'd wish to say to your dad that maybe you've not uttered to him yet?" I ask, turning to Ridzwan Rahim, or Wan, as he's better known, our guest for the day.

A lingering pause ensues and I note that his typically veiled eyes reflect a blend of hesitation and silent yearning. Wan, a record-breaking marathon swimmer whose life had taken unexpected turns from journalism to sporting feats, shifts uncomfortably on his stool.

His voice, usually steady and measured, falters as he speaks of a father now bedridden, his condition deteriorating with each passing day.

"I just want to tell him that we'll try our best to make his life as comfortable as possible in his condition now," murmurs the former journalist softly, as if the weight of his words bear down heavily upon him. "That's all."

As the recording draws to a close, a palpable sombreness fills the room. I glance at the timer placed in front of me next to our producer, realising with dismay that, once again, we'd gone over our allotted time.


Driving home that evening, Wan's words echo in my mind, triggering a flood of memories. Images of my own father materialise like scenes from an old film reel, each frame etched with love and nostalgia.

I recall my childhood days, posing proudly beside Abah's mustard-yellow car in the sprawling compound of his family home in Sg Pelek, Sepang. There he stood, proud and stern, a figure of quiet strength beside my delicate mother.

Another snapshot emerges: a toddler in a psychedelic-print jumpsuit, perched on her dad's lap during a family gathering. His laughter resonated through the photograph; a timeless moment frozen in the annals of memory.

Years later, the reel continues with a more weathered Abah, his hair graying and his once-stocky frame showing signs of age. Yet, his enthusiasm for our bonding moments remained unwavering.

I recall the evenings spent at the badminton courts of Sungai Buloh whenever he was back from London, where my parents have made their home for more than 40 years, and I'd marvel at his silky skills, something age hasn't been able to take away from him.

One of my most cherished memories is sitting at the dining table in my home watching Abah deftly opening his favourite fruit, the durian, eyes twinkling in delight as he indulged in its creamy, fragrant flesh.

Lost in these memories, I arrive home without realising, the melancholy settling in as I ponder the inexorable passage of time. Abah and Mak live continents away in England, and my journey had taken me far from home since leaving for university at the age of 18.


The tranquillity of the evening is suddenly shattered by a message on my phone. Surprised, I see Wan's words flash across the screen. "I'm so sorry if there were moments of hesitation on my part today."

Continuing, the message read: "Actually, during the recording, I paused for a long time because I was thinking of my dad who's really suffering at the moment. His oxygen level has been so low since last week. I was trying to make sense of why he has to suffer for so long…"

My heart skips a beat. Wan's father's declining health mirrors my own fears for Abah, who'd been battling his own health issues in London of late. But amidst the chaos of daily life, I couldn't find the time to reach out as often as I should.

Hours later, another message would arrive from Wan — short and devastating. "Hi Intan. My dad passed away just now at 10pm…"


The news hit me like a tidal wave, engulfing me in a torrent of emotions. Wan's loss stirred a deep-seated regret within me — a regret that simmered beneath the surface, fuelled by moments when I'd selfishly prioritised my own life over precious time with my parents.

I suddenly recall the phone call about dad's health scare. While I was miles away in Kuala Lumpur, he was navigating London's labyrinthine hospitals. Helpless and distraught, I remember struggling to reconcile the distance that separated us.

Abah has always been a pillar of strength. But, his steps once sure and steady, are now a little more tentative. His slightly stooped gait, a subtle reminder of life's unyielding march, pains me sometimes.

Yet, despite it all, his fire for life has never faltered. His biggest passion, writing, remains undiminished. He loves to chronicle tales of a bygone Malaysia — of simpler times and untold stories.

"How's your writing, Bah?" I'd ask sometimes. It's a question that's often met with a hopeful smile. His stories, typed diligently on his phone, were his lifeline — connection to a past I yearn to grasp. "Can you have a read and see if there's anything I need to correct?" he'd mumble sheepishly.

But too often, I deferred. "Nanti ye, Bah (later ya, dad)?" I'd promise, entangled in the minutiae of my own life. And each time, his crestfallen gaze would haunt me, a testament to my own negligence.


In Wan's loss, I have found a poignant reminder of what truly matters. Time with our loved ones is fleeting, and the moments we share are irreplaceable. In my dear friend's grief, I've discovered solace and determination. No more excuses, no more regrets.

I've made a vow to cherish every moment with Abah (and my dear mother, too), to embrace his stories and his presence with gratitude. His kebun (orchard) in Sungai Pelek, where he's nurtured his fruit trees and penned his tales beneath the warmth of the Malaysian sun, would become a sanctuary of shared memories.

In the words of an unknown sage: "Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once it's lost, you can never get it back." To my Abah, and to all fathers who grace their daughter's lives with their love, wisdom and resilience, may we never take for granted the gift of their presence.

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