The last time I met my father was in 2001. It was our third meeting, if I could remember it correctly, since he left mother when I was just a boy of eight years. The previous two encounters, shortly after his departure, were brief and in secret, because I didn’t dare to incur mother’s wrath.
My sister, with her own initiative, finally located him after a long time of lost contact. She suggested that it’d be nice should I visit him too.
With the address my sister gave, I traced my father, and found him. He was surprised. Smiling, he invited me in. We shook hands, although did not hug. If we did hug, then I think, it would be too awkward.
We talked. I could face the man, at last, who for a long time, has become a shadow to my life. Now, I was talking eye to eye with him: the man I hardly knew but his blood runs through every stream in my veins. We share no emotional attachment, at least from my side. The feeling has long gone. I have cried many nights, missing and wishing him to return, but he never did. Until life taught me how to survive alone. He was so far away, but yet, at the same time, so close.
Observing him, I realised that I was now a man he once was, when life brought him to mother.
He reminisced how they met. It was a complicated twist of fate, he said. How he was from a town so far away decided to travel to other parts of Indonesia, and at the end decided to come to my mother’s place, still one of the most isolated areas in Indonesia even now. It’s the place he had never been, and so different in many ways. I shuddered to the fact that it would take just one little change of mind to make me non-existent.
He did not tell me something I wanted to know: whether he loved mother. It did not matter to me that he abandoned his children, as long as I knew that he loved our mother; that the love he once had, with time, had faded away. But it is a matter of importance to know that by their love we were born into this world.
He closed his mouth on this particular subject. Instead, he said something that made me ashamed of sharing his DNA.
“Blame your mother for the divorce. She was so stubborn, and wanted the divorce at first place.”
Wait, I wish I could tell him that my intention to come this far was not to accuse, or demand, his responsibility. Or to find who was right, and who was wrong, between them. I have survived the worst, and the last thing I ever wanted to do is blaming my parents. In fact, I wanted to thank him. Without him leaving me, I would not become the proud man I’m now. That it was perhaps the best thing he ever did to me. I even did not want him to apologise, if he so wished. He has been forgiven long time ago.
Numbness paralysed me. I was left with no option but to ask his permission to leave. We shook hands again. We still could not hug. We said our goodbye.
It was our last.
(Jakarta, December 12, 2006)