Where did my father go in the years after he left Indonesia?
I searched for him within our family and saw him try to be a father. I searched for the father I knew, the father I could always discuss things with. Simple things, like the time (on one of our pre-war walks) he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him I wanted to be a doctor to find out why some people could handle problems and others would break. He laughed. Never will I forget the sweet expression on his face as he put his arm around me. He was quiet for a minute, and then said: “you will do fine, little girl, you will always find a way out”. And inside my whole body I felt warm and important. Walking home we didn’t talk anymore.
Years later when I told him I would like to go to University to study medicine, which for me was not a simple thing, he looked at me without the understanding from long ago. Did he even remember our walks? Our little conversations, never shared with Mom? I looked at him and glimpsed the pain behind his eyes. “You will not go to University, girl, I don’t have the money for that. Besides, you would study there and within a few years meet someone you like to marry, you’ll quit and I will have lost all the money I spent on you”. His voice sounded harsh as he turned away.
We never talked about this again and I went back to the boarding school, where I was taught how to become a teacher. Nuns, ran this school. Nuns who were willing to loan Dad the money he would have to pay for my education.
Did I later have a father? I can’t answer that. I continued to search for him but never found back what was so very precious, so long ago. Both Dad and I must have thought those things in the past; never to be relived again. I finally decided it was just a part of growing up and simply expecting too much. We grew apart. Although we were both unhappy about this, we were unable to break the barriers caused by war and desperation and silence.
Did I have a father? In a few days I will visit where he now rests. I will not find him there, but I hope to recognize him as I journey back to the beauty we once shared; with the help of the haunting pallets of autumn – the colours of unity, love, and peace.