My knight-in-shining-armour and confidante was taken away from me so quickly that I was left feeling dizzy, empty and heart-broken. Why did God have to take my father from me? Yes, he had to manage with one good leg and a stump but he was so vibrant, so hilarious and entertaining, so much alive! Why did God not take a person in a vegetative state or worse? Why, why, why? I was not ready to let go! I love him and want him to be with me as long as possible!
Twenty-one years ago, on the 6th of June, 1988, my father passed away peacefully at 2.10 a.m. He had been a diabetic for thirty-five years and had lost a month-long battle with pneumonia. I was there in the hospital everyday from 7.30 a.m. To 11. 00 p.m., for a whole month. He went into a three-day coma and came out of it. While he was in coma, I sang to him his favourite songs and he would squeeze my hand, indicating that he could hear me in spite of being in coma. I remember his hands so clearly because I used to hold them and stroke them, admiring his slender fingers.
Being an only child from my father's last marriage, I had the priviledge of having my father's attention, all to myself. He did not spoil me but gave me all that was necessary. He even thought it necessary for me go and study in Australia so that I could broaden my mind. Most unlike most Malaysian parents, he never expected me to work to repay for the education I received, after coming home from Australia.
We were very close maybe that is why he lingered on in a different form. I decided to write a letter to my half-sister in England, on the second day of my father's demise. I always find it better to do any writing in the wee hours of the morning. It was 2.10 a.m. As I started writing my letter, I heard the sound of a matchbox being flipped; my father used to do that! It went on and on! Who was doing this? I slowly got up and walked over to the next room where the sound was coming from. My father's photo had been placed on a teak chest with oil lamps on each side, according to Hindu custom. Right in front of the photo was the biggest pinky-grey lizard I had ever seen! It was like the common drop-tail lizard found in houses except it was much bigger, almost eight inches long. The strangest thing was that the lizard was playing 'tiddly-winks' with a matchbox! It made the matchbox flip by pressing against the side of the box to make it flip! Left, right, left, right!
"Ah, you are teasing me! I am in the next room if you want me" having said that I walked back to continue my letter writing. The sound of the matchbox being flipped went on for half an hour. Suddenly it stopped! I had to see why the sound stopped so again I went to the next room to check. There was no lizard and no matchbox to be seen! Had I been dreaming or imagining the whole thing? I looked for the lizard. It was gone. I looked for the matchbox. It was behind my father's picture. It was placed so carefully so that it could not fall into the space between the photo and the wall. How clever! I knew that my dad had come to tell me that he would always be around for me.
On the third night, I was sleeping on my father's bed when I felt his presence. I sat up in bed and called out. "Papa, Papa, is that you?" I could feel his arms around me, so warm, so strong, giving me one last hug. Then I felt a rush of air and he was gone!
Imagine how horrified I was when one day, my mother had come home with a lizard trap to catch all the little culprits which left their droppings on window sills, on shelves and even pictures or paintings hung on the wall. One of her friends had given her this trap that was like a lid of a cardboard box, with a round disc that was made of some kind of glue and poison. I was afraid to look at the mass of dead lizards but I had to see if the great pinky-lizard was there or not! Oh, thank goodness, it was not there! I barred my mother from setting anymore of these traps down in the kitchen or anywhere else in the house.
Five years after my father's demise, I had to write a speech for a Toastmaster's speech contest. I began to write about the huge pinky-grey lizard. I have always been a creature of habit; yes, it was 2.10 a.m. I was suddenly aware of a presence. I was being watched! Just in front of my left toe was the huge pinky-grey lizard! It had the biggest, shiny pair of black eyes that I had ever seen on a lizard! It was looking up at me and it did not run away even as I spoke! "I am writing about you," I said. "I miss you so much!" As I said this, tears started to roll down my cheeks and I had to wipe them away. When I opened my eyes again, the lizard had disappeared! Again, I felt that he had come to reassure me that he was around for me.
I had won many speech competitions with my speech entitled "My Father, the Lizard". I had touched many hearts. One day when I was walking in Jakarta, I heard someone call out to me but instead of my name, this person called out the title of my speech. Yes, she remembered it but not my name! She was a professor from Chulalangkorn University, and she had heard my speech earlier in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I was not offended. I was happy that she had remembered my speech.
A veteran toastmaster came up to me and said that I should not say that my father had come back as a lizard. He said that my father, being a great man who was well-remembered by many for his kind deeds would have come back as a something greater than a house lizard. I did not agree. If my father had come back as an elephant or a tiger, I would have called for the local zoo officials to come and get him. If he had come as a cat or dog, my dogs would have attacked him! How else could he have come without drawing attention to himself? By taking the form of a lizard, he could always be there, watching over me without being obvious!
I know many will not see my point of view but I find comfort in my own explanation of the huge pinky-grey lizard's visitations. It was not a dream or illusion; it was real. Sometimes I see a big pinky-grey lizard on my kitchen top, peeping its head from behind the dish-drainer. I leave whatever rice that falls onto the counter, when I prepare dog-food for my dogs. It's not much but how much more would a lizard need?