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Love You, Papa

He was still walking and forming complete and concrete sentences when he told me to help him grab his belt and a small pouch so he could bring all his documents to the hospital. Papa and I were five days in the independent isolation facility thirty minutes away from our home. It was a repurposed motel used by the government for Covid patients with mild symptoms—free three meal courses each day along with medicine and snacks. When we found out both Papa and I got Covid—Papa having symptoms for nearly twenty days and me for a day—my family decided to get us to the facility.

Papa’s a simple man. He never tried to stand out, except whenever he had the opportunity to flaunt that his eldest daughter got accepted to UGM, even to strangers. He loved his wife and daughters. He made breakfast each morning and helped mom test the seasonings for her cooking. I counted three times in his entire life when he raised his voice at me, zero to Mom, and maybe once to my little sister.

Once the pandemic started, even before Indonesia reported any cases, Mom went all the way for precautions. We disinfected all things that we brought inside our house, washed our hands and hair, ate home cooking exclusively, and wore masks even when we were just in our front yard. These habits went even till this day.

We had a WhatsApp group consisting of the doctors, nurses, and members of the covid isolation facility. Before I went to Papa’s room to check him, I saw him messaging the group, begging for the doctors to help him. He said he had trouble breathing and still happened after being given pills by the doctors. They told him to wait for the medicine to react.

Mom was voice-calling him at the time I arrived at his room. He’s tidied most of his stuff, leaving some work to me after telling us how tired he was. I was confused and told him to call the doctor. Turned out, all of my mom’s sisters and brothers had been tuning into his condition through our WhatsApp group, all agreeing to get him to a hospital. I could count, fifteen to thirty minutes after Papa’s call, did one of the nurses come to his aid with an oximeter and some notes to check on him. Another fifteen minutes, he came with an oxygen machine pumping air to Papa’s nose. All those times, Papa was complaining, occasionally saying the word “Ampun… ampun…”.

I thought nothing of everything. I just did my best to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. I didn’t think much of everything and asked my friends to pray for him. He told me that he’d be back to the facility in three days after spending time in the hospital, and told me to take care of myself for a while before he returned to me. I took all of his documents, socks, and phone charger, putting them in his little black suitcase, just as my mom instructed through Papa’s phone. Occasionally, I asked Papa how he was feeling, and whether or not he was feeling any better. He said he’s been tired for the last two days.

It took almost an hour before the ambulance came, and Papa stood up. He walked normally, eagerly even, to the ambulance on his own. He kept telling me that he’d be back in three days.

I broke down mentally as soon as he left. I didn’t know why I just felt overwhelmed. Still, I video called my cousins whilst tidying up some of Papa’s stuff to put them in my room. I took a shower, laughed, and joked with my aunts.

Until I heard the news that Papa’s blood oxygen level dropped to 33. For context, the normal saturation level for a human’s blood oxygen is 95. Every cousin, aunt, and uncle were panicking. I could hear my mom crying (which is quite rare) and begging her sisters and brothers to save my Papa. I tried my best to appear calm and demanding. I demanded every single person I knew, called everyone I could and asked for updates every minute about Papa. I was a bit at ease to hear when his blood oxygen saturation level went up to 55 and stayed there for the next thirty minutes.

I was physically alone. My mom and sister were at home. I only have an uncle and aunt in this town. My other families are out of town, scattered across the country. Half of my friends didn’t even know I had covid. I didn’t know anyone in the facility and was all alone in the motel praying to God to take me instead of my father.

After my aunts told me to relax, focus on my health and eat (which I didn’t but pretended that I did), I joked around again with my cousin. I thought to myself that there was no need to be anxious. If I just sleep now, I’ll wake up and hear good news about Papa.

I heard wailing and crying through the video call with my cousin. She was dumbfounded, and I was furious, demanding an explanation. One of my mother’s sisters snatched the phone from her cousin, starting off her speech by telling me how strong I am and how God will never leave me. She then told me my dad passed away.

My mind drifted to my mom and sister who were on their thirty-minute drive to the hospital for some legal stuff, not knowing a thing. The whole family purposefully kept the information from them. I thought to myself how I was alone.

My aunt told me to cry, to not hold myself back. But it was my last thought. I yelled, panicked, “I don’t wanna be alone! I don’t wanna be alone!”

Everyone who was in the room with my aunt told me that I’m not alone. They reassured me they’d stay with me.

That night, in a strange motel, alone with no one I knew, I didn’t sleep. My phone stayed on for twelve hours. It was four or five in the morning when I saw my father’s chest being put inside the ground. Mom was wailing, and my sister was crying. All of Mom’s family saw the simple funeral through a WhatsApp group video call.

My mom’s family decided to move me to a hospital, and I stayed there for five days. My married cousins and second-youngest aunt, all from Mom’s family, stayed up every night. They sent me a personal oximeter and asked me to send the results of it every three to six hours, even until today as I’m writing this. After the funeral, my sister got tested positive for covid and has been separated from my mom since.

I didn’t have time to process everything, nor did my mom’s family want me to, as I was in recovery in the hospital. They tried to distract me, soothed me, and joked with me. Not a second slipped of me in that hospital without one of my cousins or my mom’s siblings calling me, be it to joke or pray.

They told me how much they loved my Papa, even took him as their own blood brother instead of their sister’s husband. I knew that every single call, gift, and penny everyone sent me and my family were all their love to my Papa.

Still, none of their gifts or money can make up for the fact that Papa will not attend my graduation, nor my wedding, nor my first salary, nor see his grandchildren.

According to my faith, God works in mysterious ways. God also will take care of His children as He would to the wild birds. I agree wholeheartedly with the latter, but I am eager to see the former.

I’d thank Papa for all the breakfast he cooked, all the time he drove me from and to school, all the gifts and cakes on my birthday, and the jokes he made that cheered me up, but I didn’t admit to laughing. I’d promise him I’ll try my best to replace a few percent of his duties to the family, his little family he’s been protecting and providing for most of his life. I’d tell him I love him, something I know he knows.

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