Road trips.
Usually I love them.

Driving slowly through small state roads, often following large lorries carrying timber, petrol or palm oil.

Passing through villages, small towns, some jungles and rubber estates.

Up and down the hills.
Fogs lifting.
The sun peeking.

The chats.
How dad used to travel at least once a month through these roads, to be with his parents and big family.

He’d leave his hometown in the middle of the night to avoid heavy traffic.

The kids, that’s us, would be asleep by then, so he could have a peaceful drive.

From east coast to hometown, he’d ask the policeman about which route is best, clearest in terms of traffic, so we all could arrive as early as possible.

There were no Waze or Google Map 30 years back then.

He spoke about some roti canai place along the way.

Little sister perhaps felt a bit left out because it was not during her time.
Or because things have changed too much since back then.

Yes, there are things that we wish would remain the same.
There are things that we could not understand why.
Perhaps we will never understand why.
But life has to go on.
And we need to give it our best.

We’ll never know what awaits in the future.
* * *
Like that old Volkswagen Beetle many many years ago.

It used to go from PJ to Kuantan, and back.

One day it skidded, and fell down the hill.
And it burst into flames.
Right after the driver escaped the wreckage, almost unscathed.

After that he drove another car. Which also perished in another accident.

Those cars have gone through these roads.

He used to speak about the Orang Asli family, whose children were all named like his one classmate.

Or those days his father used to drive him very early on Monday morning, and would return by bus on the same day.

Or the way he used to wake up early and go to the beach to watch the sun rise.

Or when he used to take the bus to Kemaman to have breakfast at that cafe under the big tree.

About the Japanese couple that used to sell home-cooked Japanese food. Obviously the nicest you could find.

He spoke about those people he used to spend time with.
Even the people he did not like.
Or the people whom he thought did not like him.

But yes, you don’t know what life will bring you in the future.
If he has perished with the Volkswagen Beetle, if he did not survive the crash, my life would have been entirely different.

My views of life would not be like it is now.
I may have met different people.
The way I respond to challenges in life would not be the same.
I would not have spent 3 years working with the dying.
I might not be able to help as many people as I have.

I would not have even known myself the way I do now.

* * *
Often we don’t understand why things happen the way they do.
Most of the time we don’t like them.
But those are the things that build us up.

* * *

When our partners spoke about their past lives, I guess we tend to internalise the stories as if they were ours.

No wonder grandma always spoke about grandpa’s past experience, even those before they were married, as if those memories were hers.