It sometimes feel like it’s been ten years or more since my cousin passed away. But it’s been roughly 2 or three years. I haven’t kept count. Not that I don’t care but for some reason I still think he’s very much alive. Somethings are hard to accept sometimes. Like death of those we consider family.
Us boys in the family (myself, my brother and cousins) looked up to this guy. He was something alright. Mr Action man. He was an outdoors type of guy which is the exact opposite of me. I wish sometimes I was like him. Bold and macho, hunting wild animals in the thick jungle. He was a risk taker. If ever there was a “good” reason for him to ever leave this earth, it would be because of his daring feats. But a freak accident in which he drowned still beckons a lot of questions. I still ask them even now.
I still remember when I heard the news of when he passed away. My then girlfriend at that time called me. It was after music practice and she said, “I’m sorry about your cousin.” I was still clueless about the whole thing because I didn’t know anything. So she told me that Allton had passed away. You know when you feel cold chills on a warm night that it’s something you never wish to hear about someone who is family. I was in denial and said it can’t be. So I went home that night and asked dad, and he was not sure as well, but an aunt called to relay the message that my cousin had passed away. I was still not convinced so I called my mum’s older sister. She confirmed it was true.
Now Allton or as we called him “Bani,” was someone you could just be yourself with. He didn’t care about who you were. He looked at everyone the same and treated them the same. He also was someone who loved his mother. Tough guys also have their soft spots and his was for his mum.
I regret, even now not getting to know him better. But there are two memories of him that stand out.
There was a time when my family stayed at Bani’s place. I think it was for six months. I was still young and probably don’t remember much. This was something that my parents use to joke around on me. I was at a stage when I discovered there was such a thing as underwear. I guess the whole thing about underwear was something of a new concept for me so much so that I was fighting over this particular pair that Bani had. Poor Bani had to give up his underwear because I was a young bratty kid who didn’t know better. I guess his parents were the ones that finally convinced him to do so.
And the last memory I had about Bani, was when me, my brother and Bani were sitting together over a few beers and we chatted. It was mostly him talking really and I just listened and nodded. He talked about how he struggled through people looking down on him and to the position he was in now. He worked offshore in the oil and gas industry and he was finally doing something he loved and he was paid well. I was happy for him.
But I have to confess I was a religious nut back then. I found it awkward sitting around people who enjoyed a beer or smoke cigarettes. It’s probably one of the reasons I found it difficult to sit and have a conversation with Bani. It didn’t matter if one did it casually or excessively, I was drinking in the worldview that I was taught by religious teachers. They did have good explanations on why these things were bad but it always meant that those who do it were bad people as well. It’s just disheartening now when I think about it. Some teaching. That’s one of the reasons I really am against any bullshit religious teacher who talks about God’s love when in fact what he or she means is God loves those who are in my own image. I used to be that bullshit person but I’m not anymore. I lost the chance of getting to know my cousin because of some wacko doctrine.
But what I can say is that Bani, he knew how to make a person feel that they are special. He knew how to accept people for who they are better than some religious nut.
This was a long overdue post that I wanted to write in dedication to Bani. I somehow scrolled my Facebook list of friends and saw his still existing account. And I remembered that time I wanted to write something about him and how he change me to be a better person who learns to accept others for who they are not what I see them with my own eyes. He has touched the lives of many others as well. I guess one of the reasons I never managed to write this was I just felt numb that time. I still have the same feeling of that night I heard about his passing. There are times when I’m back home, I still sometimes ‘hear’ his Subaru rally sports car with the music blistering loud enough for one to hear in the distance going over my aunts place. It was a sign that he was back on shore. Sometimes though when I’d be awake in the wee hours of the morning, when the say is still enveloped in the dark, whenever I remember, I wish there were noises like that booming in the distance. Now of course, I only hear them in my memory.
Here’s to you Bani. This one was long over due. We still talk about your heroics whenever we sit and reminiscent about the past when you were still here with us. Sometimes over a few beers. Good and true memories, they linger and I don’t think we’d forget you that easily. And yes, we still look up to you as one of our hero’s.