Room 421: A Memoir

Ecky Nurfitriyani


Since 1998, never in the history of my little family did we get hospitalized. Under my mother’s supervision, my father, my mother herself, and I managed to stay out of hospital for two decades. In 2018, though, the record was broken. I was eating lunch with my friends in the middle of what just happened to be a very hot and bright day when suddenly my mom called to tell me that my dad’s been hospitalized. After hearing the news, I rushed to the hospital immediately, the food I had eaten was barely digested.

I did not realize that my dad had been sick, apparently for almost two months as my mom told me, so it was really shocking for me hearing that news. I did notice that sometimes he looked a little faint and could fell asleep literally the minute he sat down on a chair or a couch, but I thought he was just tired, considering his work place was really far from home and he had to go to work since the sun rose until it was getting dark, six days a week. But as it turned out, it was a symptom of a serious health problem.

When I got to the hospital, he was still in the emergency room before he was finally put into an inpatient ward hours later. He was put into a room number 421, just three rooms away from the ward receptionist. I could feel my arm hair raised the moment I walked into the room. One minute in there I had already shivered.

After dealing with the administration, my mom had to leave to work so I had to keep my dad company in the hospital. So there I was, left alone with my dad, in a cold, dimly lit hospital room. I helped him settle in the room, tidied up his clothes and other belongings. When I was done, I sat on a chair next to his bed.

As I accompanied my dad, I didn’t realize that my eyes were tearing up and I felt heavy on my chest, like I was holding back a sob. Somehow sitting there, watching him lying weak in there made me emotional. And the deafening silence in the room didn’t help either because I couldn’t focus on anything else but my dad. I literally met him every single day, I lived under the same roof as him and how did I not realized that he had a serious health condition. Suddenly reality hit me really hard; I hadn’t been alone with my dad in a closed space in a really long time.

For the last two years, my relationship with my dad had been strained. I couldn’t possibly remember the exact reason why but I did remember there was a fight over something that I would say was stupid and unnecessary. There were screaming battles in my house for at least a week. It was an exhausting week to say the least. I was tired from being angry, I was too busy avoiding my dad whenever he had a chance to insult me, scream at me, or get angry at me. We’ve been distanced ever since and my mom didn’t even know about it up to this day. Sure, we still talked to each other, but we barely exchanged more than five sentences to each other in one day and more often than not those conversations just felt awkward, like it was just formality.

Wow, I didn’t know that bringing myself to remember what happened, even in a blur, was a bad decision. I couldn’t hold it any longer as my chest felt heavier and my eyes were blurred, so I left the room immediately to get some fresh air.

I was watching him all by myself until around seven in the evening my mom went back to the hospital after work to check on him. From her disheveled look and the amount of paperwork that she brought, I could tell that she barely got her work done. She must have been worrying about my dad all day.

We gathered around in the small space, my mom sitting on the chair while I sat on the floor next to her. I watched as my mom taking care of my dad, sometimes she caressed his hand and asking how he felt, did he feel dizzy, or did he want anything. It was kind of a strange scene for me to see because even at home I barely saw this kind of interaction between them anymore. And that was when I realized that maybe not only my dad and I’s relationship that’s strained, but my parents’ also. I knew that they fight sometimes, I mean almost every couple do, but I didn’t know that it had an effect to their relationship until that moment.

I felt myself smiling as my parents joking around and laughing over each other’s jokes. The previously cold room had become warmer and so did my heart. It was a rare moment for the three of us to just sit there, talking and laughing, even though there were only the three of us at home. We barely met each other on weekdays, only in the evening to morning. For a long time, even on the weekends, we would just mind our own business in our own private space. I would be busy with college assignments, my mom would be busy doing her work, and my dad would just read the newspaper or fall asleep on the couch while watching the TV. Therefore we barely had family time together anymore. Sadly, we got our family time was only because my dad was hospitalized.

I could feel the tension in the room rose as my mom told my dad to take care of himself more from now on if he truly loved my mom and me, a serious tone could be sensed from her words. I could feel my heart clenched upon hearing those words. She reminded him that he should get better if he wanted to watch me become the person he aspired me to be. I swear to God I was about to lose it. I couldn’t even talk because my voice would just crack. I could’ve just cried right there on the cold floor of the room but I remained still.

That moment, I reflected on everything that had happened between me and my dad. I’m sure that family fight all the time. But it shouldn’t be a reason for them, for us, to fall apart. Maybe my dad being sick was a wake up call for all of us. It was a reminder for me to put whatever it was that happened between us behind and start to make amends with my dad. Perhaps it was also a reminder for my mom. And it was most certainly a reminder for my dad to take care of himself better, because he still has my mom and me.

My dad being hospitalized gave me some perspectives. There is always a possibility of everyone leaving me out of nowhere, even in the middle of a sunny day when I’m just enjoying myself. That possibility should be put in my mind so I would always do things right with the people I love, because I’m afraid it would be too late if I wouldn’t. So in that hospital room, I started to try to reconcile with my dad, and so did my mom. We’ve been rebuilding our little family ever since.

Illustration credit to Deniz Korkmaz (

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