I used to listen to my father’s life stories when I was little. Today I had the opportunity to listen again when I visited him. The same story runs just like the way he always tells it, but today there was something different. For me, not for him.
My father has a man working for him. His name is Mang Acep. He’s close to 50, dark-brown skin, short appearance and a face that tells you a story of a simple and humble life. He comes to my father’s place three times a week to help cleaning up the house and do some fixing whenever there’s something to be fixed. But Mang Acep and my father has more than just cleaning and fixing in their history.
My father in his whole lifetime had done so many different things. He once followed his dad, my grandpa, to East Indonesia to start an oil drilling project. He exported fruits at one stage. He ran a flower shop and became very good with plants. He even had a short time running a barbershop, just before he worked in the tourism business as a ticketing sales. He was just recently married when he was selling airplane tickets and this was the first time my dad met Mang Acep. After the travel firm’s collapse, my dad decided to start an agriculture business. He was planting and selling carrots, cabbage, onions and some other crops. He took Mang Acep, who must be jobless I figured at that time, with him in his new crop business.
The crop business experience involved some good and bad and near-death experiences. Since the field was located near the top of a mountain, they face freezing weather and almost got killed by a super Tornado that once came, destroying the field and its surrounding villages. They also got implicated in a murder case of one of my father’s worker. Mang Acep and my dad were very close to becoming suspects but they were proven not guilty and turned out the real killer was the worker’s own nephew.
Uncertain about crop future, my dad sold the whole field and started a new Rattan business. He exports Rattan Baskets and handicrafts to Korea. During this transitition, Mang Acep was still alongside my father. My father told throughout this time, Mang Acep proved himself to be a trustworthy man by regularly delivering expensive items and cash money for my dad.
My father’s rattan business was going quite well until a Letter of Credit (L/C) failure knocked the company into bankruptcy. We had our home confiscated by the bank because my dad had it set up as loan collateral. During this hard times, my dad told Mang Acep, “I don’t have money to pay you Acep.”. And what struck me was his answer. Mang Acep just said “It’s ok” and he continues to work for my father for no pay.
My family was very hard hit by the bankruptcy. For years my father went in and out the court room fighting to win a lawsuit that could recover some of his money in the failed L/C. He lost. Mang Acep and my father split for couple of years.
After a series of struggles and miracles, our family managed to stick together and get back up. My dad started doing small business and Mang acep came back to our lives once again. I remember his words, saying, “I can’t work for anyone else but Joseph.” Joseph was my father’s name.
Now it’s been 28 years since that day they met at the ticketing office. Mang Acep can’t do hard work anymore since his physical condition has much deteriorated as he’s approaching 50. Neither can my dad, although he still insists on doing things on his own which makes all of us nervous, worried that he might hurt himself. This March my dad’s going to be 60.
What amazes me is their relationship. The length and the many things they had gone through together. You can easily say you’ve known someone for 28 years if he or she is family or relatives or highschool friend. But after I think about it, the relationship between my dad and Mang acep is not ordinary. They’re not friends. They don’t talk like friends. It’s not a friendship at all. It’s not a love relationship. It’s not a business partnership either. At a glance, you might say it a relationship between employer and employee. But when my father went bankrupt, Mang Acep stood there while others left. That proves the relationship is deeper than just employer-employee. Then what is it??
I then realized that it was Trust. They trust each other but not in a way that you normally think. It’s not like when you trust your best friend to keep a secret or when you trust a bank with your money. It’s not like that. Mang Acep believed that he will be just ok if he stayed with my father. He didn’t die when that Super Tornado was so only few metres away from snapping them off the ground. It’s not Mang Acep believes my dad is Superman. And it’s not like Mang Acep believed that my dad will rise quickly from the bankruptcy. He just knew that things would be just fine. He had faith. He had trust, not in my dad but in something else. They faced a real giant killer tornado together and they survived. They were falsely accused for muder and almost went to jail but they were safe in the end. I don’t know about you, but I think after going through all that, you are not the same person anymore mentally. And when faced with bankruptcy, you kinda know inside your gut that in the end, you’re gonna be just fine.
I also understand the reason why this relationship that has run for 28 years, and still counting, has no clear definition or name. It’s because in this modern day of life, you don’t see it happening anymore in people. Relationships in our lives are driven by what we need and what we want. We don’t use trust anymore as a base because we say it fails so many times. Do you trust people as much as you did back 10 or 20 years ago?
These days, you don’t see two people who are NOT friends or partners or lovers stand together through tornados, jail threats and financial bankruptcy for 28 years plus. This is a relationship without definition in my opinion. I’m glad I still have the chance to witness it and save it in my heart. It’s trust and in Mang Acep’s way of expressing it: “I can’t work for anyone else but Joseph.”