You never know which is the last time you may be seeing someone or the last time you are talking to them. And then afterwards you just try to hang on to that memory as hard as possible, afraid that it is slipping from you. I keep recalling that wintry January night of 2018, when papa walked me to the lift as I was leaving for the US. To say goodbye for a week, which turned out to be forever. The memory is a bit hazy now. I suppose he must have said happy journey or see you soon, his frame slightly shriveled due to the cold, covered by a sweater or perhaps it was a shawl…but I remember his smile…his smile that I remember the most even now… 5 years later.
I also remember the quick conversation I had with him – from Frankfurt – or maybe Amsterdam (I don’t remember which airlines I had taken) – to tell him that I was about to board for Delhi. He had sounded fine…though he had been a bit unwell… he told me he went to the doctor that morning… and complained that he was unhappy with him…but that he was doing fine… and that my mom had taken Anvay for therapy. And while he spoke, images formed in my mind – where he was while he spoke to me, what he might have been wearing…. Images now etched in my mind forever. Nothing in the conversation gave me a clue that he was about to collapse within the hour, never to speak again. And that that would be my last conversation with him. In fact, the last conversation with any family member.
For he was alone at home at that time. Kapil was at work and my mom was with Anvay at his therapy. In fact, that was the reason, I ended up talking to him. I had called my mom initially but couldn’t connect with her. So, I called him next. And feel grateful that I got to talk to him that one last time. But the same reason still causes my mum grief – that she wasn’t home with him in his last moments of lucidity. We don’t know what he felt before he collapsed. Did he know what was coming? Did he panic? Was he uncomfortable or in pain? We will never know.
And then I remember landing in the early hours of the morning. Switching on the phone. Only to be surprised at the number of messages being downloaded at a rapid speed. I read with worry as the first messages of Kapil being at the hospital downloaded and slowly it became clear that something had happened to dad. I tried to comprehend what happened that evening. But I did not panic. This had happened before. He had been admitted to the hospital many times. And bounced back. Like a cat. Only I did know that this was probably the 9th life. It was only when the doctor on call told me that he had suffered a hemorrhage to his brain stem and that his chances were nil, that the inevitable dawned on me. And then I had to turn to my uncomprehending mother and tell her what it meant. The most difficult words that ever came out of my mouth.
I think he was gone by the time he reached the hospital….but medical technology and his will kept him alive till we all had a chance to see him and say goodbye. He hung on for 3 days, letting his daughters, his siblings, cousins and other relatives see him. An especially sweet and caring person while alive and equally considerate while dying.
It has been 5 years now….the searing pain has given way to a dull ache, a longing. Thinking it was him every time the phone rang for the first few months after his death, to now wishing there was a way to reach him. I sometimes go to his FB page … to read words he wrote and ponder thoughts he thought. Once I sent him a message on his messenger. Felt like I am sending a message out in the universe, and it will somehow reach him. Yeah, I know – totally illogical and probably sounds insane. But grief is not supposed be logical.
Often, when a childhood memory is eluding me, or I am looking to solve a problem, I feel like turning around and asking him, only to remember that he is not there to answer. Equally often I miss exchanging views on current affairs or philosophy. I wonder what his thoughts would have been about the giant leaps technology is taking – I am sure he would have been exhilarated at the possibilities – being a creator himself. “Oh, he would have been so thrilled if he saw what chatGPT could do”, I think. Every time anything major happens, we wonder how papa would have responded. “What would he have thought of the COVID times?”
And finally, the thought that has been with me every day for the last 4 years. “He would have been so happy to have come and stayed with me in Almaty.” I know how proud he was at our smallest achievements and how he supported me when I gave the interview for this job. But by the time the job offer came, he was gone. He never even knew I got it. He never saw this phase of my life. He was never part of it. And that hurts. And I doubt that this hurt would ever go away.
I long to just stretch my arms out and bring him back from the silence and live this life with me. Even if it could be for a short time. But for now, I just carry his memories and his favorite bowl of cornflakes with me. Which I will. For the rest of my life.
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Regards, Sakshi aka tripleamommy
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