Yesterday, I dropped into a shopping mall, a snatched moment of a busy day. I ran into my father’s younger brother who was also shopping with his wife. I came face to face with my uncle – and for a moment frozen in time – saw my father, whom I lost this April, in my uncle’s face. I smelled my father then and there and tears threatened to roll down my cheeks. I hugged my uncle and tried to hold my composure, trying even harder to fight back the tears.
Losing a parent is never easy. Even though you may be, as I am, an adult child who has had to deal with aging, cranky parents on a daily basis. Looking back, all the little things that made me irritated with my father, are now touch points of love for me. I would give an arm and a leg happily to see and hear him do those little things just once more. When my mother who is still left mourning the loss of her life’s partner of almost 50 years, does one of those irritable things like phoning a few times just to mak sure I have understood what she meant, I try to be gentle. I try not to snap, even though I am in the middle of a very busy day.
I was always a Daddy’s Girl. I shared his love of writing and reading. He introduced me to the wonderful world of books early on. I was writing, hammering away on his beloved black ancient typewriter, from as far back as I could remember. It was in my blood. There had always been things in my day that I just had to put out into words. And I would.
It is the little things I miss about my father. He smoked – until he passed away. I used to be irritated when I smelled cigarette smoke coming from downstairs, where he would sit in my office and smoke as silently as he can. Today, I would give anything to see the left over ashes from his cigarettes on my otherwise immaculate portico. Rushing through a busy day of having to manage a publication, regular columns, a PR company and a household with two active kids and a busy husband, I would have very little time for my father’s little escapist routines – the regular drink he had. With my mother, I would scold him for the little bottle in his pocket. And fumed every time I had to fork out some money for him to indulge in the only bad habit he had. He would laugh or shrug and go away. He never held grudges against his princess. I would give anything to smell his breath laced with alcohol today. I would not lecture to him about drinking in his old age. Instead, I would hold his hand and press a note of money into his waiting palm.
My father was gone before I could fathom what his loss would mean to me. That’s how death comes – stealing, stealthily, discreetly. You deal with the logistics of the funeral and you cry but that’s not how grief comes. It comes like a flaring tornado, it comes like a soaring tsunami wave and knocks you out flat at the most unexpected moments. The first few months were terrible. I mourned in private, discreetly, catching myself crying , my memories of him triggered by a photo, a book, his signature on one of the books he treasured. I was careful not to cry in front of the kids – my six year old daughter who is also a Daddy’s Girl, would ask me very seriously why I was crying. She could not yet fathom why or how her mother would mourn her grandfather so long.
My father passed away on 10th of April, one full week after his 80th birthday. As I type this in October, having celebrated my first birthday without him, the grief has become quieter but is there. Like what happened when I bumped into my uncle, it would come in softer but definite waves, and it would be very difficult to hold back the tears.
My father doted on my son – at fifteen, my son is a tall oarsman and rugby player who as he grew up, did not spend too much time with his grand father as he used to. To my father, until the end, his favourite grand son was still the five year old chubby little boy who loved playing with his friends in the kindergarten of the school by the sea.
Looking back, I believe that all daughters and sons should find the time – however difficult – to spend with parents who are aging. It’s tough but you will miss them when they are gone, all too soon. Savour the special moments – give them your time. I remember my father making sandwiches for me when I was schooling – it was a treasured chore for him. He would slowly take the bread out, butter the slices carefully and add the paste. Later on, as I made sandwiches for my children, I would make some for him as well. He would slowly walk home with the sandwiches I made and share them with my mother. They had their differences but they shared everything. She sits alone sometimes, missing him terribly. When she cries, I try to be the brave one.
I close my eyes and tries to visualize his white hair, his gait and his booming voice sounding through the house calling me as he walks in. It hurts, deep, to know that I would not see him again in this life but there is hope in the eternal. Someday, I will see him face to face.
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” – Shakespeare