In our great cycle of life, the happy and harsh moments are juxtaposed in varying rhythms. We unequivocally embrace the joyous moments with full acceptance. However, as much as we are sometimes aware of the stark reality that might hit us any moment and cause us pain, we convince ourselves to think that it will never happen. My father was ailing for several weeks, and it was beyond doubt that he was not going to be with us for too long. Yet when I got the news of him passing away, I refused to believe that he had left us.
It is truly an enigma when after having known a person for over four decades, there is a vacuum in my mind, and I fumble for the words to describe him. After many futile attempts, I sit down once again to pen my thoughts, totally oblivious of the final piece that I’ll come up with and not sure whether I can say much. The only reason propelling me to write is to keep alive my father’s wish that I continue to pursue my passion for writing.
What my father achieved in his professional career as a government official matters least to me. For me, he is just my papa who always stood before me with that package of unconditional love. My father, unlike my mom, did not wear his heart on his sleeves. He was a strict disciplinarian, yet there were times when he was the easier parent to convince and win over. Various snapshots of my childhood years now play out before me like celluloid: Papa driving me to school, taking me out to buy a birthday gift, holding my hand and going for walks. As I always joked, I was his little girl till the grandchildren arrived and stole all that love and affection! Looking back at my twenties, I still remember eagerly looking forward to my favorite chocolates that he mailed from 10,000 miles across.
A doting father and an even more pampering grandfather, Papa’s life totally centered around his family, post-retirement. He wanted to see all of us happy. No birthday or anniversary would pass by without my father getting a cake for the celebration. Every year when I visited home, I would see a weaker and frailer person, yet he left no stone unturned to see that I had the best of times, trying to fulfill every wish of mine. He still considered his son in his 50s as the growing teenager he needed to protect. I have that image of him making sure my brother’s tie was knotted well when he stepped out for that formal occasion. His grandchildren were the greatest love of his life. Perhaps, he even would have tried to get the moon if they asked him for it. My brother and I were surprised at how he would bend for his grandkids the same rules that were so rigidly applied to us.
Papa always believed that the sky is the limit and encouraged us to aim for it. “You only fail when you give up”. That’s the maxim he constantly abided by. He was a true fighter, and with all his health ailments, he fought till the very end when he breathed his last.
I had always sensed the pain my friends felt when they had lost a parent, but I always ran away from the obvious reality that that day would come in my life too. A big question now hovers over my mind: As much as we love our parents to the skies, why do we just keep those feelings buried in our hearts and not spell out to them that they have been the perfect parents to us? I wish I had told Papa that he was the best dad ever.
A few years ago when one of my best friends passed away, a few lines from Emily Dickinson came to my mind. As I now stand with a box of precious memories and my father’s blessings, those words ring once again in my ears:
Heavenly hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are-
Rest in peace, Papa. Watch over us, and smile at us from Heaven!