Two years ago, give or take a few hours, I lost my dad. Our world as we knew it changed forever. All this week I have been consumed by moments of grief that choke my throat and cause my eyes to well up. I think of mom and her sense of loss. Each of us mourn the one person who meant the world to us. Till this date, me and my siblings have never discussed Appa as no longer being there. We refer to it obliquely. Like it never happened. Appa is alive and well miles away in our thoughts. The immediacy of his loss has hit Amma the most. In simple everyday things. Looking out the window waiting for Appa to park his beloved Hero Honda and walk up in his endearing way, adjusting his too wide frame to sit over his eyes. Keys hanging from his hands and a bag or two of groceries. He would shuffle and remove his footwear, wipe his feet on the door mat and hold out for the bags to be taken from him and then he would slump onto one of the two sofa chairs, remove his glasses and depending on the time of the day wipe his face with his kerchief.
Amma would busy herself making him his favorite kaapi and taking in the news of the day. For years the ritual was the same. The TV would occasionally be on and Appa would sit massaging his painful leg coaxing circulation through those rusty arteries, a towel thrown over his upper body and a white veshti with a green or maroon border falling in loose folds over his leg. There would be the trademark vibuthi smeared on his forehead and he would look at me or my siblings and wrinkle his nose and smile. His way of saying “I love you”.
I think of Appa and all I can remember is his smile and his bald pate. He stood for everything I am proud of in me. Acceptance of every body as equal. A smile almost all through the day. Time to stop and lend a shoulder to a troubled friend. A sincere and loving spouse, parent, sibling and child. I remember listening to a track called “Funky Town” and “Mandalay”. Relics from Appa’s youth. I sat mesmerized 13 days after he passed away with his childhood pals relating moments stolen from the past. They recalled how he was the first in the village to wear bell bottom pants. He was tall and handsome my aunt gushed. Another friend who grew up with him lovingly referred to him as Anna and said “Anna was stylish.” or “Anna knew how to have a good time.”. I used to conjure up images of a dashing young man turning heads in his village. Looking at pictures from his cricketing days, I could see why. Tall, lean, muscular my father was the epitome of health. He look easy natured and smiled easily. He and Amma make a lovely pair in their wedding album which is now frayed at the edges and treasured all the more for what it contains.
I remember the first time Appa was hospitalized and I was scared to think of what might happen if Appa passed away. I was in school and I could sense how scared my Amma was. I remember the frustration in trying to get Appa to quit smoking. I remember turning a shade of red when the doctor told me his lungs looked like a chimney. I remember cajoling, pleading and ordering Appa to quit. In his own quiet way he would reassure me all was well. Sometimes he would say “Just one a day.”
Each time I look at someone that lights up, it makes me angry. “You can’t do that to your family!” I think. If you knew smoking could kill why would you do it? Think for a moment about that family without a dad or a mom. Kids like me longing to have a grandfather for their kids. Spouses aging alone. Is it really worth it?
This morning, a wave of memories crash in my mind. Sometimes good. Sometimes sad. All the time mourning my loss. I look around elderly men playing with grand kids and I think of you Appa and mourn S’s loss. I look at my FIL face bright when talking about his grandchild and I wonder how much of pride would you have shown. I will never know.
I miss you Appa. More with each passing year.