The house is quiet. The kids are in bed. Saathi is on the highway somewhere returning home from his first ever US Open visit. A few months ago, when he broached the subject of going to watch the Open with friends, I jumped at the idea. He was taken aback. I laughed as I told him to consider it his birthday gift. As the day neared, he was skeptical. I was not my usual grumpy self at being left to deal with the kids for a whole day. “Are you sure?” he asked a day before he had to leave. “Go on.” I reassured him.
I look back on today and realize there are a few things he likes. Tennis at the top of the list. His enthusiasm as he got ready to leave was catching. I sent the kids to school and settled in for a long day with Laddu who has the sniffles. All through the day, I kept thinking of him. Just when I think I get him, I really get him, he surprises me again. The depth of his feelings are hard to gauge. Behind the calm exterior is a person who feels intensely. He is hardly ruffled, but when something does get under his skin, it eats him from the inside, gnawing its way till it is spent.
As he lifts Laddu when he gets back from work, his eyes light up. He walks out with his brood, picking mail, walking alongside as they scooter around the circle, cheering them on as they compete to see who can swing the highest on the play set. His voice modulates up and down, keeping pace with his emotions. I see him often spread out on the sofa, the phone on speaker indulging his father for the umpteenth time as he discusses local politics, weather and the vagaries of faith. He nods, expresses opinion, engages like I can never do.
I watch Ammu and Pattu, heads bent working on their cards for Appa. One sketches our family all wearing bunny ears, Appa at the head of the line. The other sketches two tennis racquets and a ball colored pale green with white bands. She looks up, admires her work and solemnly presses her lips to it. I smile and pull her close. I ask nothing but she explains anyways. “It’s a lot of love for Appa”. Ammu follows suit, pressing her lips and eyes to her card. She then walks around and holds her card for Laddu to kiss. Laddu pulls at it and tries to taste it. Horrified, she yanks it out and stuffs it inside the envelope. I reach out and add my love to both cards.
We wind down for the day. I put the girls in bed and wait, knowing that a special day is only hours away.