The sun slants in through the open glass of the side door. It feels warm against my face. All three kids surround me. One is convinced her sleeping bag needs a wash. The other two are taking their first delightful steps into the Harry Potter universe. The questions fly thick and fast. I can’t seem to suppress my smile as I get ahead of myself initiating them into what I consider my equivalent of the magic of Enid Blyton books of my childhood.
The laundry is sorted and I am puzzled by what seems a smaller load than usual and it hits me just a second later that Saathi is away tending to his dad. For a moment the loss is visceral. I stand holding on to the washer to stop from staggering. I collect myself and start the wash cycle.
The music blares from the basement and Laddu’s cries are plaintive. She wants me to go downstairs to play with her. I tried telling her that I am busy but my voice is drowned by Selene Gomez crooning. I give up and so does she. It occurs to me that any other week Saathi would be down there pushing her on the chair with wheels as she squeals with glee.
If in the initial years of marriage and coupledom the missing was an aching, visceral everyday thing, it has mellowed into that far off distant feeling of absence that taints everything in the house. The air we breath in, the empty chair at the table, the crumbs under the kitchen island. Saathi’s loss is felt more by the things that we let slide, by the sudden remembering of the things he likes, in the absence of snores, in the TV that stays silent through the evening, in the vegetables we do not eat, in the grocery store runs that do not happen, in the sprawl of shoes in the garage.
It doesn’t affect me every day but it comes down on me in one huge pang that weighs me down and renders me incapable when it does. It reminds me of the things I take for granted. The company in the morning, the good cop to my bad, the reassuring murmur of his voice late at night after the kids are in school, in the music that precedes him as he comes down the stairs, in the smile that lights up my life.
I miss him. I miss him in ways small and big. Mostly I miss him at the family dinner table, a larger than life presence that touches all of us.
“Daddy, daddy!” the girls shriek at the sight of their dad on the small rectangle of my phone. Beyond the initial screams, they fade away, the idea of conversation daunting. Laddu acts up after I put the phone down. She clings to me for reasons unknown. In the minutes before she falls asleep, she asks for her dad.
Laddu remembers him the most reminding me to tell Appa that the candy she is eating is delicious, the popsicle she is enjoying is creamy, the gooey upma she is licking yummy. “I peed in the potty Amma. You have to tell daddy,” she exclaims as she runs out of the bathroom. In the mundane everyday moments his absence is a huge presence.
My eyes absently move to the top of the screen taking in the time and date and mentally calculating the days until he is back. It is then I know that this is the grown up version of love, the love-you-from-a-distance, I don’t miss you everyday, the I wish you were here, the garbage does not take itself out, kind of love.