Saathi’s voice modulates up and down to match Laddu’s enthusiasm at the little table by the kitchen island. Laddu is on her tiny pink chair. Her toy from the dollar store named Gem is cooking on the molded one-piece kitchenette propped against a stack of books on the table. Saathi is next to her, his back bent so he is at level with her face. Daddy and daughter turn on the oven, measure pretend ingredients and instruct Gem on how to cook a mysterious, yet to be named dish.
I walk around the house, my hands thrust into the warm fleece of my jacket. Watching the two of them play does things to my heart. I love how she orders him around. I love how he is putty in her hands. Before my eyes can mist, I walk into the study and sit down. I root around for a paper to write a note and give up after a while.
I look at my calendar and realize with a start that tomorrow is an anniversary of sorts. The kind of date that means nothing to anyone but me. I feel mellow. I realize it has been a good life, maybe even a great one. Saathi has truly been a partner, walking by my side, not ahead, never behind. With children in the mix, he has shouldered the hard part of parenting, engaging with children on an ongoing basis. He talks to them, not at them. He plays with them, on the ground, eye to eye, hand to hand. His love for them supersedes the kind of love I imagined the father of my children would show to our brood.
Romantic love is supposed to be what I should be thinking of when I think anniversaries but it is his paternal love that has me starry-eyed. It warms my heart to see him wear his feelings on his sleeve. I love that he is expressive with our children, saying the words they need to hear. He is hands-on, carrying them piggy back, tussling and tumbling with the three of them most weekend mornings. He is nurturing, patiently making bite-sized pieces out of the giant stromboli our local pizza place is good for.
Last evening as I stretched myself out on the recliner, spent from a day of physically exhausting work, my eyes closed and focused on the pulsing pain from my heel, I felt his palm on my forehead checking for fever and then he was gone.
In those little moments, in the gestures that sneak up when I least expect them are the reminders of the years we have had together. The love that ties us and the affection that binds us together.