I linger on the dining table, wander to a laptop, I write, I think, I scribble: Chemical equations, homework, a little bit of poetry at the edge of post-it notes. It’s work, a distraction, a submersion. The little daily things, the chores: definitive, discreet, unobtrusively by myself. An easy pretense, but reality comes prodding every so often---as questions.
I hear her weeping in the kitchen, such a quiet, personal sniffling. I wonder what I can say, or what I should be saying. Maybe abandon the twiddling with the calculator and go hug her. Maybe just say: if you cry, well, I wouldn’t know what to do…because I always thought you were stronger than me, amma….because really, you’ve been the one who always knew everything. But then she turns around and stares right into my eyes and asks---“He’ll be all right, right?”
And then, suddenly, all the chords that hold me, all the millions of things that I am connected to, the complex, the magnanimous, the mundane, the special, the interesting…..slip away. And in that one question, I am completely blinded. It blindfolds me, and the oblivious pretense, the daily drudgery, the world, the friends, everything---evaporates. And I see only him before me, and only my papa. And I know that he’s all that ever matters. He’s my everything. I try to force this smile. It’s weak, harrowed, slow. But I manage to make it wider. “It’ll be all right….don’t you worry.”
I wonder why I should be the one saying it, like I know all the answers. Maybe she expects me to—maybe it’s my turn now. Somewhere in the back of my heart, I know what it means to love. I know that I love my papa, I know that we’ll make it, I know that nothing is insurmountable. I know that I’ll do everything, everything, everything….to make this better. Because, papa, you’re going to be alive that day when I wear that black graduation cap and throw it up in the air with a smile as it reaches the heavens! Because you are going to be there when I excitedly bang open the door and tell you I got my driving license. You are going to be there when I buy you something spectacular with my first salary, or when I cook something totally ridiculous without salt which you’ll have to gorge through and fake encouragement.
Because you are going to be proud, when we change the world.
Call me selfish, but I sort of am. And I’ve been proud of who you’ve been all along. I tell them, I tell, “My papa went to IIT.” Or “he’s travelled so many countries.”
But next time, I’ll tell them “My papa loves me.” And that, just that--is enough. It's more than enough: it's my all.
And despite everything, don’t you love those moments that we are able to get together and laugh over something entirely stupid like the lame jokes of how someone’s kid ran for the swimming pool? I love it when we can laugh like that. I love how you laugh, and how it’s so continuous, genuine, just so priceless. It sounds like it could go on forever.
And to keep hearing that: again, again & again-- there is nothing in the world that I’d want more.
When you walked in and asked me today, “Aren’t you scared that by next week I’d have completed my chemo for BMT transplant?” I clicked my pen a couple of times before you left.
I know that wasn’t an answer, but the truth is I’m absolutely petrified, papa.
But there is a greater truth: You’ll be all right.
And at the heart of all matters, THAT is an answer I know.