Monday, June 20, 2011

Missing you, Dad

Exactly 16 years ago on a day like today, my Sister and I gifted Dad a hand written greeting card. Themed with 'Lion King' stickers and a few lines of poetry that my Sister wrote, the Card on the mantlepiece still evokes strong emotions and lot of memories.

Daddy was the culmination of everything I aspire to be.
As a scientist with the Health Ministry, he was respected for his work etiquette. I remember filling with pride as I would walk besides him whenever he used to take me to work. I simply loved the way everyone would salute and greet him with respect. Even when he was unwell, "If I don't go to work, I won't be able to earn for you" is what he would tell me, he worked hard and never missed a single day of work in the 20 years that I remember. 
Like many of his generation, he believed work is worship and never switched jobs. Such was his dedication to his career that when he was called back 10 months after the first Gulf War (of 1990), he was only the first 50 expatriates that were allowed back to the war torn nation. We went through a lot more after that. The trauma of having to rebuild our lives took a severe toll  on Dad. He worked 2 jobs and so did Mom. 
Dad stood like a pillar amidst all the chaos. Never faltering. 

Joy of every party! Family and relatives still remember him for the brilliant jokes and skits that he used to mastermind at every wedding for the past 30 years.

Growing up, I remember every moment with my Dad, even ones that would be potentially embarrassing, like the instance when I asked him about sex.  He did an exceptional job because he went on to explain the journey of the sperms to the egg in a way that made sense to a 16 year old without embarrassing or 'damaging' him irreversibly. 
My family still remembers how Dad used to teach me. He used to make mince meat of my exposed arms. Unpleasant but then I would be the same strict disciplinarian to my kids too. Sorry Kiddos!

The only guy that ever really understood me as I was growing up, I remember how he would motivate me at school. Once having performed so poorly at school (Grades were everything, after all), he gave me an option of having to study in a government school or to continue in CBSE. Now, not that I have anything against government schools or the quality of education imparted there, but in my nubile mind, studying at a government school was equivalent to deportation. I was given three weeks time to pull up my socks. Three weeks until the 'model exams'. Three weeks to go from 3/100 to 60/100. That was the first time he gave me an ultimatum. It worked. I studied, like I'd never before. That I did get 60% is not the highlight. That my Dad was proud of what I've achieved in such a short time is what I still cherish.

In college, the distance and the experience of not having my Dad took its toll on me. I craved for my Dad in my formative years, but in his earnest desire to make sure his children had everything in life instead of planning for his retirement took a toll on his health too. Having worked two jobs for a good part of a decade, in a repressive country like Kuwait, away from his wife and children, would be the greatest punishment a man can go through. Having worked with highly carcinogenic substances as a Researcher, he became a victim of his job. A job that he gave 35 years of his life, signed his death warrant. They finished their obligation with a gold plated watch and a plaque commemorating his three plus decades of 100% attendance.

He spent the last 7 years of his life in and out of hospitals, his body battered with chemo but all the drugs in this world did little to dampen his soul. Full of the goodness that a father could have towards his children. Full of love that a husband could have towards his wife. 

He was still the rock of the family. He was all that I still aspire to be. 
They say that when your parents tell you something, you can do better not to ignore it. I didn't know this. I ignored a few of his advices, and landed myself in shit deeper than I would've liked to admit then. But he was polite yet stern. Never politically correct but always a wise Parent. Commanded respect when he was alive and still does much after he's gone. 

June '06, is a month etched in memory. I'd just returned from a short visit when he suddenly snapped a shoulder like a twig because his colon cancer had advanced to the bones. It was all downhill after this. He was bedridden because the cancer had already shut down his liver and his gall bladder. It appeared that his body was almost giving up. I was determined to be with him as much as I could.
I remember the pain in his eyes, even as he would struggle to sit up to greet the hundreds who visited him. I still remember how he would want me to switch off the lights so that I could sleep even as he slipped in and out of consciousness. I remember how on one particular night, he was almost in tears after having passed motion in his bed. Unable to help himself, he was in grief at all the 'inconvenience'. The person who toiled almost all of his adult years for everyone else was crying because he was making us clean him. I remember how he made all three of us sit up, and in his last talk to me, asked me to take care of the family. I remember how we wept uncontrollably together after that. I remember how he told my mom of how proud he was of me a day before he passed on. I can still hear him telling my mom to ask me to take care while I was on the phone. I remember how relieved and pain-free he was the night before he passed away. He had asked for his favorite dish. I remember how he said "All is peaceful now. I am glad". I remember how he told my mom to switch off the lights so that she could grab some sleep, an hour before he passed on. I still remember how peaceful he looked as he passed away. Something about how peaceful he looked in death comforts me and the idea of death a little more tolerable. 

He was my best Friend, my most trustworthy Confidante, my only Mentor, my greatest Critic and most importantly the Most Incredible Dad that I could possibly have.

I still miss you, Daddy. I know you forgive me for all the nasty things I've managed to do inspite of having been your son. I am proud of being your son and I am looking forward to seeing you again.

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