Is a title really necessary?

I watched the Fourth of July fireworks on Lake Cazenovia this year.  Each spectacular display filled me with a trepidation that belied my awestruck smile, the smile the camera captured.  I had a sense of being in the wrong place at a wrong time.  My presence was required elsewhere but life always unfolds in a less than ideal fashion.

We are scattered across town, across borders and under various roofs tonight.  I am not sure anyone is sleeping well.   I am trying to express myself on a tiny phone screen at this strange hour of the night with words that are inadequate and restrictive.
My memory is long.  I remember always being eager to sling a thermos full of something refreshing, cross bodied across my tiny, four or five year old frame, slipping my hand in daddy’s warm hands and getting on the steamer that crossed the Ganges and took us to our ancestral home, ferrying us between Mahendru Ghat and Pahleja Ghat.  The steamer served deliciously unforgettable potato cutlets.  Whenever he asked if I wanted to accompany him on a trip my answer was a resounding yes.

Over the years, I remember the times I disappointed him after every math exam and the times where I surprised him with an academic performance that was better than what he expected.  After a particularly harrowing exam result in college I had mustered up enough courage to hop on a three wheeler and go straight to his office in the middle of the afternoon to ask for money for a course where I promised him I wouldn’t disappoint.  I was full of apprehension as I worked up the nerve to ask and floored when he gave me the funds without raising any objections.  I think I kept my promise that time.

There was the trip to Chandigarh.  The aloo paratha with butter that we shared was the stuff epicurean dreams are made of but what stands out even more is a hope he expressed  – that I would always be skipping to the music in my head, confident and stress free.

He had a vision for me.  It entailed a very detailed and impressively executed plan for setting me free to find and define myself in this world.  He did his part with perfect choreography.  I am still trying to live up to my end of the bargain.  I have stumbled, I have slacked off and I have never taken a single step past the “work-in-progress” mould.  There is some defective switch, circuit or gear within, something eager to bestow a lemon status on me,  I can promise to keep trying and I am certain he believes I’ll get there.

I was driving for seven hours alone in the car with my thoughts and recollections. The news in the morning had been delivered with an unmistakable note of panic and distress in mom’s voice and I had to drop everything and get on the road.  I needed to be in the right place this time.

Seven hours alone in a car gives one a lot of time to reminisce and makes for some blurry-visioned steering.  The tears this time reminded me of the tears we had shed together on a bench in the Prince George’s Plaza Mall in Bowie, MD on the eve of daddy’s departure to India, leaving me behind.  I was young and naively fearless but he had faith I would flourish, even through the tears that wouldn’t stop for either one of us.

The illness that reared its ugly head in 1987 was already a year old at the time and it just made him more determined to clear a thorn free path for our future.

I look back on my first 2015 trip to Ottawa in May.  The snow had melted and the snowdrifts of Syracuse and Watertown no longer threatened our passage to Canada.  I was excited about my trip and I remember telling my hubby and daughter that I couldn’t wait to have some “juicy” conversations with dad. There is nothing more engaging than the panoramic vistas that emerge and unfold when we converse with my dad – religion, socio-economic systems, botany, philosophy, his philosophy and how he has honed or tweaked it over time, his career, his childhood, his independence from a very young age – I can listen to every story forever.

Sadly, in May he barely spoke.  He was easily tired, depressed at how difficult it had become to move and he was also irritable.  I was torn between compassion and my own selfish need for enlightenment through conversation.

My expectations were dashed and I was guilt ridden for having these expectations and saddened at how much of a prisoner his brilliant mind had become to his body.  I was sad to see how broken both my parents looked and felt and how helpless or useless I was with offering succor.

I called several times since May.  I always wanted to hear him say he was doing better but I learnt to be happy when he said he wasn’t worse.  When I called him on Father’s Day Sunday he didn’t indicate any worsening in his condition but on Monday mom told me he had to be rushed to emergency care for difficulty in breathing.

He has been in the hospital since that day.  He has had better days and bad days as his team of specialists try to work through the puzzle that his system has become after undergoing a liver transplant, severe pneumonia, years of dialysis leading up to a kidney transplant and the rather rapid loss in mobility within the last year.  The doctors are still guessing that he has a severe lung infection and are treating him with antibiotics.  He is on oxygen and has trouble conversing.  The monitor starts showing lower oxygen saturation levels when he talks but today he felt it necessary to talk to me about his will.  It wasn’t a welcome topic for me, this wasn’t the conversation I yearned for or relished.  I listened and am still stuck on the part where he got ready-eyed again as he told me that he had always added to and never depleted anything.  I am snagged on that sentence and that particular tonal inflection because such a thought would never even have occurred to me and I cannot imagine why he would want to stress that.  

He is my hero, always has been.  This world, my world, is worth living because of him.  

On July 3rd he was feeling good, ready for rehab, ready to come home and to start penning his experiences.  I am hoping tomorrow will be the first in a very long succession of such brighter days.

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