The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said or never explained. It is one of the most traumatic aspects of human relationships. A loved ones goes away sooner you would want them to leaving a void and a silence that can never be filled and questions that will always remain unanswered. But one has to move on with life, the show must go on. Sometimes that means saying goodbye in a different way.
“Goodnight Daddy,” six year old Riya said wishfully, hoping her father would stay long enough to read her a story, and tuck her in as she falls asleep.
A tight hug, followed by “Goodnight baby,” was all that Riya got. Her father left the room, keeping the door slightly ajar.
As Riya lay on the bed, she pulled her mother’s handmade quilt up to her chin, cozying up to the warmth provided by it and feeling her Ma’s presence. Staring at the glowing stars and planets on the ceiling of her bedroom, tears trickled down Riya’s face and fell on the pillow. She wiped her wet eyes but she couldn’t erase the sadness in her heart. It was two months now since her Ma had gone. She missed her terribly, but she also missed her daddy’s happy, smiling face.
“Goodnight munchkin…sleep tight, don’t let the bugs bite” Riya said to herself sleepily, imitating her Ma’s goodnight ritual.
Shyam sat staring at the TV commercial in front of him. He hated nighttime. With night came the acute knowledge of loneliness and the piercing acceptance of the fact that Meera was no longer with him. Nighttime also took him on a guilt trip about his behavior around little Riya who has been putting up a brave front since Meera’s death.
“Will this ache in my heart ever go away? Will I ever get over Meera’s loss?” Shyam wondered. The more he thought about it, the more he believed that life will never be same again.
Nursing a glass of scotch; Meera’s memories were his only nighttime companion.
“How completely opposite we were to each other” Shyam smiled reminiscing.
Shyam liked action movies; Meera loved romantic ones. He enjoyed Indian cuisines; she had a taste for fine Italian delicacies. He watched cricket whilst she enjoyed reading to unwind. Even their choice in music was different, but they still made a great pair, just like that delicious hot coffee in your favourite chipped cup. When Riya was born their life felt complete; Shyam was the happiest man on the earth.
Then two months back, Shyam had come home to find Meera lying still on the floor. He rushed to Meera, spoke hurriedly, carried her lifeless body to the hospital, but nothing mattered. Meera was gone by then.
“A massive heart attack,” the doctors had later confirmed. Riya who was at her friend’s place on a play date couldn’t understand why Ma was taking so long to come back from wherever she had gone to.
Since Meera’s death, Shyam went through life aimlessly. He was still a dutiful father, but never for a second did her stop grieving for his love. Shyam would sit in isolation for hours at night, but never shed a tear.
“What did Meera go through in those final moments?”, “Why wasn’t I there?”, “Why Meera?”, “Why us?” “How will I look after Riya alone?” The questions kept haunting him.
One evening Riya had overheard her father speaking to her mother’s photo ““I never got a chance to say goodbye to you Meera… I never did.”
Riya didn’t understand why it was so important to say goodbye, but she got a feeling that it meant a lot to her father.
That night she had asked “Daddy, where has Ma gone?”
“She has gone to heaven baby,” he said while choking on the words.
“Daddy, daddy, let’s go to the town fair. Please” Riya pleaded with her father. Looking at her puppy eyes, Shyam caved in.
That evening, walking through the crowded lanes at the fair, Shyam readied himself for Riya’s request of a giant wheel ride, the bubble bottle, the shooting range game or the delicious sweets and savouries that the stalls displayed to tempt passers-by, but when Riya pointed out to a bead-bracelet maker, it surprised Shyam.
“I want a letter- bead-bracelet with our names on it” Riya said which left Shyam amused. On Riya’s instruction, the artist made a charming bead string bracelet that said “Daddy and Riya”
Though happy with Riya’s choice of trinket, Shyam wondered whether she will ever wear it. As Shyam prepared to go home, Riya’s request for a balloon stalled him in his tracks.
“Riya, balloons are for babies. Let’s go and eat something instead” Shyam tried to steer her away from the balloon seller.
“No daddy, I don’t want to eat. I want a balloon. Please,” Riya was, however persistent.
Shyam again gave in to her demands wondering whether he was being too lax with his daughter.
As soon Shyam bought her a big red balloon, Riya sat on a nearby bench, took a sketch pen from her bag and wrote on the balloon “Goodbye Ma. We will always miss you”
Shyam was stunned by Riya’s actions. He was still trying to grasp what Riya was doing, when she pulled out the beaded string bracelet from her pocket and tied it at the end of the balloon.
“Come here daddy, hold the balloon with me” Riya requested her taken by surprise father.
Shyam hesitated, but did as was told and together they let go of the red balloon.
“Go far away balloon; go to heaven and give our message to Ma. Tell her we love her sooo much.” Riya said to her messenger that was now soaring high in the sky.
She then turned to her father, “You got to say goodbyeto Ma, and she will have the balloon to play so she won’t be lonely or sad anymore. The bracelet, it will remind her of us each day,” Riya said hoping, saying Goodbye would mend her daddy’s broken heart.
Shyam hugged his daughter tightly and for the first time since Meera’s death, he cried.
“Goodbye Meera” he said, finally letting go of the past; embracing the future that lay ahead.
Written By : Jyothi D”Mello. A Book Lover, storyteller, dreamer, foodie, mother and a writer (an Amateur one albeit). Writing is her way to express fears, anxieties, inner demons, bottled love, guarded feelings and cherished memories. She writes because that is what she loves to do, that is what keeps her sane.
You can find more of her stories here.