Losing a loved one is always extremely painful. Dealing with such a loss at a young age is even more traumatic. Mortality, separation, agony, orphaned are words not meant for a child’s comprehension. But life is cruel at times. Today we share one such story on a subject that we have never delved into before. Sombre it is but there are many who live through this pain, their story too needs to be told, heard and felt.
I am twelve. With one bare foot touching the floor, I am sprawled on the couch, a wicker contraption with bright green pillows that resembles a relic. It is in the middle of summer, hot and humid. The coolness of the marble floor provides insufficient respite. I fan myself with an Outlook magazine, my rapid, jerky movements loosening the pages off its seam. I am here because I like to contemplate. Sit idle, stare blankly at the white-washed ceiling or at the slow-moving dusty fan but mostly contemplate. I like to believe I am laid-back unlike my overly active counterparts. But people think I am indolent. People like my grandmother.
“There you are, spread across the couch like marmalade again,” my grandmother says as she floats in and out of her favorite spot in the house-the tiny, box-like kitchen where she spends a good chunk of the day cooking, baking, cleaning. In a long, flowing patterned skirt and a purple blouse, she looks younger than her sixty years. She wears this outfit combination rather frequently. It was a gift from my mother, hand sown and all. “Why don’t you ride your bike or go over to Bobby’s and play instead of lazing around like this?”
I don’t enjoy riding. Last time I rode, I fell and bruised my knees and palms. I was miserable. My limbs covered with band-aids remind me of a board covered with countless notices. My bruises are still raw and nasty looking.
I am not lazing around. I am thinking. Thinking about how I can preserve the memory of my parents. I feel they are slipping away. It has been six years since the accident. I only had a handful of memories to begin with and I want to hold on to them as long as I able. So here I am, lying in the couch, replaying the memories of my past.
My brother who is older to me says nothing. He has become quieter since the accident. He also thinks a lot nowadays, but his are mostly angry thoughts. He is still angry with everyone including God and the cops, though they caught the guy who in his drunken stupor took a wrong turn that day. The punched hole on one of the walls in his room is a reminder of the turmoil he is in. Of that cataclysmic day when everything changed. Forever.
My grandfather returns home after spending a few hours away. He plunks himself in front of the TV for the five o’clock evening news. Retired and with a frail heart, he is active with a local non- profit that does rehabilitation work for alcoholics and addicts. He signed up two weeks after he lost his son and daughter-in-law. He has always been a kind man. Strong too except on nights when I hear him weep in the darkness of the garage.
“Mimi, do you want to come along with me tomorrow? We have a luncheon, you can perhaps help us out?” he asks in his polite but pitying voice.
He pities me. More than he pities himself. I know he worries about my brother and I. Who will take care of us after he is gone? He is unsure of us just as he is unsure of his longevity.
“Nah,” I reply. “I have stuff to do.”
Stuff for me is pulling out my handmade carved wooden box full of trinkets. My father’s company photo ID, my mom’s pearl earring, tickets to a historic museum we once visited together, a sepia colored photo of my parents in their wedding finery, a battery that belonged to my father’s super durable flash light. Things I hold on to. Things I look at for hours on end to keep my memories alive.
Bobby, my friend comes by. She is a year older but calls me her twin. People around us also think we have a striking resemblance. Bobby could be my tiwn but she isn’t.
We are different, fundamentally so. She has parents, I don’t.
“Hey, do you want to go and get an ice cream?” she asks. “I am craving a Cornetto.” As we head out to the ice cream store, her father waves at us. “Just one ice-cream OK,” he reminds us in his strong voice, flashing a wide grin.
“Yes Pops”, Bobby yells back. And in that moment as I watch her banter with her father, I think to myself, do I remember the last time I had ice-cream with my father?
I would like to think I do. But I am not sure anymore.
Story Credit : Sukanya Bora. Picture Credit : Soumi Haldar.