My Father

My (biological) Father died on the thirteenth of September. I don’t speak of my Father much as he wasn’t really a part of my life growing up. The night I was told of his passing, the fourteenth, I tried to recall the few things I remember about him. I was at the vet with my friend and his dog, Sasha. I tried with the greatest difficulty to remember his favourite colour. I settled on purple. A dark purple. I don’t, however, know if this was also because purple was my favourite colour growing up as I was convinced it to be the favourite colour of our then President, of whom I was a big fan of. I vividly recall throwing tantrums that resulted in us travelling in purple tuk-tuks. Or maybe it was just once. It’s not as though we used as many tuk-tuks in the early nineties. Times were better and we had our driver, Nishantha, to chauffeur us around.

I try the same night to think of other things I knew of my father. Any memories or anything significant. His handwriting, yes. That was quite significant. He could draw too. He was the one who would help out with homework whenever there was any drawing involved. My Mother could draw too yes.

He also once helped me build a “village” on a cake tray. It was for environmental studies. Or science. We used some toothpicks for houses and moss from near the well for the paddy fields. We brought it carefully in a tuk-tuk. It was the late nineties. Times were not that good then. We didn’t have the driver let alone a car. He helped me bring it up to my classroom that was at the end of the rickety staircase.

It’s the sixteenth now. It’s raining after long-weeks of drought-like weather. As children, we are told that it rains when the Gods up in the clouds start to cry.

***

See one of the problems of being the joke or the comedian in the family is that no matter what, comedians are never sad. I’ve wanted to be a clown during my younger days, back during a time before clowns were considered a Halloween costume. I didn’t mind being the butt end of the joke or doing a badly-choreographed chicken dance because my motive was to make people happy. I loved to see people laugh.

As an adult, I suffered (and still continue to suffer) from anxiety, depression and began to grow into myself. I socialised less and I enjoyed being with myself more. But when I was out, be it with family or with friends, I was on a mission to make them laugh.

But despite my anxiety outbreaks and ugly depression cries, it became increasingly difficult for me to become sad. I couldn’t express sadness in public. It wasn’t a matter of pride or lack of emotion, but when I was sad, I became stone cold. I needed to deal with the more difficult emotions, like sadness, by myself. I appreciated everyone being around me but I could not let them see me at my most vulnerable and I don’t have a clear answer as to why I felt so.

Which is why even now, I choose to be alone.

***

It’s the seventeenth today and the Gods are not crying tonight.

***

Not many knew of my Father’s passing. How do you tell someone that there is a death in the family? Do you call someone up with some “news”? Do you update your Facebook status or add an Instagram story? You tell someone that you have news to tell them and they immediately think of marriage, new jobs, promotions, migrating or babies in no particular order. Then you become that awful wet blanket and harbinger of bad news because you have to let them know that no, it was a death in a family and feel sorry about not having any good news.

Then comes the series of questions including but not limited to: why didn’t you tell me; I could’ve been there; why do you always go to everything alone – this is amidst our protests too of the complications that were already in place, only to be blocked out again with more – couldn’t you have told us when he was sick; we would’ve gone to the hospital (even though we jolly well know that your life is busy as it is and we don’t really expect you to go anyway) and amidst all this, no one really asks you, “How are you holding up?”

No one really bothers to think that they might be adding more grief to the situation by weighing you down with the questions and accusations as opposed to merely passing their condolences. But no, in true Sri Lankan style, it’s important to go above and beyond expectations and choose not to do anything about it.

***

One of the greatest joys of being a writer or as someone who can write something (because my first boss and Editor told me that just like not all who blogs become bloggers, not all who write become writers!), is that I get to write stories. It’s not always things I like but you can spin it into a little something fantastical I suppose.

But among the joys of writing are also the awkward times. Like today, when I wrote my Father’s obituary. I had written obituaries before yes, but it wasn’t really for family-family if you know what I mean. It got a bit more awkward when we were struggling to find the right words to say. We didn’t know much about him for the past so many years. We didn’t know where he lived. It was over ten years since what had happened. I was hesitant to say “daughters” or even mention our names. Because what good is it being family if we are only around to write obituaries? But again, that too was a choice we chose to make and like most decisions in my life, if I could justify them then and I can justify them now, it stays as it is. Regret never got anyone anywhere.

***

It’s also the second day since we told a few people of the passing. The questions haven’t stopped. The accusations have in fact become even worse. There is a lot of scolding happening.

There are many questions with regard to us “neglecting” him.

Then there are those who have very strong negative emotions, that is not sadness, but anger, extreme anger, directed towards us for not telling them of the funeral. To which, my only question is, “You didn’t care to ask how he was when he was living. Why do you care now that he has died?”

Why though?

Is it because people believe that merit will follow if they help lower a man to the ground that in turn will magically wash their wrongs away? A burial my friend, is not the Ganges.

***

I haven’t been able to God during this time either. I’ve tried, secretly. I know my sister has. I find it a little difficult though. Which is why I have taken to writing. For me, writing always healed. Writing always provided answers. Writing, above all, listens without judgement or question.

***

It’s Wednesday the nineteenth. I told a few of my friends what happened and just like what our friends have been for the past so many years, they tried to reach out, called, tried to come over and invade my space (and I mean this in the nicest possible way) just to make sure we were doing okay.

I don’t know how it works in your family really, but for us, it’s always been friends > family. We’ve had friends who gave us money when times were tough, another group of friends who would lend my Mother saris for weddings (and ironically even her own wedding), other friends who would house me as a sixteen-year-old when my Mother had to travel on her NGO work – because it was too inconvenient for those related -, also friends and outsiders who helped us through school and classes, a kind landlady who wouldn’t push for the rent on a particular day, it’s always been, friends and kind strangers.

Yes, for those reading it this might cause controversy and perhaps no one might speak to me again but this exercise had to be done and it’s sad that it had to be done on a topic as such. Please note that I write all of this with no malice in my little heart, or head, whichever that actually exists. I understand that your lives are busy. You have your own families, responsibilities, jobs and I really do understand where you are coming from.

But will you be able to understand us when we decide to go ahead with the decisions we have made?

If you don’t understand, can you at least choose to be kind to us during this time? Only this time, you can go back to being unkind after this time is behind us.

So, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you. But we had our reasons and I only hope you can respect that.

***

It’s been a slow week. My work has been progressing slower than I thought and I’ve really just been tired from driving, deciding on the correct words for an obituary notice and trying to block off negativity from others. But the slow week has taught me a few things and I would like to share them with you (if you’ve managed to read this far on!):

  • Be kind to people

Really, please do. You never know what they are going through. They maybe didn’t deliver that important document on the day it was due probably because their car broke down or their child slipped on the kitchen floor or they were probably hungover. Just be kind to others. If you are kind, nice and they think they can trust you, they might tell you the truth while it was happening and you wouldn’t be as disappointed on the day the important document was delivered.

I tried to do the same with a place I volunteer at. Of course, kindness wasn’t always received so I hadn’t been able to establish that foundation of trust, so I lied. Because honestly, I cannot volunteer with all my heart when there is very little left of it now.

  • Have your own squad, or just start creating one

Have a circle of people you trust. It can be family or friends or both. Just have them in your inner circle. Your ride or die. Those who will offer to drive you around or even do your laundry because of what you are going through.

Even though I’m adamant about being by myself during this time, I’m honestly grateful for knowing that I have a circle of my own.

  • Social media doesn’t tell you the truth 

I don’t know about you, but social media for me is not my diary. I do vent on occasion on the rising cost of living that doesn’t allow me to add two whole onions in my curry but things and people that are personal will always remain that way.

I enjoy keeping up with not the Kardashians but a facade that helps me be who I want to be online, a mysterious, silly person who can’t really define what she does for a living and my real self; an anxiety-ridden, die-hard not funny, wannabe writer of sorts.

Don’t honestly believe everything you see because it can always be curated, filtered and fit into the best frame to suit your online self.

  • Be present (in the now) 

I don’t mean this in the yogi sense of it really but nothing in life is as permanent as death. Yes, I know what you are thinking. One death in the family and here we have an expert on it. Funny, but true. I’ve had a lot of time to look into things this past week. I’ve given myself time to heal through writing and while the writing will stop the healing will continue over time. I’ve tried over the years to master the art of not regretting and I think I’m doing an okay job at it.

Your time is now. Do what you have to do now. If you don’t, try not to mull about it when it’s over. No, I don’t mean to quit your job and take that dream vacation. But do the little things. Spend time with yourself (not just masturbating). Take care of yourself and others. Save a bit for tomorrow without going all out today but for what’s worth it, YOLO.

***

The Eulogy

It’s been one week since my Father’s passing. It’s been a week with different and at times, difficult feelings. It will also probably be the last day I write about him and I thought let’s make today a eulogy of sorts. I’ve also run out of white and light coloured clothing. I don’t think I know him enough to write one and truth be told no religion in my family has this practice of eulogies, but a quote by journalist Mitch Albom (which was listed on my little doc of quotes) said, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say”. 

Like I said, I don’t think I’m the best person to write this but since writing for me equals to healing, here we are. It’s still Tuesday when I began writing for the last day. It’s as though I knew of the impending gloom. Part of me always likes to prepare for what’s ahead. It’s probably the same part of me that reacts the way I do to surprises. I think my need to have flawless organisation skills comes from both my parents.

In the first house we moved to in Battaramulla, we had an “Apple” drawer. It was an Apple sticker – the rainbow coloured one before they embraced minimalism with the rest of the world and at a time the world was less accepting of the LGBTIQ community – in the corner most drawer of our kitchen cabinet. Back in the nineties, kitchen cabinets were all the rage. The Apple drawer contained screwdrivers, a hammer, nails etc neatly arranged in little lunch boxes. I still find segregating in lunch boxes to be a swell idea. Of course, Muji boxes and assortment trays are glorious as fuck, but I don’t like spending money on things I don’t need.

During the same time of the Apple drawer, I remember finding money – five rupee coins – in the middle drawer nearly every day one particular week. I used to be a fan of collecting coins in a little till since I was young. The middle drawer contained the rolling pin and lunch sheets. Yes, lunch sheets. The non-biodegradable ones because plastic pollution and usage were not as high. The coin was in the corner of the drawer and I – think I was about seven or eight at about the time – was amazed to have found a little coin there. Five rupees got me a Tintin chocolate from our school canteen in the nineties. Or even a patty from Prema, our primary school patties-Aunty. I was surprised at my luck and like a mouse that took to Pavlov’s experiment, went again the following evening only to find another coin! This went on for, you guessed it, not too long and the fourth day when I was about to take the coin I heard my Father laugh and say that he kept wondering what happened to the coins he kept in the drawer. Had I been smarter in the nineties, I may have told him that the mice took it away.

My love for computers and technology came from my Father too. He was a software engineer during the time I popped out and we had an Apple computer in the house! Or maybe it was just the sticker on the drawer. But I’m quite convinced there was a computer too when I was about four. I used to find myself fascinated over the Oracle books I never understood as a child, which I later used as weights to keep my notes from flying away when studying for my o/levels.

He wasn’t around consistently in the house till my o/levels though. By then it was the height of madness in our little-rented house in Battaramulla. But then, I do remember quite an embarrassing story about a few years before that. The premise isn’t as funny or embarrassing as it should’ve ideally been though. There was an argument at home. I don’t recall what it was about (it was the same house as the Apple drawer) but I was standing by our four-seater dining table and facing my Father whose back was to a glass cabinet (the nineties and their cabinets I’m telling you). I remember him yelling at my Mother and my Sister, the latter of whom is the more feisty one among all of us and being the superhero I was, I wanted to save them all. I didn’t have my cape but I managed to get my four-foot something frame in between my parents and pointed my hand at my Father and began an entire series of yells and screams. Halfway down the yells and screams, I realised I wasn’t speaking as fast as my brain could process what was happening and I stopped speaking. I didn’t stammer, which was surprising as it was a common trait even as a child, but instead, I laughed. I burst out laughing because I realised that my small body was in an attack position, hand pointed outright and the heroine had forgotten her speech! What could get more hilarious than that? It may have worked though because I remember him laughing as well. I suppose I assumed my role changed that day from superhero to Royal Clown.

My memories of him are vague and hazy. I last saw him when I was still in school and we all know that was a long time ago. I Googled on how to write a Eulogy and there were pointers on what I could include but clearly, there are not as many facts or memories I could recall. As an adult though, I look back at all memories, as fond ones. Even the unpleasant ones don’t seem as bad as they did now. That for me really comes with acceptance. But one thing I did correctly with the prescribed-eulogy format is that I stuck by the supposed word count! Woohoo.

Here’s hoping I did justice to my Father who is no more. I hope you are in a better place now with more happiness, less suffering and maybe a shot or two of arrack in a coffee mug.

3 thoughts on “My Father

  1. This was heartfelt!

    I was dwelling on these lines the other day, ‘As an adult though, I look back at all memories, as fond ones. Even the unpleasant ones don’t seem as bad as they did now.’ Witt time or ‘with acceptance’ or may be the unpleasant memories were way back in the past do they seem less morose.

    I don’t think so a eulogy could have been better than this.

    Like

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