It’s yet another day in this seemingly interminable lockdown; is it day number 60 today? I don’t know, I’ve lost track of time; after all, every day seems just like the one before.
I know that it’s been a week since my father was admitted to the hospital. A surgery and multiple dosages of morphine later, the man I’ve had a love-hate relationship with all my life, sleeps soundly, while I sit on the bed opposite to him, worried. This happens every day – he’s almost always asleep when I visit. He’ll wake up, look at me and mumble something. I’ll respond and then he’ll go back to sleep. Every time he does that, I find myself wishing there was something I could do to help.
Three days ago, I walked hand-in-hand with my father, for the first time since I was maybe 5. In that half-hour walk, he stopped multiple times to catch his breath and told me to sit down if I was getting tired, or to just look at me and smile his crinkly, wide smile.
I returned home that evening and cried.
Sitting in the hospital ward today, I realised that I had never really appreciated his presence at home – his loud chanting of prayers that slowly became white noise over the years, or his impossible-not-be-startled-by sneezes that sounded like loud thunderclaps, and even his noisy reminders to me to run downstairs at lunchtime, or his never-ending WhatsApp forwards.
I thought about how much I missed him, and my mother – who has now made the hospital room her temporary home – and wonder how sad it was that it took witnessing a painful surgery for me to realise this. Mother was right, we don’t realise what we have until we almost lose it.
I looked at her and could see that she was exhausted, so I did what I had been doing over the phone all weekend – I pleaded with her to come home with me. Stubborn as she was, she refused and told me “I’m not coming home without him.” I was unsure before, but I’m sure of it now – if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
I walked out of the hospital, fixing my mask as I bade goodbye to my mother, taking extra care not to repeat “I’ll come back soon!” in Kannada, as I would in any other situation. “You don’t say that because you don’t want to come back to a hospital,” mother had once said. As I drove home, I realised some things that somehow, I seemed to not have realised all these years. I learnt that we take too many relationships for granted, that we don’t tell people we love them enough. I realised that there are different forms of love, there is no accepted or perfect form or way. And I realised, that after every period of misery and pain, there is a period of joy, of realisation, of learning. At last, something good has come out of this period of gloom for me.