Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Losing my Father

I lost my Father on July 29th, 2011. It's been almost 4 months since his death and ever since his death, there hasn't been a single day that I  did not miss him. Every day in the Mommyhood, there have been some quiet moments, some moments of pain, some moments of lost thought and a few moments of guilt. Hidden somewhere within these quiet, painful, thoughtful and guilty moments are the moments of pride and joy, the good times that strengthened the father daughter relationship and one big lesson-life goes on. Life does go on, the memories however, stay.

My father, my "Babu" as I called him, was an excellent human being. He was a  Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. Trained many a budding print and media journalists, authored books and thousands of articles, organized and convened over seminars and conferences throughout India and abroad, fought for social causes and always kept himself well grounded. Loved, respected and honored by his students, peers, friends and family. Totally committed to his profession and passionate about serving people. He had this special gift of making every person feel important and worthy of himself or herself. His genuine interest in the well being of the people around him, transcended the boundaries of religion, status or people's character. He kept his friends close and his enemies even closer. So famous, that if he were to stand for any political election, he would win hands down. Politics was just not his realm. He was happy just being himself and doing what he loved to do-help people realize their dreams or overcome their obstacles. Being the daughter of such a selfless person is truly a source of pride and joy. I am still Prof. Rahim's/Rahim Bhai's daughter to the millions of people around the world.

Although he kept such an active lifestyle outside of the house, he always had time for family. He was an obedient eldest Son, a caring Brother, a loving Husband and a concerned Father. Some of the lasting memories come from the family picnics, the vegetable garden that he planted with us, the treats/gifts he used to get from work or from his trips to other universities across India, the family celebrations such as Ramadan, Bakrid and the special "get organized" weekends where we (his 5 children including me) would target a project such as books, newspapers  or my favorite, the shoes in the house-clean them polish them find pairs etc. He used to say "You all have the problem of plenty" or if he catches us spending too much time on something he would say "Genius lies in knowing when not to be perfect."  He always came home for dinner, watched TV with the rest of us, discussed the day with us and then left for his self-imposed social welfare job only to return late in the night and catch up on as little sleep as he could get. 

Some of the late nights were also due to a university related assignment or an article that would keep him awake all night. Smoking and drinking tea and coffee to keep him up became a routine. Even after his retirement at age 60 (two years past the normal retirement age in India), he kept himself busy by working as a visiting professor at other local universities, writing articles and translating the Holy Quran (something that my Father-in Law brought to my attention). The late nights continued until they took a toll on my diabetic, slightly overweight yet healthy looking father.

He had his first stroke at age 64. He ignored the warning signs and did not seek immediate medical attention and this was the beginning of my father's downfall. He would say "what a fall my countrymen" and now I find myself asking "what a fall my father?" The stroke paralyzed his left side and snatched his ability to speak a clear sentence. For a person whose existence revolved around this basic human ability, it was like a death blow and a heavy one at that. He was home bound, lost connection with the outside world, with his friends and before long, was bed ridden. Added high blood pressure, and kidney disease to his list of chronic life threatening diseases. He did quit smoking so he did want to live, he wanted to fight back, but his body wasn't cooperating. He suffered for two long years.

My older sister and I went to India in June 2011 along with our kids so we can attend our little sister's marriage and spend some time with Babu, who wasn't keeping too well. It was a big decision for me because it meant digging into my savings to make that trip possible while my Husband was still struggling to find a decent stable job and we as a family were struggling in making this new city called Richmond and a new country called Canada our home. It was a decision that I will always be thankful for. It meant a month with my Father, a month with their "Nana King" for my children and a lifetime of lasting memories.

A month after we went to India, Babu had his second stroke on July 5th 2011. I hold myself responsible for his second stroke. I feel guilty for not taking proper care of him the day before his stroke. My Mom provided him with the best care possible and worried about him every minute of the day. Taking care of my father became the purpose of her life since his first stroke. Feeding him, helping him walk, changing his soiled linen, giving him the bed pan, she did everything. She was always home and never left his side except for the day before his stroke. With much insistence from all three of her daughters and then my father, she agreed to go jewelry shopping for my sister's wedding. I offered to take care of my Father. Till today, I regret that. A dear friend of him was visiting him from the USA and he had more chai (tea) than he was allowed. I didn't want to spoil the fun between two friends, couldn't say no to my father and offered tea not once but thrice during the 4 hours that my mom was gone. What was I thinking? He was on a renal diet and caffeine was a big no no. How did I overlook this fact? 

He was fine after my mom came home but the morning after, it all began. He started throwing up and that put pressure on his nerves and had a second stroke. We called an ambulance home. They rushed him to the hospital. He stayed there for 24 days. First it was to recover from a surgery to remove the clot form his brain, then he was on and off a ventilator, went thorough dialysis and was responding to the treatment however, there wasn't much improvement in his overall condition. Each day he was in the hospital, it was a day with renewed hope and prayers for him to get back home. We would just satisfy ourselves with the least movement he made. "He smiled at me", "he lifted his hand", "he drank water from a cup", "he tightened the grip around our hands", "he spoke clearly today and asked me to take him home".

The hope that he would get better and come home was shattered when my brother who was caring for my father in the hospital, came home-alone. He woke us up from our sleep early in the morning. We all sat in the living room asking him for an update knowing fully well that something is just not right. Our hearts wouldn't allow us to think otherwise. My Brother was quiet. He sat by my Mother's feet, held her hand and still couldn't break the news. My mom asked him "what happened? Did your Babu leave us?" My Brother just shook his head. His heart couldn't come up with any words, his head couldn't even give a decent nod. I asked him "When did it happen?" That is when he opened up his mouth and his heart. He broke down in tears and told us that our our Father passed away about an hour ago during Fajr prayers. He probably was holding up his tears from the time he witnessed my father breathing his last, to the time he came home to give us the news and to let us know that he was bringing "the body" home. I didn't want a "body", I wanted my father. And not in an ambulance but in our car. My wants were just wants and nothing more. We then did what we needed to do and arranged for the funeral.

Aaliyah: Where is Nana King, Mom?
Mom: He went to God.
Aaliyah: But why?
Mom: Because we all belong to God and to Him we shall return.
Aaliyah: That's not fair.

Life does not have to be fair all the time. It plays games and the sooner we learn the game the better it is for us. Death has ended the life of my Father. It has not ended my relationship with him or with my mom, my husband, my brothers, sisters or my children. I am still very much a part of their lives. My life is filled with the same kind of chores that I had before my Father's death. Cooking, cleaning, mopping the floors, doing the laundry, chasing the kids...nothing has stopped. I have the same likes and interests like before. I still love sewing, I still watch my favorite show on TV, I still love to take pictures and still love to make bows and dabble in simple crafts. Hubby still goes to work, Aaliyah still goes to school, Ayaan started preschool, so the bottom line is that my life has not stopped a bit. Its going on and going strong. But I have realized that it all ends one day. It does end.

Death brought my father's life to an end. It has scarred my heart that I know, only time can heal. I was his daughter but I'm also a parent. I will probably go through the same hurdles that my father went through while parenting me. I will remember my Father every time I take up an activity that I used to do do with him. I will remember him in my hours of sickness and in pain thinking of the pain he went through during his last, I will be thankful to my father for my indomitable spirit, for my positive outlook on life and for whoever and whatever I am today. My father, my friend, my guide, my Babu is no more, but our relationship is alive and always will be, till the end of my time.

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