Saturday, November 20, 2010
My father died twice
I’d thought, we all die once
But I was wrong
My father died twice.
A sudden heart attack
Flattened him to the ground
As he stood watching over the pot
His morning tea coming to a slow boil
His patience cracked, and something snapped;
When my mother walked into the kitchen
She thought he was lying supine
In a somewhat awkward, stiff posture,
Doing his morning yoga
Or prostrating before an unknown God;
No time to rush him to the hospital
Death had called, unbidden, dragging him away.
All his life he'd wished to die,
A willing martyr to no cause,
But when it finally did strike
It was as though he lay protesting,
Begging and pleading, not to take him away.
My mother had no choice, nor did we
Like obedient sons we never were, while he was alive
We had returned home to collect his ashes in an urn
To safely deposit them in the deep waters of Ganges,
Washing off all the grime of our soul
In the muddy waters;
Stepping into the orange light
We had felt pure and sanctified.
Though bones and ashes lay clinging to our melting flesh
We had felt strangely relieved
Leaving the source of our life behind,
As though tons of lead, resting upon our breast
Had slipped away.
It was hard picking up the shards of our shattered lives;
Learning to live without our father
Was somewhat like living in a roofless house,
Even an ordinary rain threatened to drown us
When sun beat down mercilessly
Huddled together like school children
We cried to keep ourselves warm and cheerful
Little betrayals of faith and trust
Kept our cash registers ringing through the day
Sharp, piercing arrows of light
So difficult to keep the count
That night seemed serene, in comparison,
Not as terrifying and spine-chilling it often is.
Then one day,
My father returned,
As unexpectedly as he'd left.
Walking right into my heart
He found a niche, a permanent place;
Occasionally, he’d sit there,
Frowning at my grandfather,
Kicking up a row, starting a fight,
Pulling swords out of the scabbards,
They’d often fight their battles at my expense.
Slowly their battles became fiercer.
Turning my heart into a battleground,
Father’s 'Id' milling around in futile chase,
Clashing hopelessly against grandfather’s 'Superego.'
I watched these battles from the margins,
Father roaring like a lion in a cage,
Grandfather staring back in impotent rage,
His rheumy eyes, darting helplessly
Only sometimes, his religious piety seeped through
The carbuncles on my father’s flesh;
The battles raged endlessly,
Searing the edges of my heart,
Burning holes into the walls of my mind;
Phantoms danced in the dark, lonely corners
Feeding my fantasies, troubling my soul
So bad it was that I’d begun to wish
Oh, God! Why don’t you just let my father die?
Why doesn’t he just leave it to me to decide,
How to live this life, no longer mine.
Then one night,
It happened, again
I saw the funeral of my father in a dream.
It was as though the funeral bells rang twice.
We’ve all heard of the Second Coming of Christ
But the ‘second going’ of a mortal
Is nowhere even in the dreams of dead scriptures.
That night, my father died again,
Now, I’m truly fatherless,
Feeling as though I’m myself, the first time ever…
A beginning of a new end, or the end of a new beginning,
I do not know.
All I know is,
My father has died twice,
Once, the way we all do, silently
And next, with all its ceremonial trappings,
Inside the debris of my heart.
Now if ‘anyone’ tells me,
People taste of death but once,
I laugh and snigger as I walk away,
Thinking how little we know of our ‘goings’ and ‘comings.’