Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Biggest Fear

It's the biggest fear you live with, living away from people you love. A fear so scary you don't acknowledge it, even to yourself. The fear that one day, a phone call will bring bad news.

There are other things you live with: not being there to watch your niece learn to walk. Not to see her playing with the toys you send her. Not being there when your mother is unwell and has to get up and cook and clean anyway. Not being the one taking her to the doctor.

I got a phone call today. It wasn't the phone call: it was a phone call, from my mother. My cousin, who was in hospital in Delhi, died.

My cousin, the son of one of the sisters (who herself died a year ago--or was it two?) of my father (who died several years ago). So many deaths.

He had been a sickly child, the youngest brother of three sisters, and much pampered by the whole family. He used to be spoiled and cranky as a little boy, though if I think carefully, that was only certain days. I now realize he must have been hurting then. I saw his fun side too.

He was perhaps two years older than me.

His father is still living. His three sisters who will miss him terribly.

I state these facts without knowing what to make of them. It is sad that my uncle has had his wife, and now his son, die. But I'm not close to my uncle. My cousin was close to my age, but I'm not contemplating my mortality.

He had a wife and a small child, my niece's age. I did not know them.

As soon as I heard my mother's voice on the phone, I knew something was wrong.

When she told me what, I felt relief. That she was okay.

I am not sad, I haven't cried. I don't know if it's because I've never been really close to him, and in the last eight years we had probably spoken twice.

I make myself think of him. I can barely remember the man I met a few years ago.

I remember the boy I played with at his sister's wedding. The impish smile on his face as we contemplated our next piece of mischief. The rarely shown smiles and gestures of affection towards me, his younger sister.

We quarreled, as children do. But we had so much fun.

When he grew up, I thought he was okay. That he wouldn't be sick anymore. But he was.

It seems unfair that he should die now. He had a wife, a child.

But I'm glad he had the time he did. I'm grateful he was nice to a younger girl back when we were kids together.

It is only later, when I call my mother again, when I call his sister and hear the grief in her voice, when I tell the Guy about him... it is then that tears fall.


Anonymous said...

Hugs Unmana. Praying to give your enough strength to bear the loss.

sai said...

Fear is such a large part of life- and probably we feel more fearful for others than ourselves.this post was very evocative...brought memories to mind...

Unmana said...

R's Mom: Thank you.

Sai: Sorry I brought up bad memories!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss Unmana.
This is a fear I constantly have. The dreaded phone call. Its hard when you live so far away- my parents are old, healthy but old and their end is an inevitability I shudder about-my only hope is I get to spend a few precious moments before the proverbial final curtain closes down on them.