Love Stories True Life Stories

Father Loves Shooting Stars – An Emotional Story

This piece is a real life account and has become longer than I intended it to be. But, I did not feel like skipping anything. The story is a dedication to my father – the man of my life, who continues to bless me from the stars. However, I request my dear readers to review this story based on only my writing and not be sympathetic to me. Sympathy repels me. I thank all my readers from my heart who spent time reading it.

 

 

Catch the ball!” ” Hop into the car… lets go get your Mom from work!” “Finish your food or else I will switch off the T.V!” “ Popoli..!” The smell of helplessness, hospital visits, anger outbursts, broken mirrors, the long vacation, the dizzying smell of medicines, his weak voice that instilled in me the fear of uncertainty, his ice cold mango shake on hot, sticky, innocent afternoons, his hand – fed meals, the rise and fall of his chest while breathing, strong arms, the contagious laugh, the basil sapling he allowed me to plant, the song he used to play on repeat- the one that will haunt me for the rest of my life…

I

The summer break was over. End of seductive freedom. End of pleasant sweat dripping down the secret places of my body. End of being indulged in the hypnotizing richness of mangoes with my cousins, when miles away, in the cruel, savage heat of Delhi, they were struggling, praying for a second chance at life. Second Chances…

After spending a magical summer at our Uncle’s (Mom’s elder brother) house, we were back to our hometown. It smelt of home…of puffed Luchi and potato curries, of shaving cream and incense sticks, of jasmine and basil. Most of all, it smelt like my parents…and like a distant memory that remains vivid in your unconscious.

Our parents were out of station. We were to stay at another of our relatives’ house and attend school. What is it about relatives that attract and repulse me simultaneously? Is it the familiarity owed to belonging to the same ancestors who are long dead? Or is it the hidden secrets and unpleasant feelings veiled cautiously with a dangerous sweetness of their masks? Whatever.

“I don’t like it here”, I voiced my irrelevant thoughts, gulping down the milk that gave me a taste of distance. Distance from comfort. Distance from relief and genuine concern. Distance from the ones you love unconditionally, only to be loved back even more.

“You don’t have a choice, kid. Now get ready soon. You are always late for school,” my sister told me in a hurried tone.

Who pays attention to the thoughts of an eight year old? For all they cared, these thoughts were as temporary as cotton candy on exciting tongues which melt into nothingness. However, it leaves the tongues stained in pink, yellow and what not…!

I started for school anyway.

II

When you are young and ignorant, it is too easy to please you, to delight you. I was too ordinary to be an exception to this fact.

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During the second period, my two cousins along with my sister and I were summoned out of our respective classes. We didn’t know the reason yet. But, as I was packing my bag and gathering my books, I sensed that forty pairs of curious eyes were glued to my movements. I felt happy and important. “Now they will wonder why I am being given this opportunity to bunk classes officially!,” I gulped down my thoughts.

This disposition of mine was alien to my sister. She was worried. Her eyes resisting tears of fear.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her, nervousness polluting the calm air in my lungs.

“They said Dad wants to see us. Its urgent”, she whispered to me, holding my wrist so tight that it almost hurt. Does our touch reveal more than our words? Does proximity to our loved ones allow us to overcome fear?

From the corner of my eye, I could see our Uncle (at whose house we were staying) holding one of my cousin’s hand and talking to our headmistress and a couple of our senior teachers whom Dad knew personally. His tone was illegal, at least in my mind, where things were supposed to be calm and anxiety-free.

“Isn’t that great?? It’s been more than a month since we have seen him. This time, he will return the most healthy he has ever been”, I told my sister, who was on the verge of breaking down.

“Oh God, please help me handle her”, I prayed.

“Yeah…but why this hurry? Why all of a sudden?” my ever so suspecting sister said and turned on the switches of my tear glands.

“Yeah…but why this hurry? Why all of a sudden?” my ever so suspecting sister said and turned on the switches of my tear glands.

Now, we both were sobbing in the assembly hall of our beloved school. Seeing us, our cousins wasted no time and started crying too. We walked home, the four of us children holding each other’s hands for strength and Uncle leading us.

On reaching home (read relative’s home) we packed our bags and started for our native village where Dad owed his childhood. My parents too were supposed to meet us there.

We sat tightly packed in a car, the model of which I don’t remember now, except for the fact that it wasn’t spacious enough to carry seven people – the two of us sisters and my uncle’s family of five members. However, excitement was back on my nerves and I didn’t mind the smell of familiar and unfamiliar sweat.

III

The journey did tire me, but I was in no mood to rest. After all, I was about to meet my parents after so long. We reached late in the evening. By then, different relatives had already arrived. They all were anxious to meet my Dad, or so I thought. I didn’t like the look on people’s face that day. Pale. Tired. Exhaustion. Hesitation. Sympathy? Few women were sitting by my Grandmother…her hair let out loose…the folds of her saree demanding attention. But her eyes were cold and distant. Her grace, then a story of the past.

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“Too much happiness does things to people,” I thought.

Night fell soon after. The sky put up stars for an auction. But who has the audacity to buy divineness?

I was sitting, along with my cousins and my sister, in the deceiving, flickering light of a lamp, fanning myself to get rid of the August heat, when an excited voice made all of us run out to the verandah.

“Look..! There it is! A shooting star!”

“Where, where? I don’t see it!” said one.

“There! You blind fellow! Make a wish! A wish!” said another.

“Oh my God! It’s my first shooting star!”

Ignoring these voices, I look up, trying to locate the shooting star. I fail horribly. I make a wish anyway. “Dear invisible shooting star, please make my wish come true – help my parents get home soon and safe.” I hold my breath until I finish saying my wish, fearing the wish will vanish into thin air if I exhale.

Soon it was 8 pm. Exhaustion won over excitement. And my sister and I dozed off. For some reason, with each passing second, the air turned heavier.

IV

In my dream, I heard sounds. Wails and sobs and sympathetic sighs to be precise. The image was blurred and I couldn’t make out the faces. But I could tell that I knew those faces. I knew them too well.

I felt someone picking me up. I opened my eyes lazily and saw an aunt who was trying to make me sit on her lap. Sleep hadn’t evaded my eyes yet.

“Dear,” she said caressing my tangled hair, “your dad has left us forever…your dad is no more among us dear…he passed away this morning,” she managed to utter the words in tears. So, it wasn’t a dream at all.

Some moments of your lives cannot be weaved into words no matter how hard you try. The sinking, drowning feeling, the dizzying sensation that envelopes you, the vacuum that suffocates you, the heart beat that betrays you, the tears that scald your cheeks, the shifting gravity, the burning feeling at the pit of your stomach, and the sour taste in your taste buds.

Sometimes, you feel nothing. You are transferred into space which is empty and you float until infinity. That was how I felt on hearing those words. I didn’t burst into inconsolable tears like my sister. I was numb. And I heard Dad’s voice from before and saw distant images.

“Catch the ball!” ” Hop into the car… lets go get your Mom from work!” “Finish your food or else I will switch off the T.V!” “ Popoli..!” The smell of helplessness, hospital visits, anger outbursts, broken mirrors, the long vacation, the dizzying smell of medicines, his weak voice that instilled in me the fear of uncertainty, his ice cold mango shake on hot, sticky, innocent afternoons, his hand – fed meals, the rise and fall of his chest while breathing, strong arms, the contagious laugh, the basil sapling he allowed me to plant, the song he used to play on repeat- the one that will haunt me for the rest of my life…

My parents had gone to Delhi for medical treatment of my father. He was supposed to have a kidney transplant. All throughout the eight short years of my life (thirteen years in case of my sister) I have witnessed sickness, vomiting, medicines, deteriorating health.

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When you are eight years old, you believe in happy endings. You think things can never go out of control and that your parents can solve everything and handle every problem. You believe in make-believe. You believe in shooting stars. I believed that Dad would return healthy. The fact that he could never return at all, I never had the capability to even imagine that. Later on, I learnt that he suffered blood clots in the brain and passed away when he was in coma.

I cry. I cry the heaviest tears I ever cried. I lost my father when I was eight. And although he loved travelling and food and driving and laughing, throwing me up in the air so that I could fall back into his waiting arms, most memories I have of him are as a sick, helpless man.

We sisters ran to our mother who looked like a different woman altogether. Her hair grey at sides, more from loss than from age. She had lost so much weight. She looked like a widow. She was one, after all. No jewellery, no vermillion on the parting of her hair. No wifehood. We cried holding each other.

Later on, I had to go see my father. Eyes closed, lips smiling mischievously, cotton inside his nostrils, a basil leaf on his mouth. He had changed so much. I was scared to walk to my own father. Only because he was motionless? Later on in my life, I am going to regret this moment. I should have touched his face. I didn’t. Why do people instill such a fearful notion of death in each other’s mind? Is it not eternal rest, after all? But I did not know this then. I couldn’t bear to watch him like that for too long, so I came inside. Later, when I take his final blessings, I touch his feet. Cold. Stiff. Dead.

I don’t remember what or when we had talked last, since cell phones were still too costly for us to afford and long distance calls from booths were a rare treat. I so wanted to hear him take my name. But death comes with little allowances.

I think about the wish I made earlier when I failed to see the shooting star. It was a meteor. No shooting stars exist.

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Olabode Oludare
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