If you’ve lived long enough (and Lord knows I have), Death becomes as commonplace as, well just about everything else. I never thought about it until my aunt said something to the effect on Sunday, when we both lost a Man we loved dearly 😦 We were on the phone and I was mouthing the usual empty platitudes one does at such times, when she said in a voice shaky with tears, “Don’t worry Darling. I’m alright. Really. It’s a shock of course and so terribly sad but it’s become kind of a habit now.” That just knocked my socks off. We’ve lost most of our older generation in the last decade and so just like she said…we’ve become habituated. We have learned to grieve and carry on. Perhaps it has helped to know that they led long and fulfilled lives, for the most part. Sometimes, like in Anna’s case, it helps to know that he didn’t suffer when the end came. Either way, what it amounts to is ‘No more tears’. I’m all cried out and for now I choose to remember the good times and celebrate the happy memories.
‘Anna’ (meaning Big Brother), is what I used to call him. He was my Grand-uncle. Isn’t it strange how in the space of a second, everything is in ‘past tense’? Well…c’est la vie. Anna was the youngest of five siblings, my Mom’s youngest paternal uncle. He was adored as a child and if sources are to be believed, quite the ‘Brat’ 😛 He was intelligent, charming, a music-lover, a dog-lover, generous to a fault, stubborn, a chain smoker, an eccentric, a confirmed bachelor, part curmudgeon part wise-old-man, devoted family man, a chemist par excellence, temperamental, honest, funny, in-your face…the list is endless. Because he was so smart, he was sent to the US where he completed his Doctorate in Chemistry from Berkeley, much to the pride and delight of the entire clan 🙂 No mean feat that! His Mom had had to pawn her gold to raise the money to make it happen! He never forgot the sacrifices his family had made to give him a great education and perhaps that’s why he didn’t bat an eyelid, when he left a promising career behind in the US to come and set-up a highly successful chemical manufacturing business with his brother, one that they ran with passion and integrity for several decades. Because of their example, I still believe that it is possible to be successful in business in India, without resorting to corruption, despite all the evidence to the contrary these days!
I knew him all my life. He and Aboda (his older brother), were my childhood Santa Clauses 🙂 They spoilt me with love & gifts! Boxes of fireworks for Diwali, sweets, books, music, movies, joy-rides in the stately Ambassador (remember those!), anything I wanted I got! And later when we moved to Goa, cartons of foodstuff – tins of condensed milk, bags of Cadbury éclairs, packets of Jello and other goodies! The walkie-talkie doll he brought me back from the US still stands in her wooden case in my aunt’s house to this day! As I write, I realize how difficult it is for me to separate the two even in my memories! It’s always been that way. Aboda & Anna. Anna & Aboda. They were inseparable. I must say though that as a child there were times when Anna got on my juvenile nerves! He would buy mangoes or some other delicacy and then insist I sit down in front of him and eat one right there and then! There was no refusing him when he got into one of his stubborn fits! I didn’t always want to and it bugged me no end. I remember Mom saying how it was such a little thing that brought him so much happiness, ‘Surely you won’t deny him that darling? He loves you so much!’ I didn’t always understand then, but I do now. Of course he did. I did too, just my youth acting up!
When I joined Medicine, I remember how proud he was 🙂 He presented me with my first ever copy of ‘Goodman & Gilman’, that humungous treatise on Pharmacology, his biggest love after family! He adored both the subject and that book and for me any tribute to him would be incomplete without mention of it! He read that book from cover to cover, every new edition, until the end of his days, and relished the long discussions that followed with me. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed them quite as much 😉 For one, he always knew more than I did and for another I never quite convinced him that real life rarely follows textbooks! No illness in the family was spared and we are not a family stingy with our ill health 😛 Diabetes, Hypertension, Parkinson’s, Muscular Dystrophy, and now Dementia…we’ve given him enough reading to last him his lifetime! We had endless discussions on new drugs, side effects, doses and much else…I’m afraid I didn’t realize quite how much I’m going to miss them, now he’s gone.
For the last two years of his life, after his sister-in-law passed away, he led a very solitary existence. We were all of us caught up with our lives and I know I for one didn’t call him as often as I should have. The times I did, I found he didn’t have much to say anymore, his life being restricted by arthritis. He still read Goodman & Gilman though, watched a bit of TV and still worried about all of us, like the Anna of old. Some things never change 🙂 When we heard he had had a fall, we spoke on the telephone. I am so very grateful for that phone call now – it was the last time I heard his voice. He was fine he said, and not to worry! The doctor had been informed and my aunt was with him for the day. So the next morning when we received the call, we couldn’t wrap our heads around it at first. How could he be gone? We just spoke yesterday! You know, the usual shocked disbelief. It’s been four days now and I’ve had time to cogitate. I’m grateful now for the fact that he didn’t suffer at the end. No lingering on some unfriendly hospital bed, no losing his mind, no pain…just a quick release from what must have been a lonely existence. When you’ve lived long enough and seen what I’ve seen, believe you me, a quick release is something to be thankful for!
The last time I saw him was in 2009, when we visited with Ishaan 🙂 He was so thrilled to meet yet another generation of the family! I remember him telling Mom later how the pitter-patter of a child’s feet can fill even the emptiest soul with music 🙂 I wish Ishaan had had a chance to get to know him. I wish…oh so many things! My enduring memory will always be one of him sitting in his favorite armchair in the living room of the house he lived in all my life, with his spectacle case on the table next to him, reading G & G.
I miss him. Always will. That’s a given. Sometimes I wonder whether my heart doesn’t resemble a very holey piece of cheese…I’ve lost so many people I’ve loved and admired. They’ve left spaces that can never be entirely filled again. And yet here I am people. A survivor. And that’s what Anna was. That’s his legacy to me. And I mean to honor it and him for what time I have left, here on Earth.
No. More. Tears.
Love you Anna.
Peace & Happiness wherever you are 🙂