I have seen it. Many times.

Daughters and sons, pouring their hearts out whenever they miss a lost parent. But I couldn’t bring myself to write about you then. I was not ready. I was in denial. I didn’t have the courage.

I dread that day. March 3rd.

The day that you… It’s been over a year now. To be honest, life is unrecognizable now. It’s just me and Amma.

We are used to you being away on tour, for like at least thrice in a month. We’re used to your absence.

But, not this permanent one though.

Remember the 6-year-old me who cried when she sees you packing the suitcase, off for another office tour?

She’s still crying when no one is watching.

Even now I vividly remember hugging your pillow those nights you were away, assured that a part of you is still with me, and falling asleep feeling safe and secure. I don’t do it anymore. Do you know why? Because 18 years ago, I knew you’ll come back after a day or two. I just needed to hold on till then.

Now I know I’ll never see you again. Your pillow isn’t enough to make me feel safe now, Acha.

You broke a lot of promises you know.

You left me and Amma all alone. Do you know, she doesn’t show it, but at times she’s scared? The security you gave us, no one else can. Remember the Maldives trip we were supposed to take after you got well? Or the Sri Lankan one? You were supposed to be there. On my wedding day, handing me over to the guy, giving him that look that, ‘You better take care of her, or you’re done.’ Or to grow old, and play with my kids, who’ll look a lot like me, elder boy and then a girl. You were supposed to spoil them, tell them stories, take them out for ice-cream and ’rounds’ like you took me when I was small. Now, my kids will never know their grandfather or know the man that you were.

You would have made one handsome grandfather, who never had even one strand of grey hair. A white mustache maybe, but never a white head. At the very end of your chemotherapy, I know how much it affected you to see the chunk of hair falling after each shower. No, Acha. You didn’t need that wig. You were every bit handsome, even then.

I listen to your collection whenever I’m lonely. To desperately feel you next to me. Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones.

She no lie, she no lie, she no lie… Cocaine.” Really, Acha? Is this what you made your 8-year-old listen to? But yes, of course, you knew I can’t understand head or tail of any song you made me listen to. “She no lie, she no lie, she no lie… Cookie.” You changed that whole thing and made it about a girl who was lying about eating cookies. Very smart, Acha.

But I did catch what Mr. Marley said. Remember me yelling out ‘Ayoo ayoo’ as Bob Marley was talking about his Buffalo Soldier? We started off with Water of Love, Down to The Waterline, and Sultans of Swing. You knew I’d fall in love with Dire Straits. And, you were right.

This is what we listened to whenever we went out during the evening. No matter how tired you were after office, you took me out for a ’round’. Saturday evening, we had the template visit at Ernakulam Shiva Temple, then went to Grandma’s house, dinner from out; Abad, Grand, Renai, Chiyang, then drive through the city under the Sodium Vapour lamps at MG road, and then back home. Sunday, we just lazed around with Amma’s biryani and Semiya porridge and then went to grandma’s house at Palluruthy in the evening. I still recall the Monday blues that begin on Sunday eve.

God knows how many crayons set I made you buy saying there was no ‘skin’ color on this one. You knew it and still, you got them for me. You almost always melted for my ‘Please Acha, please’ didn’t you? Then why didn’t you listen to me when I was saying this over and over again at the ICU when your heart rate was going down, and they finally switched off the machine as the line flattened? I was crying way more, and you could have just listened.

You know, whenever I look around and see my friends, they sure have their bad times and problems in life. But at the end of the day, when they come home, they have a father, mother, and siblings to hug tight. No matter how bad things are, it will be okay if you have your parents with you. Remember that night in the hospital I made a mistake in my office work and was freaking out, near-tears over it? You told me it was okay. You told me it was okay to make mistakes. Just own up, apologize, and move on. That night, you could barely talk after the intense chemo session, and still, you had enough strength to make me feel okay.

I try not to think of you much. I know I shouldn’t. But, that’s the only way I’m able to survive now. Imagining you are on a long tour. It’s hard to keep smiling when you feel empty inside. But, I have to, I can’t let Amma see me cry like this. That knot in my stomach tightens as I write this now. It’s true what they say. Beyond a point, emotional pain translates into the physical one.

I have a bunch of people who hold me close and make me forget the pain. I’m holding on to them tightly as well. I’m sure you sent all of them.

I’ll knock on heaven’s door one day. And, you better open it for me, Acha.

I miss you more than words can say.

I love you.