The thought of death is terrifying to most people, and rightfully so because it’s so uncertain. Will it hurt? Will it be scary? What will happen to me afterwards? Since I became a father, however, the thought that scares me so much more is, what will happen to my son? What will my wife tell him? How would she explain to him what death means? For days after I’m gone, he’ll ask her when I’m coming back–what will she say? He’s so young now–when he grows up he won’t even remember me. I’ll miss so many milestones in his life–and he’ll miss having me there. There will be times he’ll really need me and I won’t be there. Maybe he’ll hate me for not being there for him…
Life is so fragile. One minute you’re in your car, thinking about the day you’ve had, about the thing you’ll do when you get home; maybe you’ll go for a swim, that will be so refreshing. Or maybe you’ll take the little one on a bike ride to the park–he would surely enjoy that. Take the dog for a walk, he sure has put on a lot of weight lately. He needs a bath, too. The car needs an oil change, better take care of that soo–and bam. You didn’t see it coming from the side but by the time you did it was too late. And just like that, you’re gone. Finished.
How do you reconcile with the fact that you could be gone at any second? Tell your kids you love them. Tell your wife you’re happy with your life. Put the shit going on at your work aside for a few minutes, turn off the TV and talk to your kids. As much as they annoy you some times, they’re your family–don’t go to bed angry. You may not get the chance to make it up to them tomorrow.
It really is. Before I became a father, I wasn’t good with kids at all. I don’t think I even liked kids much. When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, the first thought that went through my head was, “man, they better release Manhunt 2 before the kid is here! Yeah, clearly I was “not ready to be a father.” We were married, we owned a house, had good jobs, wanted to be parents eventually, so this was the next logical step, but I won’t lie, I was terrified. I went through the usual, “I’m too young to be a dad” and “but I never got to buy a really fast car” and “I really wanted to travel the world before I settled down.”
After the childish stuff came the scary stuff: What if he hates me? What if I’m a terrible dad? Those pretty much stayed with me throughout the pregnancy–come to think of it, they still get me. And the pregnancy–oh, the pregnancy. Talk about a life changing event. Amber handled it like a champ–she actually went to work till the day Jack was born, but the nesting phase was tough. Child proofing the house and making the nursery took up pretty much every free moment. I somehow got this ridiculous idea that I was going to build the nursery “with my bare hands”. So I laid down bamboo floors, rewired the electric, installed a fan that could handle over 100 lbs swinging from it (hey, you never know)–hell I even replaced the door hinges. All with the hope that somehow working on all this will make me feel closer to being a dad. With moms, the bond is automatic–the child is a part of their body. But it’s not the same for the dad. All that got me excited about being a dad, but I still felt scared that I was going to screw it up, and it got worse the closer we got to the delivery date.
And then the time came. 1 AM, two weeks before the estimated delivery date. Cold winter night. Heavy rain. Lightning. The whole nine yards. The bag was ready and sitting by the door. The car had a full tank of gas (even though the hospital was just 5 miles away). Labor. Delivery. Out comes the baby, and let me tell you, “the miracle of childbirth” is not just a dumb cliché. The tiny little thing, wrinkled and cold. I cut his umbilical cord. He cried. He cried while they cleaned him up, but when I walked up to him and talked to him, he reached up and grabbed my finger–and stopped crying. 2 minutes old and the kid recognized his old man. Not only that, he was comforted by me. I’ll never forget it, it felt like my heart would burst.
Having a baby changes everything. Everything.
My grand father, or Dadaji as we called him, passed away a few hours ago at the ripe old age of 91. That’s him with Jack back in 2008. It’s hard to articulate how I feel right now. I lived with him till I was 13, and even though my parents were there too, I identified with him much more than with them–probably the reason why I am much more like him than like my father.
Dadaji was the first person in his family to get a college education, even though it meant moving out of his parents house when he was 13 and moving in with relatives far away. He got a Bachelor’s degree on scholarships, and when he finished he got a job in the Agriculture and Co-op Department of Gujarat. He worked there his whole life, raising five children in a one-bedroom rented condo pinching pennies, and ensured that all five of his children earned college degrees.
He was a great man. I don’t think I’ve ever looked up to anyone more. Every belief I hold at the core of my being is one I learned from him. He taught me to never take anything for granted, because what you have today could very easily be gone tomorrow. I am thankful for the happenstance that made me a part of his family. I am thankful for the way the stars aligned that gave me so much time with him. I am thankful that my son got to meet him. I am thankful that he’s in a better place.
Since I can’t articulate it, here’s Pearl Jam. Rest in peace, Dadaji.