The elderly patient who is next on my list is having a prostate operation. He wondered how long the procedure would take. ‘Depends on the size of your prostate. Do you get much symptoms?’ I queried. ‘Oh yes, I have to wake up quite frequently at night to go to the toilet’. A simple answer, but suddenly my eyes welled up. Images of my dad doing the same walk, while I was at home awake at night, jet lagged and trying to adjust to the time difference came to my mind. Here I am every Thursday anaesthetising patients for a procedure which could have prevented his death. Should I have done more? Achan hated hospitals. Getting him out of the house was a Herculean task. So I never did force him.
It’s been a year since his death. We never did have the best of relationships. He had his moments which made him difficult to live with, so I used to keep my visits to India short but frequent. We were usually fine the first week. The problems only started during the second. Even during my last visit to India before his death, I wasn’t talking to him by the time I left. My mum was in hospital following surgery and after a couple of days stay in the hospital he had had enough.
After his death I tried to forget the good moments I had with him so as to lessen the impact. It was better this way. He did love us in his own way. He wasn’t one to show his emotions. But there were times when he did. A warm hug on rare occasions. He could brighten up a room with his jokes when he was on top form. When my sister and I were at medical school, he would come to visit us on weekends on his bike. It was easily a couple of hours each way bike ride, but he did it happily.
I struggled to understand my dad in my younger days. When I refused to stay at the ‘sadanam’, a boarding place for college students, he would have none of it. He was worried that the travelling to and from home to the college would be too much and would disrupt my studies. When I did well, he knew my sister would be fine as well and he let her commute. I took this as favouritism and maybe it wasn’t.
Money was never his priority but education was. He would gladly help those who approached him for help, for years even in some instances. He never told anyone about his generous acts. We only found out years later. I think his difficult childhood shaped him into a person who was not well understood. The only brother he looked up to and admired died in his forties. He did his best and did it his way. Both of us sharing the same star sign and being equally stubborn never helped. But he was still my dad and I should have been a more understanding daughter. It is time to start remembering him for the good times we had together and hopefully the religious poojas we are doing for him next week to mark his death anniversary will bring closure and peace for all of us and let us move on with only the good thoughts.