So, okay, that title isn’t exactly scientifically accurate as Physics is pretty much essential to life. But for us non-physicists I think it works. This week’s writing challenge by WordPress’ Daily Post is to talk about a moment that changed the course of my life for good; a juncture in time that embedded itself so deeply into my soul, that it shaped that soul into what it is today, (and I’m still clueless as to exactly what that is). But which milestone to choose from? I’ve only known 18 summers, but I have had a lot of pivotal occasions in that space of time. The first, the one I’m considering basing this post on, was when I was 10. The next: 12, then 15-18 (I had many pivotal moments there) and now that I am almost 19, I am certain that there are plenty more to come. (Cue the ominous sound of a bell.) I still haven’t found myself. Sometimes, I don’t think anyone ever really does; surely, that’s why it’s called a “journey”? And the words “of life” indicate “until death.” So how does one find themselves if they’re searching until death? (Rhetorical questions for the win!)
Enough of the philosophy I guess. The most climactic moment in the history of my life would be the death of my father at the age of ten.
Wow, writing it down like that is almost the same as saying it out loud; I felt goosebumps all over my body. It was such a long time ago, and if he was still around, our lives, our characters themselves, would be so, so different.
My father was a wonderful man. Always happy: when I close my eyes and see him, I see that huge grin on his face that used to embarrass me when I was younger, when I did not know that one day, I would treasure it. Even now, when we look at photos of him, the one person that will surely be showing all of his teeth, is my dad. It’s rather amusing among the other morose faces, to be honest. Sigh. My silly, extraordinary dad. How we miss him. He was the one who held our extended family together: the cement between our bricks that formed a loving home. Now that he is gone, so are the people I grew up amongst. My aunties, my uncles, grandparents, cousins, all of them. They are all strangers. My mother and my sisters: that is all I know.
I still remember quite vividly the events leading up to his death, and I’m not sure how to tell it. In prose, or just simply stating the facts? I’ll let the keyboard do the talking.
Friday, I’d broken my finger. He’d done it accidently: pushing the sofa back against the wall, not realising that my stupid hand was there. He was so sorry, that he picked me up and hugged me. He hadn’t picked me up since I was 7; I’d deemed myself too old for cuddles. How wrong I was. He’d wanted to take me to the A&E then and there, but I refused, not understanding that my finger was actually broken, (in the defense of ten year old me, it didn’t hurt after the initial shock), and decided to give it at least until two days before we rushed to the hospital. (My broken finger still curses me for that decision, by the way). All that time spent waiting to heal something that could do the job itself? I, thought, not! (You thought wrong, says broken finger.)
Saturday, ah, Saturday, the last day we would see him alive. There was a wedding we would have to go to in a city close to ours the next day. To cut a long story short, we had family who lived in that city and after much deliberation and squabbling between my parents it was agreed that myself, my mother and my sisters would all go to stay the night at our relatives’ house. My father would join us on Sunday at the wedding where we would all go home together.
He never did.
As we drove off, we all waved farewell to our daddy/husband and as we turned our backs on him, I felt a sinking sensation in my stomach. I saw that my mother did too. She argued with him again, telling him that she didn’t want to leave him on his own. In the 12 years that they had been married, she never had. But he shrugged her off, insisting that my mother visit her cousin sister. She was her younger relation after all.
That night was strange. For some unfathomable reason, my cousins, my sisters and myself had been infected with a myriad of giggles. It just wouldn’t stop. Nothing could cease it. My aunt, who believes in old wives’ tales, said that it was a sign that something awful would happen… Naturally, we laughed it off.
Eventually, we were exhausted enough to head to bed. But I couldn’t sleep, restless. I was next to my favourite cousin; we talked all night. And what I said next, still haunts me. We discussed philosophy and religion: the might of God (pretty deep for a ten year old, right? I’ve always been awesome. [Insert cheeky wink here]). The words (in relation to God’s power and what he is capable of) “my dad could die tomorrow” actually left the cage of my lips. I actually said those words. How was I to know what would unfold from my ‘innocent’ musings? Not that I think that I directly caused his death just because I sort of prophecised it, but it’s something to ponder over in my quiet moments.
The next day started off as expected: havoc. Where are my shoes? Where’s her make up? Oh my god, it doesn’t fit! Oh, I need to tighten the elastic, sorry! How should I do my hair? Help me get ready! etc, etc. After many arguments and rushing, we finally made it to the wedding. It took us a while to find seats so that we could eat (our weddings are more like the reception parties of western culture. That’s asians for you), but once we had, we received the inital sign that something was wrong: my mother choked on her first morsel of food.
From that moment she wanted nothing but to return home, knowing something was amiss. She hurried our eating, making sure we were fed, but that we were fed quickly. As soon as we were done, she took us to the car and immediately began calling my dad. He didn’t pick up. Panicking, she tried the landline. Again, to no answer. By now, she knew something was truly not right, so she called her brother who lived a street away from us to check up on my father. She also called the emergency services. Up until that moment, my sisters and I didn’t know anything was wrong. It was when my mother started shouting for our door number to tell the paramedics (we’d only recently moved houses) that I realised all was certainly not well. Immediately we hastened into a car, my mother on the phone to her brother, asking questions, giving orders. That was when she put the phone down.
“He’s dead.” She said. Her voice sounded as hollow as the gonging of a bell.
Chaos pursued: everyone was arguing with her, begging her to take her words back, calling her a liar, praying, crying, becoming hysterical. All of this amongst the stony obmutescence that reverberated from my mum. It was her silence that rang the loudest.
When we got home, our mother ran out, demanding that we stay in the car. Time seemed to stand still until she came back. As she approached, the obdurate look on her face told me all. “Don’t you dare mum, don’t you dare say he’s dead!” I cried. She silently let us out of the car. I saw her sit on the curb to light a cigarette, unmoving, unresponsive.
There were wails in my house, women screaming their despair, (because of the wedding, friends and family reached our house quickly). Our living room window was broken, glass splayed on the floor (our uncle had broken it to get into the house), the walls singing of melancholy. They wouldn’t let us near our father. We were reduced to seeing his pale corpse on his bed amidst a sea of cries. We weren’t allowed to touch him. All too soon, the ambulance took him; my mother accompanying. The rest is a blur. We somehow ended up at my gran’s house. More wailing people, our mother nowhere in sight. I remember telling that very cousin that my dad was dead. He was DEAD. It was horrific to be honest. We cried ourselves hoarse and cried some more. My granddad passed out. I watched grown people sobbing. But my father was not one of them.
Eventually, night grasped the sky and the guests left us to our own gloom. It was time to sleep. My little family shared a room, and we all succumbed to the fatigue of our tears.
A new day, a new life.
(This photo makes me think of new beginnings, as the events led us to.)
On Monday, I remember waking up, thinking it was all a dream. Reality slapped me in the form of my grandmother’s bedroom. It wasn’t a dream and I began to cry afresh. Our lives changed forever. We would not be the people we are today, if not for his absence. Now it’s just us five women, living alone, away from them all. A new day, a new life.
Pivots: Physics can change your life.
(Well, that was a tad depressing [by tad I mean a lot] but I thought I’d succumb to a writing challenge. A challenge is always good, and this was certainly that! Until a more cheerful time, I bid thee, oh my wonderful readers, adieu.)