Saturday, July 26, 2008

Five Airlines Toffees

Two years back, the best father anyone could ever hope to have passed away. This is my small tribute to him.

It was always five airlines toffees. Everytime he travelled, my father would bring me five toffees - never four, never six, always five. There may have been some significance to that number, but I suspect, that like most traditions, it just happened.
Sometimes he'd come back from trips loaded with gifts - sweets from the best confectioner in town, pretty cardigans, pearl necklaces, books and toys - sometimes, he would just not have found the time to shop. But he never came home without those five airlines toffees.
I started working around the same time he retired, and the tradition was reversed. Now, I was the one who'd bring five airlines toffees everytime I came to visit, and he was the one who'd gleefully polish them off in one sitting.
Parkinson's started claiming his body, and dementia his mind, but his sweet tooth remained his own. The last few times I visited him, he barely recognised me. But when he saw the toffees, he proudly said, “My daughter gets me these toffees too.”
Last July, I was on a plane winging homewards. I'd just got the news that my father's heart had finally given up. There was Regret (that I missed seeing him by just four days), Remorse (that I would never again watch him watching my son throw a ball at him), Relief (that he'd finally shed the body and mind that constrained him and could go back to being the man he was meant to be) - but, no tears. How does one cry for the passing on of a man who is not really your father, and who your father would have hated becoming?
After settling in the kid, and putting the baby to breast, I buckled my seat belt and was waiting for the plane to take-off, when the stewardess came around with the tray of airlines toffees. My hands automatically reached out for the tray, then pulled back - never again would I pick five airlines toffees from that tray. The dam burst; tears flowed.
Before deplaning, I asked the stewardess for five airlines toffees.
When we journey to the other world, we are not supposed to take anything with us, but as his ashes floated down the river, my father had something clenched in his fists - five airlines toffees to sustain him on the Journey.


Lisa said...

Oh Rayna. I have chills up and down my arms. What a beautifully written piece. How lucky you were to have such a father! And he was lucky to have you. I love the tradition of the will always have that reminder, not that you could ever forget him. Thank you for sharing.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thanks, Lisa.
Yes, my father was the most special person in my life, and while I don't need a reminder, those airlines toffees still make me sniffle.
I thought you would empathise.
Thanks again.

Donna B said...

Oh Rayna, you made me cry. What a touching and sweet story. Your memories are so precious. My heart aches for you knowing your Father had Parkinsons and dementia. My Father would say he had Parkinsons, because to him, it was more palatal than the reality of dementia. He still denies it and refuses to accept it. His sister had Parkinsons and her life was a sad, lonely one spending years in a nursing home. My Dad was her faithful visitor. She died one year before Dad went into a nursing home. I think her death greatly affected him. Thank you so much for sharing such a poignant memory.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thanks, Donna.
Parkinsons is not an easy disease to have, but that with dementia is a really horrible combination. My grandmother suffered from dementia too, and it must have been particularly difficult for my father to realise that within a few months of her passing away, he got it too. Or maybe he never realised it - that is what I really hope.
Thanks for sharing, Donna.

dipali said...

This brought tears, Rayna. So poignant. Thanks for the link.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Dipali - I think the only way to cope is by periodically dusting the memories and re-arranging them in the mind.

pramu said...

Hi Rayna,

I have been following your blog for few months now. When I stumbled on this post, by the time I finished reading it, my eyes became watery. Its a wonderful post.


Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thank you for your kind words, Pramodini.


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