Friday, May 7, 2010

Five Airlines Toffees, reposted

"Five Toffees", said my colleague to me today. "Five Airlines Toffees", she repeated emphatically seeing my puzzled look, "Five Airlines Toffees!!!"
The third time she said it, my brain finally made the connection. "But how did you hear of it?", I asked, knowing what her answer would be, but amazed that she had made the connection.

A couple of weeks after my father passed away, my reminiscence crystallised into a piece that I called "Five Airlines Toffees". I shared it with a few people, some of whom reacted to it in a manner I hoped they would. On the second anniversary of his passing away, I posted it on my blog, and often sent the link to a few people I thought may understand. And there it remained till December last year, when I was asked if I wanted to contribute a piece to the second edition of "Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul".

My colleague apparently picked up the book, liked the piece, thought the name of the contributor sounded familiar, checked the bio, and realised it was me. I was thrilled beyond belief, because I have yet to come out of the closet as far as my writing is concerned, and never thought a day might come when someone I knew would read and like a piece I wrote even before knowing it was written by me. Makes me start believing in myself a little more as a writer!

I thanked her profusely, but she insisted she was the one that should be thanking me, because "the last line has been haunting me for days, and you know what, it is true." Could anyone ever pay a greater compliment to a writer than by telling them that something they wrote made them stop and think?

And here's the story, reposted.

Five Airlines Toffees

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.
When I travel, I will always pick up five airlines toffees. Some traditions are worth investing in.


Lisa said...

You are truly a gifted writer. What a heartwarming, heart achingly good post my friend!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. That is painfully beautiful, Rayna. I'm so glad you re-posted it. I'm also glad you discovered your award this morning - you were too quick for me. :-)

Have a great weekend.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a beautiful and touching story! Truly it's the little traditions and rituals that mean the most.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is wonderful! I didn't know you had a piece in a Chicken Soup book.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That is so sweet!

Trudy said...

Oh Rayna...that was absolutely beautiful, I have tears streaming down my face. Please don't EVER hide your incredible gift again.

God bless you dear sister!

slommler said...

Beautiful story Rayna! Brought a tear to my eye! And congrats on the publishing of your story

Jackee said...

Too true that you should believe in yourself more! This was so poignant. Thank you so much for sharing it.

My mother is facing Ovarian Cancer for the second time and all your words resonated with me (as I'm sure they do with others). Especially them hating what they become and traditions sticking in our minds forever.


Beautifully written a sad yet heart warming tale,
I had tears as it reminded me of the time my mum passed away then 3 days later was told my husband had terminal brain cancer and he too passed away 2 months later,he never lived to see his grandchildren come into the world except the first who was born 10 days before my mum passed away. he never got to play football with them,
I feel for you although the greiving process for me is over never forgets.


Lydia Kang said...

A really amazing piece. Thank you for sharing a bit of your soul.

Milton said...

Lovely story. He sounds very special. Now Muttie is going to think of this every time she she ventures onto a plane.

Milt x

Chary Johnson said...

I remember reading this. Great story. It warmed me all over again!

Al said...

An amazing, beautiful piece.
The line - But when he saw the toffees, he proudly said, “My daughter gets me these toffees too.”, so poignant.

Marjorie said...

*crying* Natasha you should know that your writing is always so touching. I'm happy you got some recogintion. You deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Natasha.
Sending you email.

Clarissa Draper said...

What an incredible story. And you're right, That's a tradition that must be continued.


dipali said...

I choked up again, re-reading this.
I'm sure he was glad of them on that final journey.

Faith Pray said...

I'm so glad you shared this touching story. And what a special connection for you to be recognized for your writing. Beautiful.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Lisa – thank you. I wasn’t thinking when I wrote this, which shows.

@ Shannon – I just happened to be online when you posted the award. Thank you again.

@ Debra – they do, don’t they? After all, it is traditions that distinguish us from other animals

@ Alex – the Indian version of Chicken Soup, which is hardly comparable to the global one.

@ Diane – thank you

@ Trudy – I am more comfortable with not talking about my writing. Maybe some day…

@ SueAnn – thank you.

@ Jackee – I’ll try! And I hope your mother gets better soon. Cancer and dementia are two things I would not wish on anyone.

@ Yvonne – that must have been such a tough time for you. And it is really sad when your kids don’t get to meet their grandparents – at least both mine know two grandparents well.

@ Lydia – thank you.

@ Milton – why can’t Muttie start a similar tradition?

@ Chary – if I am not mistaken, I had posted it in the Burrow. Thanks

@ Al – thank you.

@ Marjorie – thank you, that is such a wonderful thing to say.

@ niranjana – didn’t get your e-mail L

@ Clarissa – it is, isn’t it?

@ dipali – knowing him and his sweet tooth, I am pretty sure he finished sucking them all very soon.

@ Faith – thank you. And it was great to find that someone had made the connection in a very different context.


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