“He loved me unconditionally”, sobbed my son when he was informed of the death of his grandfather, my father-in-law.
My children were his favourite, others said. That might have been true – I ‘m not sure. But the reason is not definitely because they were the son’s children. It is commonly believed that all Nazrani men have preference for the son’s children which definitely was not true in the case of Achchan, as we all called my father in law. My children grew up with him while the other grandchildren grew up abroad. So naturally, there was a mutual closeness between my children and their grandfather. I refuse to believe that there is that patriarchal preference for the offspring of the male.
My son came to visit achachan two weeks before the latter got a cerebral stroke. He was on the brink of 95, healthy, cheerful, humorous - and ecstatic ‘cos his grandson had come down for 5 days only to spend some time with him. As I look back at those five days, I get a strange feeling that achachan had been holding out only to see Mathew whose scheduled visits had sent him to the seventh heaven. He was a transformed man after Mathew came. He waited for Mathew to get up in the morning and followed him like a shadow, which my son too enjoyed. They would talk and laugh like old friends meeting after a long time. What they talked about, i have no idea, but they were talking and laughing and appeared to be conspiring all the time. My father in law who was not senile despite his age would pretend to be that just to annoy my mother-in-law and me, and thereby afford amusement to his grandson. Then he’s say, “Mathacha, these women are all old. Both of us are the only young ones here” and Mathew would agree whole heartedly with him.
Mathew wanted me to make homemade ice-cream for old time sake. After one round, I left the half full dish in the freezer. One afternoon after my siesta, I came out into the dining room to find the grandfather and grandson with tablespoons, helping themselves to the ice-cream from the dish straight from the freezer! They were at the last scoop, and laughed uproariously when i came with a small dish to take my share.
On the day before he left, Mathew took us out to dinner at the Mascot Hotel. Achachan had readily agreed to come. Of late, he had been disinclined to go out of the house ‘cos he found it very tiring. Achachan enjoyed the dinner, tried out all his favourite dishes, taking my mind back to his healthier younger days.
A week after Mathew left, achachan asked me, “Will Mathew get a job in Kerala?
“Why should he come to Kerala? He is in the academic field and Kerala is not the right place for that”, i replied.
“I want to see him always”, said achachan.
“When is Renukuttan coming?”, he asked after a moment.
“it’s hardly eight months since she came to see you. How can she come down so often from America?”
The next day, achachan got the stroke.
My daughter came down again to see him but he was in the hospital, in critical condition. It made me feel very sad. Her last memories of achachan too should have been what Mathew carries with him. Achachan tried talking to her as much as he could on the day she spent at the hospital.
During his funeral, I kept updating my children. Soon after I informed them that he was buried, Renu, my daughter sent me this text message: I MISS HIM