Dealing with Loss as an Immigrant
I sit in the flight soaring amidst the clouds fighting conflicting emotions. The last 24 hours have been beyond tumultuous. I look outside the window trying to quiet the voices in my head, the banging on my door at 2am, and the news that followed. As I make my first emergency trip as an immigrant, I realize how similar the emotions are. I have grown in the last twenty years from a child to an adult; yet hearing the only other man in my life pass away made me the child I was as I stood witnessing my dad’s death. The emotions remain similar, the tears flow down uncontrollably, I feel my broken heart – the only difference being this is my granddad I have to bid adieu twenty three years thence.
My granddad or Muthachan as I called him, the world traveler, and the leprosy eradicator was a very accomplished doctor but to me he was grandpa. The man who waited for my arrival at the railway station and years later at airports with his big smile and bigger hugs. My greatest childhood memories included seeing him through the train window and feeling emotions only a grandchild could feel. His many patented “Kadi ummas” or biting kisses were staple to my growing up years. He taught me to love beyond diseases as I did many walkthroughs through the leprosy wards during my summer vacations. His belly made him the perfect grandfather as I spent so many of my summers on his belly. He taught me to love reader’s digest, eggs and food. He enticed me into the medical field by gifting me my first stethoscope and played doctor- doctor with me. He taught me to be compassionate to people who were suffering through his work with leprosy patients.
He was the other man in my life and as I fly to bid adieu to him, I realize a big part of my childhood is over. I will never see him at an airport again, never will I get to hug or kill him again. There is so much America has given me through my seventeen years in America. Yet all that pales when I realize I never got to say goodbye to the only living man from my childhood. He lay asleep somewhere in India and I never got to say good-bye one last time. I sat in the confines of my home reminiscing his kadi ummas, humor and his smile realizing I am more like him than I realized. We both had our struggles bidding adieu to people, him more than me. Every time I look at myself in the mirror and see his nose on my face, I will kiss the air hoping wherever he is he will feel it and chuckle with my dad! Until we meet again, Muthacha…I will miss you terribly!