As I walked through the door, I was attacked by a white fur ball. Attacked isn't really the word, but when you see my dog, his hyperness can make you believe anything. His fur ravishly coats his whole body and looks like someone has plucked off the skin from a stuffed toy and then glued it to Olive. Cute, furry, and adorable he is.
My dad’s office bag lay across the floor. “Hmm...strange” that was my first thought. “He must have come home early” I plopped my bag down on the floor and picked up Olive. He looked a bit calm but I just swatted that thought away like a fly. He must have just eaten food. Olive kept licking my face only because he missed me throughout the whole school day.
My mum wasn’t in the kitchen either. I walked towards my parent’s room.
My dad sat facing the door and my mum with her back towards me. He was going to give me full attention, no TV, no nothing only eye contact. “Hey dad!”
“Hi sweetie, take a seat” He patted the bed. So I did. His office clothes were still on but it looked like he had come home earlier. It was quite obvious by the way he was seated. Comfortable yet disturbed. Troubled as if something had been bothering him. Even when he looked at me, I saw pain in his eyes. By the looks of it, he was quite nervous. He was twiddling his thumbs and sweat beaded down the side of his head. It was like me before an exam, scared but wanting to get it over with.
“Look, we needed to talk about something” I swallowed and blinked. “Your grandma was very sick” Breath. All the moments I had ever spent with my grandma, before she had gotten sick, flashed in my mind. Rolling down grassy hills, making chocolate balls, storytelling, smiles. All these moments were three years ago. Now she was sick with a mixture of alzheimer's, and other diseases that I don’t even know the name of. She was unresponsive, and couldn't do anything by herself. I nodded to my dad. It seemed like 2 millennia before he actually spoke. “Well, last night, we got a call at about 12AM from grandpa saying...” He took a breath and his eyes glistened dark, chocolate brown. He continued. “Grandma passed away.” He hugged me and tears welled in my eyes. I could feel him looking over to my mum and he looked heartbroken. Afterall, grandma was his mom too. He was extremely sad, and I could tell he felt helpless, my heart didn’t want that, it wanted him to be strong and then I could be weak and he would pick me up.
Loud sobbing poured out of me, but I didn’t care. My mum finally turned to face me and her eyes were puffy and red. That just added to her hair, which were all over the place and her dull, black and grey clothing made her look worse than ever. The crumpled up tissue was given a “I don’t want to look at anyone right now” look, and my mom clenched her hand. Lighting struck outside and my mum blinked. “Great, lightning is perfect right now” was what we were both thinking. The heavy showers could be heard and the flapping of the curtains. I understood why she hadn’t turned. It was slow release like a rose dying, first the neck drooping low, then the petal turning brown, then, death. The whole breaking of the news was handled quite well. Though I still had trouble digesting all the information, it was given step by step. They were doing this so that I didn’t just feel lost in a black hole, I felt guided.
I clasped her neck like two links of a chain which are almost impossible to pull apart, and I refused to move. I cried until there were no more tears. “Honey, we are going to India” My dads voice consoled me. A million things rushed through my head and I blurted them out.
“Olive?, School?, Science?”
Now I just feel guilty about it because even though I loved grandma, I had to keep up with studies, at that time school was my world, I wasn’t in India. Now it seems stupid, but at that time, nothing seemed like it could get worse. Death had happened and there was no way to turn back. Never did I have someone so close pass away. Now I did and I felt scared. “Don’t worry about any of that, it’ll all be sorted” Dad reconfirmed me as he patted me on my shoulder. This stereotypical comforting was something that all parents did. For reasons that never made sense. I had always thought, I do understand that you are older, more confident, are supposed to be looking after me but why pretend to be something you are not?
Gulping, I nodded and got up slowly went to the room and sprawled across the bed. I pressed the rewind button in my head and watched everything again. Seeing my parents cry was heartbreaking and I wished that they didn’t because it made me feel insecure, that’s when I thought about how responsible I was, how grown-up I could be. A spurt of will to be strong for my mom overcame my whole body like water down a stream. In a flash, I changed and packed my school things, according to my dad, mum had already packed clothes for me. Smiling, facing my mirror, light glistening on the corner like a moonlight pool, I put some earrings on. Something neutral because I knew I wouldn't be bothered to change them back home. Back home where memories would be brought back, back home where the wind would blow, back home where death left a pitless feeling. Suddenly there was a knock on my door and I quietly but loudly enough to be heard said “Come in” Standing there was my dad. Changed, looking fresh, smiling and behind him, there was the photo from when I was 4, in Jaipur with my uncle and aunt. My dress was pink, embroidered with wonderful patterns and I was holding a coke bottle. By the looks of it, I wasn’t ready to hand it over to anyone. The 2 little pony tails was enough to make anyone chuckle.
“Meher...” Dad started. Piercing my eyes into his made him stop. It was almost like an invisible telephone line that passed through us and it clearly stated the message: “I understand that I must be strong” Regardless, he continued and I knew why, parents believe that they have to be the strongest parents that they can be, but there is a time when their child realizes that. “You’ve got to be strong, for mom, grandpa, for everyone” I nodded. Usually I would have said I had already thought of that but it was obvious no one was in a mood for arguing. I was going to have to be strong for everybody, not the withered weakling, filled with sadness that I was. Yes, I might be sad but strong.
With one more stroke of the hairbrush, an artist with his final stroke that finishes his painting, doing my biggest smile, teeth flashing and eyes wide. One last room check for forgotten items and I was out the door. I was Meher. I was strong. I will be strong because my parents are human beings too, they are great but not superman and woman, they have feelings and this is a journey for them too. Sometimes I need to stop pretending that they are like this and be strong. Death will leave a sense of emptiness but I have to be strong. I was the thing that held me together. I was me.