Time And Toes

November 06, 2006
Deepti Lamba

Time tends to erase the most precious memories of the departed but the one memory that will always stay with me are of my dad's toes resting on a coffee table in his bedroom that I could see from where I was sitting in the living room through his door left ajar.

I remember looking at his toes with grief and intense sadness, my world as I had known at the age of twenty four had come to an end. He had been told that he would live no longer than ten years but he never made it beyond a month after the news was delivered to him. Fibrosis of the lungs had him wheezing like an asthma patient and the steroids had weakened his immunity system towards even the smallest viral or bacteria in the air and body.

I still remember that evening - staring at those ten toes, crossed and twitching from time to time. The television was blaring with his favorite show - Saanz - and my mother was sitting with him silently. It was their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. The house was quiet, we were all quiet, sitting in different rooms and yet thinking the same thing, Why him? Why our family? How were we to deal with this? We were a stoic bunch, never showed our emotions to each other and then more than ever the chasm between us deepened.

I didn't know how to put my arms around him and tell him that I loved him and didn't want him to leave, the very same thing I found myself telling him by his death bed before they pulled him off the ventilator.

I don't like to remember my father the way he was in the hospital or when they bought his body home. Even in death his skin had been baby soft, eyes closed, there had been light pink hue to his skin. I had refused to believe that the shell left behind was my dad. He was gone and so many things between us had been left unsaid.

It's been seven years since his passing and yet we as a family have yet to come to terms with it. Since his death we haven't gone through any family albums, my elder sister refuses to see her wedding video for seeing our energetic dad smiling to the camera makes her cry, my mother a lonely woman lives for the sake of her kids and grumbles about my father leaving her too young.

"He had no business leaving us," she would say. "Why didn't he take care of himself better?" she would ask.

All the ifs, coulds and woulds are aired when we remember him during occasions of difficulties and joy. We miss him still, a lot.

In my mind the clock has come to a standstill - it's his fair pink toes that I miss the most. My mother never ages beyond the age of 51, no matter how many times she tells me that she is now 58, older and greyer. To my mind she is still the age when my father died, 51, the age when she grew older within a day, when they bought him home, dead and departed.

How irrational can my mind be? To remember toes and no more, to think someone remains a certain age forever by default, to change channels when the radio plays old Hindi songs that were his favorites.

Even when we think that we have moved on, the erasing of memories by time only makes the pain a little duller but deeper as we trudge on living the daily hum drum of life.

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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November 6, 2006
12:34 AM

This is so sad, Dee. I keep thinking of that song from Mike and the Mechanics. One day, through chat, I told my parents everything I wanted to tell them - thanking them, aplogizing, telling them I loved them. My brother was there typing and responding to me. Needless to say, I (and I suspect they too) was crying and they were feeling bad that I was in the US alone as we were talking. But you're right, there are many things you cannot say face to face. It feels too final, especially when you are in denial, and when you are willing things to go on as they are for ever.

November 6, 2006
01:59 AM

ouch.. i have a very stoic relationship with my parents... and a really difficult one with my own dad.. makes me want to search for more meaning in the relationship.. if there is any.. coz i dont want to repent such things coz enormous amount of pressure in me later!!!

thanks for sharing this.. i share ur sadness.

November 6, 2006
04:40 AM

Deepti,its natural on your part to never really "get over" the loss of your father, but I feel you have learnt to live with the loss. The length of a person's life does not determine the size of the loss. You would have been to school and then to Univ somewhere outside your hometown and then to a different land for higher education, but still there is a chord that binds you with your father,whether he is there or he is no more. I can sense your enormous emptiness..If you walk through a garden or a park where he took you when you were a kid, the old memories suddenly flash back and so the way your sister and maa react to this loss is obvious.

Nothing was under your control but now with time you have your family and your mother and so cuddle them and hug them and get back the gone by warmth...Fill the painful gap that has been thrust on you...

A part of each child's legacy is the changes he or she brings to a family,that continue even after someone close to you is no more in this world.

Nice post and straight from heart and I share your loss...

Andrew Morris
November 6, 2006
05:30 AM

What a lovely sad piece:beautiful little details. Writing like this will certainly keep me coming back to Desicritics.

November 6, 2006
07:21 AM


this comes at a bad time...

(let me share an old poem)


jana hay tou jao
yaadouN maiN qaid
khaabouN ki maanind
waq't ki lehrouN maiN
mooskurah-hatouN kay paimaanouN ka
mauj-e-beh'r-e shauq ka
dil maiN mehfooz lamhouN ka
sheeraza bikhair dou

jana hay tou jao
..........................chalay jao.
Kitab-e-dil kay safha-e-aakhir pey
kiya raq'm hay, maa'loom hay humaiN
kuh'r-e-oodaasi maiN leh'r-e-gham
phir ik baar hum aaghosh hogi
chund sa'atouN kay liyay
ya a'bud kay liyay



leave, if you must
like fond dreams
imprisoned in memory cells
vanish with the waves,
---the promises of smiles
---the waves from the Ocean of Love
melt away
---those moments ensconced in the heart

go, if you must
on the last page of Book of Heart
we know what is writ large,
pensive mist will embrace
the waves of sadness, yet again
for moments few
or forever


Deepti Lamba
November 6, 2006
10:17 AM

Thanks guys, death certainly makes most of us hold our loved ones a little closer and kinder towards others.

November 6, 2006
12:21 PM

I can relate to every word you've written.. In my case its been 14 years... and still every moment is still green as though they were yesterday... the moment I think of my dad, I go back to being a 12 year old..

>> the erasing of memories by time only makes the pain a little duller but deeper

Right dee, absolutely!

November 6, 2006
01:11 PM

I have just one word - beautiful!

Temple Stark
November 6, 2006
03:57 PM


If it helps, one needs toes to walk through even a hum-drum life.

My father lost the ability to walk in his last few months as his body swelled with water. He lost the ability - but he still did even at 400 pounds (with about 220 of that water).

He died years ago, which i have written about a few different places.

I remember his genuine smile, and his hitting my brother until blodd splattered the walls.

It's tough growing up without a father - but you made it to 24. It seems hard to remember a parent differently from how you grew up with them. I don't imagine you thought much about your father's toes much while he was with you.

What initiated this post today?

asha dhody
November 6, 2006
09:24 PM

you have evoked painful memories for most of us.I was four when I lost my father,I had to struggle to recall some image,a smile a word but sadly enough all that I can remember is a doll which was his last gift to me and a little red [toy] car for my brother .I missed him through the memories of my lonely mother,the sadnes of my grandmother who had lost her only son at the age of 32.I missed my father through my mother's pain walking alone crying behind closed doors and coming out with a smile.Her head was high nobody dare call us "poor kids" pity was something she did not approve of.Today I am a grandmother for me the memory of a father is through the little doll and the red car .The future has rainbows with sunshine filtering through the clouds--the pink toes, the dolls,the car and other memories of the loved ones who we have lost shall filter to us as smiles of our children and grandchildren.

Deepti Lamba
November 7, 2006
03:16 AM

One doesn't need anything out of the ordinary to remember the departed. Aaman happened to pick Aayan up a certain way as my dad used to pick his daughters up and I remembered him:)

Somehow when one loses a parent at a young age, the wound doesn't heal totally. Its as if we continue to look for closure into adulthood (does that make sense Temple and Kishore?:))

Mrs Dhody, well put as always, we live through our children; all the more reason why we should make sure that grandparents get to play an active role in their lives:)

DesiGirl, thanks a lot.

vani kalra
November 9, 2006
10:43 AM

Luthur vandross's achingly beautiful ode to his father ' dance with my father ' just takes me right back to those beautiful carefree days of my childhood. and really there's nothing i wouldn't do to have a last dance with him because i never really got to say goodbye.

Deepti Lamba
November 9, 2006
12:00 PM

Ah, the catalysts that trigger the memories:)

Temple Stark
November 10, 2006
01:36 PM

The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics is the song that evokes a great deal of sadness for me when it occasionally come sin the radio, mostly because I didn't get to experience most of it, and there's the regret which I share. ...

I know that Im a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that Im a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
Im afraid thats all weve got

You say you just dont see it
He says its perfect sense
You just cant get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

But you live with it and let it stir emotions inside when you want to create and be expressive. It's a well of inspiration .. and that may be .. at least in my case where there wasn't much else to hang onto ... the greatest legacy. He did also teach to me to read at home before I even went to school.

Deepti Lamba
November 10, 2006
10:42 PM

Temple, how about an article on this topic on DC?

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