Birthday well spent


The sun is shining brightly on my indoor plants as I look up and steal glances at them while I type out this blog. I breathe easier today. I survived an emotionally wrought day yesterday – baba’s birthday. As I reflect upon it, I have a sense of relief that it is over and also that it was well spent. Baba, for as long as I remember, was an empathetic listener to the elderly. I remember, in family get togethers he spent more time with the elderly than with his compatriots. He sat with them in our extended family reunions and listened to their stories. He always said there is much to be learned from those who came before us. They need to be heard. When he and ma started their NGO, they would often help impoverished homes for elderly. While they donated much needed items and fed the seniors, baba listened to the stories of their lives.

Yesterday, at work, I got called to help a customer download an audiobook on her device. As I walked to the floor towards the customer, I saw that she was very elderly, wheel chair bound. Her hands shook as she tried to press buttons on her device. With her permission, I touched her tablet (although we are not really allowed to touch devices of customers) and did what needed to be done to get her the audiobook. She was so relieved and at the same time apologetic that she was taking up so much of my time. I assured her, repeatedly, that it is indeed my joy to be able to help her. I love nothing better than connecting book lovers to reading materials and I am honestly doing what I love to do. She smiled. After we successfully downloaded her book, she was thrilled and excited to listen to it once she got home. Her eyes are not what they used to be so although she’d rather read, she cannot these days so she has resorted to listening to audiobooks. She told me a little about her sons and grandchildren before we said goodbye. She was afraid she was going to forget the steps to download books in the future. I reassured her that help was truly a phone call away if that does happen. As I turned to leave, she said to me, “Honey, I thank you for your patience. You have been so helpful and kind.” As I walked back to my office, I thought what a perfect way to celebrate baba’s birthday. He would have loved to hear this story.

There were tears. Of course there were tears and plenty of them. And there was laughter too, remembering his idiosyncrasies and his wicked sense of humor. I went to the garden in the library where my coworkers donated 2 paver stones in my parents’ names. I stood there by him, remembering his lifetime of love for me, Sean and his grandchildren. After I came home, Sean wanted to go pay his respects to the paver stones too. So we went again. I did not have flowers so I picked up a leaf from the garden (did not pluck it) and put it on the stone that has his name on it. Sean touched the stone, said a prayer. We then went for a walk around the lake as the sun went down and the colors of sunset reflected on the calm waters of the lake. We ended up at our favorite Indian restaurant and talked about grief, closure and love over dal, paneer and garlic naan. Baba would have scoffed at the choice of food (vegetarian) but he would have loved the celebration.

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