September 7, 2002. It was my 8th Birthday, my mom, dad and brother were there celebrating one of the most favoritest days of my life… alongside with my parents and brother, two of great family friends or I should say almost like my dads brothers; Ravi Devarajan and his family plus Mohit Bhatnagar were there celebrating with us.
My dad was at the stage in his illness where he was beginning to forget things, lose his balance, constantly fall and gaining weight. It was becoming worse and worse day by day, my dad being my dad never showed pain or complained but simply celebrated this special day. I remember faded conversations with him that day and they are conversations I hope to hold in me forever.
That day was one of the best birthdays I had ever celebrated, I clearly remember all the events that happened. Sometimes I think I have short term memory loss from the day I was born till age 7, because I truly remember nothing. But aside from my childhood problems… that birthday was one of the best. Some of the best family friends were there to celebrate and we all knew down inside this may be my dads last time celebrating my birthday together with him.
I remember eating the best Indian food cooked by my two moms, My actual mom and Meera chachi, who is basically my second mom. Eating chocolate cake with white whipped icing and being fed by my dad. Take pictures and having a great time. After we all had lunch and cake we took a visit down to the mall 10 minutes away from my house, Triangle Town Center, which had recently opened then only 3 days before my birthday. I loved going to the mall as a kid, it used to be dream land for me, I used to want everything from all the stores. I remember walking with my dad through the new mall, holding his hand and jumping around like I always did as a happy hyper little girl, clingy to her father at all times… The conversation was as follows:
Me: I want to buy all the clothes in the stores!
My Dad: You can do that if you work hard.
Me: Oh right, I’ll do that too. What if I worked in one of these stores?
My Dad: You can do that when you’re old enough to work.
Me: How old do I have to be to work at a store?
My Dad: What store do you want to work at?
Me: Claire’s or Bath & Body Works!!
My Dad: You probably have to be 16 or 18 so that’s about 6 to 8 years from now.
Me: That’s going to be forever.
My Dad: But if you want all those clothes and work at the mall then you will just spend money on clothes, what about everything else?
Me: You work at the bank so I’ll get the rest of the money from you!
I find this conversation interesting everyday I walk into the mall for work, because here I am working at a Jewelry store, not Claire’s but Charming Charlie’s and I almost dread retail because I have been apart of the retail world for almost three years now. The days I dread going to work, I think back at this conversation and laugh because I know my dad is laughing at me and saying “You shouldn’t have decided to earn your money at this age in retail”. I also laugh at myself when I am about to spend money on clothes every time because of this conversation, it’s true… sometimes I indulge, find the greatest deals and put parts of my paycheck towards clothes… It’s unfortunate he’s still not working at the bank for back up!
When my brother and I were little, my dad always told us to save every penny we had even if it was laying around or fell from our pockets into the couch. My brother and I ALWAYS said two things to him; One- “Dad you work at the bank you can always get money for us!” and Two- “Mom has a money plant, so we can use that too.” Clearly the two of us had no idea what life was all about because simply, money doesn’t grow on trees and just because your dad works at the bank doesn’t mean he can bring home a stash of change.
But here I am today, 18 working at a retail store in the very same mall my dad and I had this conversation at and here I am, working hard. I just wish some days, he could physically see it all happen. The last thing I do remember from that birthday was some wise words he told me;
“Don’t work hard for your mom or me or anyone else, just work hard for yourself and do what you want to do but make sure you can do it and stay happy doing it.”
Ever since those words have stuck in my mind. I think that day when he told me this, I didn’t quite get it. But the day he passed it all made sense. My parents have lived their life, they have done what they can do, it’s time for me to take on and do what I want to do. I believe both my parents had dreams as children, because of family circumstances they were both unable to completely complete those dreams and wishes, my mom even today tells me to live my life the way I want to but become successful doing it. My dad and mom are two people in this world that always gave and gives 200% of their time to everything. They were and are the most hardworking people I have seen and loving too.
My dad may have left our side but he surely left it all on my mom. My mom had played multiple roles in my life, my brothers life and other peoples lives. I’d crown my mom Miss World and put a sash around her with a bouquet of flowers and have her walk the ramp because she deserves the center stage of life and a standing ovation each and every day. As much as she feels she has not done enough, she has done more in these ten years, where a normal person would have accomplished all my mom has in 50 years.