Saturday, January 19, 2013

The look of love

Three conversations I had with Shekhar in the week before he passed away still echo in my ears. In the course of life, we do not give what we say enough respect and even less to what we hear. Would it be better if we knew that the words that escape would be the final say on a matter? I can’t say...can you?

I still remember where we were when we had this conversation. He was tying his laces, meticulously as always, and I was standing by resenting that he would not look at me as I spoke. The morning light was ambient in the foyer of the house. “For the past eighteen years, I have given you and the children my all. I am done playing second fiddle. It’s my turn now,” I said. Shekhar continued to focus on his laces, then looked up at me. His eyes saw me. Past the crumpled night clothes and the frumpy dressing gown, straight to my soul. “This is the right place, the right time,” I continued. “Don’t for one minute think I don’t understand and know what you have done for us and the family…you are right, it is your turn,” he replied, “we’ll work out how to do this…”

Our 18th anniversary a few days later was a memorable day, I got my driver’s license and Shekhar ran home from work with flowers! I got through on the first attempt. It had taken him two. He turned to the boys and said, “Your Mom’s much smarter than I am.” Then as we proceeded to make plans for leasing a car for me, he said, “Great! Now we can take the boys off the school bus.” I lost it. “The idea is to give me more freedom not get pulled back into doing the school runs,” I said. We were sitting on the stairs. I pulled away. Shekhar was contrite, “That’s not what I meant…” I never clarified what he did mean. I was too angry at the contradiction of our earlier conversation.

Later that day, we sat at the dining table deciding where to go for dinner to celebrate. Shekhar’s heart was set on fondue…we looked at all the places we could go but there was nothing close by and we didn’t want to drive into the city on a school night. So, we settled on French food, minus the fondue. To make up for his gaffe, Shekhar asked, “So what will we do on our 50th anniversary?” I had thought to myself, today is just not his day. “Why 50th? Think of the 20th, the 25th, even…they come before that, you know,” I couldn’t resist being snarky. He went quiet but I knew that he was trying to tell me that he was there and would always be there. For now, the 50th was as far as he could imagine.

The boys took several photos of us, the food and the location that night. These were the last photos of Shekhar alive. In one, he’s looking at me as I look at the camera. It is a look of pure love. As I looked at it later, I realized the words didn’t matter. I was loved. I was visible. I mattered.

Do I regret what I said? No, I have no regrets…everything that needed to be said at that point in time had been said. We never pulled our punches, Shekhar and I. Ours were not fights, they were gentle reminders of promises made. A fact I am grateful for because two days later, he was gone.

On my birthday this year, the boys and I finally found fondue in the most unlikely of places. As we sat on the terrace of the restaurant in the winter sun, I know Shekhar was there. Not for the fondue. For me.


I see me through your eyes
Breathing new life, flying high
Your love shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love
I see you
From the lyrics of “I see you” by Songwriters: Simon Franglen, Thaddis Harrell and James Horner