The pain of a father
A short story
I look out of the plane window excitedly- my animated face resembles that of a school kid who is eagerly awaiting his summer holidays. And why not? Not exactly summer but these are my half yearly holidays when I fly down from Riyadh to be with the people dearest to me. The feeling of spending two weeks with my beloved kids and my wife is something that fills up my void life with so much excitement that I find it difficult to contain it within. I am one of those unfortunate few who makes a lot of money but has to pay the price of living away from my family.
I fondly remember those days when I hardly made a pittance, we lived in a one room kitchen rented house but we were such a close knit family. Love kept us strong despite the financial difficulties we faced. My wife is a homemaker but together with our two kids Astha and Karan we had built a beautiful life. I kept trying to change my job and find some other source of income - I knew that with 2 kids, their education and a partner not earning - I had to do better to fulfill all of their dreams and give them a good life. I owed them that as a father and husband. However given the field I worked in - opportunities were limited in India. Some of my college friends who had landed jobs in the Middle East coaxed me to try there. The jobs were lucrative, salaries were good, no tax made it all the profitable, and savings could be huge. One could never dream of making such money in India. I knew this was the best possible option I could have but the thought of staying apart from my family stopped me from taking a decision. The kids were studying in primary now and were well accustomed to the school, the environment their routine.
Moving them not just to a new school but a whole New country there too one which is so different from home - how would they adjust to it? Plus the main purpose of going abroad was to make good money and return to India in a few years with good savings. If I moved my family there, the rent of taking up a bigger house, education of kids, household expenses would all mount up and the effective savings would be negligible. What was the point in moving then and uprooting everything?
I discussed this with my wife Asha as well and she too agreed it made sense if I went alone. She encouraged me to look for a suitable opportunity seriously and if I find one I should take it up. It's the question of few years, we have to make some sacrifices to give a better life to our kids. Staying here our monetary situation will never improve. After all it's all for a few years and then we are settled for life. You will come home on vacations and once things improve maybe we can visit you once a year. It made a lot of sense to me when I thought from my head but my heart refused to budge.
I am very attached to my kids I have been the one feeding them breakfast as my wife prepares their lunch box, attending all their school functions, playing football with my son on weekends, and ghar ghar with my little daughter. How could I leave behind such an integral part of my life and move on? How would they take it? These questions haunted me. But my wife's persuasion and the mounting bills made me look out for the job seriously. I found a good opening and everything went on well. I had the offer letter in a fortnight and after 1 month I was clutching my bag at the airport.
This is one of the most difficult days of my life- my kids wept inconsolable and my wife silently held her pallu close to her face- her eyes were moist. I couldn't break down else they would find it more difficult. I put up a brave face, smiled and chatted cheerfully as if was another regular day. And then I left. The first few days and months were the most difficult, we spoke on Skype regularly in fact few times a day. We cried and laughed and sang and my kids were eager to tell me every small thing that happened in school. Then gradually we all settled down into our routine.
I had a hectic job and I was determined to do my best to get promoted and get good bonus. I focused all my energy into my work; the thought of going back to an empty home scared me. My aim was to make good money and save it so that I could return to India in a shorter period. Time passed. I missed them, our chats had become occasional. The kids were busy with their studies and extra classes. I missed my wife too though she was not someone I could discuss everything under the sun with- she had always stood by me and helped me in taking tough decisions. Though we spoke, I noticed that she seemed aloof since some time. Just the regular did you have lunch, what are kids going and then we had nothing to talk. Seemed odd to me. But I was going home now for 2 weeks things would change. I would rekindle the emotions, being back the lost magic, I knew it.
I couldn't wait for the plane to land.
It's been 2 weeks and I board the plane to go back to work - I am no longer the enthusiastic school kid. No I am not the same person who boarded the plane last time. I am a confused, deeply hurt, unfortunate father and husband. I keep asking myself where I went wrong. Yes I moved away to make money but that was for my family. My dreams for a better life for my kids. As s bread winner and a dutiful father and husband I had to provide them the best and that's what made me move. But when did things change so drastically?
While I was all excited to see them, I noticed they did not share the same enthusiasm. No doubt the kids were super excited to see their gifts I had got them but once that excitement has died down, they moved to their respective chores. My chest swelled with pride seeking my son's trophies at school. I called him for a quick game of football but he shrugged and said he no longer played football. With studies and his guitar classes he never found time. But you are so good at it and so passionate, you must not leave if - Dad he shrugged that was then. Time has moved and we need to move on Dad. With that he walked away.
My daughter laughed hysterically when I showed her the set of Barbie dolls I had got her so fondly. Oh dad you are so cute I loved the gesture but I am a big girl now. Swati says we should not play doll doll, now we play video games. Yeah old fashioned dad of yours huh I chuckled.
I told my fed all about this hoping that her usual words of wisdom will help me brush aside these fears and give me hope. She had nothing to say. In fact when she did I was stunned to hear it - look dear the truth if we all have moved ahead. You, me, the kids. Nothing lasts forever does it? The kids missed you terribly at the beginning and I missed having you around too but slowly we all came out of it and moved on with our life. I missed talking to you every night lying in bed about my day, the kids’ antics and so many things. But slowly I got used to sleeping alone. I busied myself in other activities do that I do not think much of you get disturbed. You did nothing wrong what you did was for the betterment of the family but the truth is your absence has changed our life. We have moved ahead. Maybe things will change when you move back, I do not know but I doubt it will ever be the same. Those memories are what we have to live on and move forward.
I am at a loss of words- when did this happen, my wife really seems to be quite at peace and content with her life where I am nowhere in the picture. My mind races back to the day when I had just moved and she called me all excited to share the news about her small victory in a game at a kitty party, she was all excited like a kid but I was too busy to talk and brushed it aside, telling her I was busy. The other time she called and sounded forlorn and lost like a puppy, she probably just needed my re assuring words but I had to rush for a meeting and had to bid goodbye. The meeting was followed by drinks and dinner and I went straight to bed after that completely forgetting about her. There had been many such instances , maybe they seemed insignificant to me, I thought she could handle them herself being a strong woman but maybe I was wrong. That’s what gradually led to her becoming less and less dependent on me and that emotional chord snapping.
As I left for the airport hugging them one by now, this time I was the only on weeping. I could see a tear in my wife's eyes but she quickly brushed it off. Was that pity I saw or was the same love we shared, I do not know.
As I sat in the plane I couldn’t hold myself any longer. I went to the lavatory and wept like a child. A lost child for that was what I was now. Flashes of our life together, our wedding, the birth of our kids, the times we spent together - all passed before my eyes in a blur and they were all gone now. I couldn't come out like this - I washed my face and with great effort and a composed look went back to my seat. They often talk about a mother's love and sacrifice which I do not deny but what about a father's love and pain? Can he show it as openly? But that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it. The pain of staying away from your kids is as intense for a father as is for a mother. But being a man can I cry aloud and lament? Can I leave my job and move back? The sad truth is I cannot. Though I know the bitter truth that longer I stay away, deeper the chasm will become, I have no choice but to continue doing this. With a heavy heart and eyes brimming with tears I take my seat and look out of the window, except this time I am looking into oblivion.
This post was first published on Bonobology.com