Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mon Oncle

I had just opened the door when my father told me the news. My head went blank. It was like being compelled to read a book I had no intention to read. I wished I had heard the wrong words. Uncle Kỷ had been sick for some time now and getting weaker by the week. It was no surprise. But it's always a surprise when it actually happens. My father was sitting on the sofa, looking up at the ceiling, his stare lost in thought, my mother just near him. I needed time to digest the news so I went up to the study and checked my e-mails. Another case of missed carpe diem. I had been thinking of visiting Uncle Kỷ during my stay in Paris, but had kept postponing it. His son, my childhood friend An had written to me that he would be coming with all his family to Paris. Ironically I had just changed my return ticket to Taipei today for a week later. I was glad to see him again, especially after our reunion in Taipei two months earlier.
I had brought back plenty of pastries from Taipei, so my father had saved one box of mochi for Uncle Kỷ. But I kept postponing the visit. It is still there now, in my father's room.
I can't  help blaming myself for not having gone earlier. Would it have changed anything?

When I came down to the living room again, my father was still sitting on the sofa. With each close friend or relative passing away, it was one more look closer at the final picture. And around him, not much to comfort and soothe him. He was sending a message on his i-Pad but asked me to stay nearby. I understood. I wanted to be near anyway. And it's less about what one talks about than the simple fact to let it out. My father has a lot to express.
My mother soon joined us.
"I feel scared, sitting alone up there in my room" she said with an embarrassed smile. So we chatted. About Uncle Kỷ, then we let the space be filled with happier, lighter images.
"At least, I like the thought that my father has gone up to meet his wife again", An wrote to me later in the evening. "Now I'm okay, but I'm not sure how I will react when I see... him and the morgue"