On that Christmas Eve, standing by the side of his bedpost near the window, I narrated the views to him,looking down at the busy street decorated with colourful lights. He wheezed as he asked me if the carol had begun for the nth time.
“Josepapa, do you want to sit by the side of the window?” I asked him.
He waved off at me, coughing.
It has been three months since he moved in here with his eldest son and his family; nevertheless, they fled abroad after the first week of house warming and the merciful deed of not leaving him in any old age home was nothing more than a self-seeking act. I don’t understand how they could expect a 70-year-old man to spend his days like a watch dog.
Last month when his son called me up putting in the picture of Jose’s escalating asthma attacks, I couldn’t say no, though I wasn’t free to nurse him; because I owed a big debt to Jose for who I am today.
When I had first come to this house, he was crouching on the garden, pulling out weeds.Opening the gate, I stood on the pebbled path for a while watching him. His enthusiasm hadn’t grown old with the strands of white hair behind his bald head or the facial wrinkles.
“Josepapa,” I called out to him.
After staring for a couple of minutes, he got onto his feet and walked towards me, wiping his hands on the dhoti.
Of all the days that I’d spent with him, Christmas week was the toughest. Extreme medications made him weaker than before, afternoon reveries became a long lost habit and he ate only a rabbit’s share. He was slowly turning into a man devoid of charm, manifesting the colour of a fading leaf. Most of the time, he would sit with me in the common hall as I decorated the Christmas tree or crib, singing carol songs. I remember him wincing every time he tried singing with me, nodding to every beat. Yet, he asked me to teach him new songs and listened to it leaning back on the couch, closing his eyes like an innocent kid.
And just like an innocent kid he laid inside the mobile mortuary yesterday, wearing a flowery crown and listening to the pretentious wails. I crumpled his sweatshirt and whimpered before I caught the sight of a tablet cover inside the pocket.
‘Did I sing well?’ it read.
I could hear the song that he never sang along with the carol he never heard; I saw the old man inside the mobile mortuary smiling at me.