Like father like son
My dad is dying.
He suffers from diabetes, failing liver; a failing heart and failure to ever be a father to me and my sister
All of his ailments are life threatening, they threaten my existence everyday as much as it does his.
I’ll tell you why in a bit.
My father, Thaththi as I call him was a fulltime policeman by profession who later took to practicing magic. As a magician, his disappearing act was so good I didn’t see him for 10 years after my mother passed away. Needless to say, he was way more skilled as a magician than he ever was as a policeman (or a father).
My mother, Ammi — as she was lovingly called — passed away when I was 7.
My memories of her are shrouded with images of beauty, kindness, much love and breast cancer.
The middle child in her family, she was my grandfather’s favourite, the envy of her siblings and the most kind hearted of all three sisters. Ammi worked as an accountant at a glove factory in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone.
For her, the promotions were coming fast, she was half way through her Chartered accounting exams and was the mother of two beautiful children. Ammi was loved by everyone who knew her. Everything about her was lovely. Everything in her life was perfect except for her husband’s cancer; the cancer that took his life long before she lost the battle to hers.
Her’s were in her breasts, his was in his soul.
I can’t be exactly sure when his began.
Maybe with the first sip allowed by his older brother, maybe a friend that urged him try out something new; a stolen gulp from his father’s bottle cabinet or a secret nip from the leftovers in the adult’s cups. Wherever it began it never stopped spreading.
It spread across his liver, his heart, his kidneys and eventually into his family, pushing the life out of my beautiful mother and his children.
I remember how he’d verbally abuse my mother, demanding she finance his next shot. How he used to come home drunk out of his senses and assault my mother; my cancer ridden mother: bald from chemo, one breast removed, in excruciating pain — demanding she give him money for his next shot.
Shots for a shot; I’m sure the irony was lost on him, while chasing after her as she weakly tried to hobble away from his violent blows.
After Ammi passed, Thaththi, eventually moved away to America, leaving me and my sister to be raised by my grandparents and my mother’s eldest sister.
We didn’t see him for 10 years.
When he did come back to us, years later, he came bearing gifts of severe diabetes, a failing liver and an almost comatose body. It didn’t take a genius to deduce that he never gave up the drink.
Back here in Sri Lanka, Thaththi managed to drink away his Dollars then having no way to finance his habit, he claimed my mother’s pension . The one Ammi had intended we spend on our higher higher education. The irony never stops: my mother was being forced to pay for his drinking even from the afterlife.
No. My father was not the cause of the cancer that eventually took my mother. He had a cancer that took him away from his family, and prevented him from being the husband he could have been to my mother and father he could have been to us. It killed my mother so many times, before she passed away…
Anyway, all of that is behind me.
I don’t speak to my father and I know I’m not like him in every way.
I know how to control my drinking.
I’ll never end up like him. Even though my friends warn me not to dabble in the poison that is killing him, I know I’m different. I am. I am.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself every time I take a shot of his favourite elixir…
I wonder if he ever told this to himself as he started his habit, all those years ago.
*Written on behalf of someone I know.