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     Volume 5 Issue 88 | March 31, 2006 |

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Family Weekend

Munize M Khasru

Not a weekend goes by that I don't remember you.

Why are weekends always this hard? You'd think after 8 years, I would be used to your absence. But then, I did spend 52 of my 80 years with you. So what is 8 years of absence after 52 years of presence? Blink of an eye.

People think now that I am an octogenarian I must spend all my free time reminiscing of the past. But they're wrong. I spend most of my free time thinking of the present and wanting, so badly, to share the moments with you.

I see our daughter Shaheen running circles around her children. You only saw the birth of the first one Nadia. She had a second child three years ago. A real 'bombai morich' of a girl named Mahia. Sometimes when she smiles, a small dimple sets into her left cheek. So much like your dimple. You would have loved this little one. Full of questions. Most of which she answers herself, by the way! Can't get a word in edgewise. When she sits on her little mora in the veranda with me and chatters away, I can almost see you next to me in your reclining chair, saying "Oh really? Tai naki?" at intervals to her.

But as it is, today it's me alone in the veranda trying to keep pace with this little one's mind.

Our son Shahzad is still living in America. Pursuing the golden dream, whatever that may be. He finally married that American girlfriend of his, after much <>dhanai panai<>. Am I disappointed? I was initially. Which mother wouldn't like a nice bangali bouma? But then I thought of you. And I realised if you were around, you would have said "Let it be. It's his life. We've had our turn. Let him have his." So I didn't say anything. They came to Dhaka right after they got married. I hosted a modest reception for them. Actually, I liked Diane. She's pleasant company. And she seems to have a good head on her shoulders, which is something Shehzad could learn about. Him, with all his get-rich-quick schemes.

He's been after me to sell our home. "Give it to the developers Amma. Be practical, Amma. You can live in one of the flats and have an income from the rent of the other flats." Right. And of course the next move would be to get the property divided up between him and his siblings. Can you imagine he had the gall to suggest I tear down the house where he grew up? Is this really the boy who would wrap himself around my arm when he slept at night? He went to America with all our dreams and hopes. But now the only dream that he wants to fulfill is his own.

That's why when I see Shariar feverishly working on his USA college applications, my heart trembles. Will I lose this son too? Will he want to return to his home? To me? Or will he, like his brother, only visit when I am very ill? Or perhaps they will return only to bury me. Like Shahzad did with you. What a wasted ticket! Why come to see a dead body when you couldn't have been bothered to see the live person?

I sound like a bitter old woman. Well, I guess I am. But not in the way others think. I'm bitter because I hate that I should be dependent on anyone. I hate that anyone should think of me as needy. My body is getting weaker but the heart still has strength to feel. Remember our pact that we would depend only on each other? That we would need just each other? I still need you.

These were supposed to be our golden days when we would do all the things we never had time to do. We were supposed to roam the country together. Instead I roam the rooms at night.

And I sit in your study and wonder what you would think of today's news. How you would smile upon seeing new flowers growing in our garden.

On Friday lunches with Shariar, Shaheen, her husband and the children, your chair seems particularly bereft. We laugh and joke and have a nice time. But amongst all that laughter, my ears still miss your laugh.

And then they leave and I'm alone, tidying up the cushions the children have thrown helter-skelter. And my eyes will fall on that photo of us. And I'll miss seeing you snooze in front of the television. Your after-Friday lunch-snooze.

For me, all the noise in the world can't supersede the echo of your presence.

All the silence in the world can't erase the resonance of your existence.

Thus, on weekends, when every family should be together, I keep returning to you in my mind. I think of all the days we had together. And all the days we should have had but never did. On weekends, I too spend time with my family. Near and far.

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