Then, there was the summer holidays. The one time he was made to babysit, he had put us (7 and 8 year olds) on our first ever flight, and by ourselves. By the time amma got back from grocery shopping, we were on our way to Calcutta.
Slightly older, at 8 or 9, I remember him taking Demonkid and me to school. We never once made it on time to the morning prayers. We spent the first hour of every school day standing outside the assembly hall for most of an hour. For five years.
Then, at 11 or 12, I had not seen him for over a month. When he came back, he looked a lot older than when he'd left, quieter, more grave. He handed me a bag and went to sleep. It was a boardgame I'd ordered him not to return without - LIFE. My mom told me later that it was the first thing he asked on getting out of the hospital. He had had a heart attack.
In later years, I remember him on the sidelines, seeing me trudge through colleges and jobs and boys and everything else. Never once telling me what to do. Even when I didn't go to the college he'd have liked for me. Or take up a profession he would have wanted. Or be with boys he approved of. He stood by quietly, through my tears and mistakes, only ever wanting one thing -- for me to be happy.
I always laughed at kids who were terrified of their fathers. I didn't think of mine like that. I think, neither did he. He treated us as adults, even when we were children. He let us burn our fingers and learn. He let us fly and all. Mostly, because he didn't know how to be a parent.
What he did know and like were friends. And so we were, him and me. But he was always the better one -- Always curious about the world. Always wanting to do something new. Always trusting than doubting. Always living in the now than worrying about the morrow.
But I didn't end up like him. I became my mother instead -- Cynical. Guarded. Reclusive. Risk-averse.
And now, I sit by him. In his chemo sessions. By his bedside. Willing him back to sleep as he wakes up breathless and panting every few minutes; still checking and double-checking PET scan results and experimental drug trials and median survival rates every night, feeling my jaded little heart crack every time I find out Stage IVs don't make it past a few months.
He has to. He just has to.
Because right now, I don't want friends. I want my dad.