We ended on an abrupt note. It was one phone call early Sunday morning. Seven am at my end, late evening at his. He first dialed my cousin, who, deep in slumber, refused to reach out for her phone. He hoped to fare a little better with me. I mumbled some gibberish, taking a minute to recognize the voice at the other end. He was a little annoyed, but in a nice caring sort of way. Gruffly he said, “It’s time you girls learnt to get up at a decent hour.” I could only sneak in a sliver of an apology. He asked the perfunctory questions; was it cold, what progress with my culinary skills, etc. We both were aware that the answers didn’t really matter. He was only making small talk with me to fill up the silences, a skill he had mastered over the years. He just needed to hear my voice, and maybe, I, his. The content of our conversations was irrelevant. We hung up soon after exchanging some pleasantries.
Three days later, the parents informed me that he was back in the hospital with a relapse. There was little emotion in their voices. It was almost as if we had mentally prepared ourselves for this episode.
A week later, my parents were at his bedside to pay their last respects. “I never got a chance to say goodbye,” I lamented. The mother reasoned with me that I had probably said the best goodbye ever, over a casual seven am call on a Sunday morning.