“Promise me you’ll remarry–I want our Zoey to have a mother.”
“Last month, on my birthday, my wife said to me–‘Take me out on a date one last time.’ We drove around, had sandwiches and idlis at her favourite restaurant–all the while she was on a glucose drip; her cancer was in the final stage.
While eating, she said, ‘Promise me you’ll remarry–I want our Zoey to have a mother.’ I retorted, ‘I can’t even think of replacing you.’ Unstirred, she went on, ‘And no matter how busy you get, our daughter should always be your first priority.’
2 weeks later, she succumbed. But she gave me a motive to carry on–our Zoey. So, an hour after my wife’s cremation ceremony, I was at the park with Zoey! As soon as Zoey saw me, she ran towards me and hugged me tightly–her hug was all I needed to pull me out of despair.
The last time Zoey had met her mother was a month ago–I still remember the day I sent her to her Dadi’s place, she had cried so much. But now, she had gotten used to not seeing her Mom around.
The very next day, I took on all of Zoey’s responsibilities–be it braiding her hair or feeding her lunch. Zoey was only used to her Mumma washing her hair, so for a month, she’d refused to take a hair bath. So, I sang her songs and distracted her with her favorite toys until she voluntarily stepped in for a bath.
At night, I’d tell her bedtime stories and count backwards from 100 to put her to sleep. Sometimes, Zoey would wake up in the middle of the night and if she didn’t find me around, she’d start crying. I’d be with Zoey all day so I do a lot of my work at night. But if she ever woke up, I’d pause my client call and run to her.
Once, while we were at the park two weeks later, Zoey spotted a cat and said, ‘Look Papa, that cat lost his mother.’ I was stunned–until then, I’d thought that Zoey had forgotten her Mom but now, I realised that Zoey was still looking for answers. Then on, she started asking me, ‘Papa, have you seen Mumma?’ and I’d say, ‘I haven't, darling.’ Then, she’d say, ‘I think Mumma is hiding!’ as if trying to reassure herself. I know she misses her mother a lot but I don’t know how to break the news to her–Zoey is barely 4 years old.
So I diverted her attention–we played doctor-doctor, I taught her how to fly a kite and gradually, she stopped looking for her mom. But just 2 days ago, when one of her friends asked her where her mom was, she said, ‘Mumma has gone shopping.’ I felt so helpless; that night, I cried myself to sleep.
I know that I have to tell Zoey the truth someday but for now, I can’t break her heart; she’s just too young. But when she gets a little older, I’ll definitely talk to Zoey about her mother–I’ll tell her how she was a fighter, how she loved her beyond words… and that every time she smiles, she looks just like her Mumma.”