Rohit's Realm

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April 25, 2003


My grandfather passed away yesterday. He was 84 years old. I got a phone call last night around 10 p.m. My dad broke the news to me immediately. I couldn't say anything for a moment. I didn't really know how to respond. I was definitely not expecting anything like that. I didn't even know he was sick. I guess being out here in Berkeley really cuts me out of the loop on a lot of stuff. My dad was speaking very calmly—too calmly. I didn't know how to respond to that either. The conversation was filled with long bouts of silence.

I tried to remember the last time I had seen my grandfather. It was over a year ago, when he was staying with my parents. Our time together was brief, as my grandparents went back to India about the time I got home from college. I remember even then, my dad asking me to spend time at home. He mentioned that I couldn't be sure when would be the next time I saw him. In retrospect, I'm really glad I decided to listen to my dad. I guess in some ways, this wasn't unexpected. My grandfather had emphysema, a disease he acquired as a result of years of smoking. We were close when I was a kid, but he lived in India and I didn't see him too often. Still, I remember spending time with him when I was younger when he visited for a few months at a time. Of all the times though, I think my most vivid memory is seeing him for the first time after he was diagnosed and deciding right then and there never, ever to become a smoker. Looking at what he went through, what my grandmother went through, and what my dad is going through now, I can't think of any worse vice than smoking.

It's very strange. Sitting here in Berkeley, it all feels unreal to me. I have no tangible, ever present reminder, and thus it makes me feel detached. If I don't think about it, I don't remember. It's as though it didn't happen. My dad expressed the same sentiment yesterday, saying he was so far away, it hasn't even sunk in yet. Distance presents a significant barrier, that neither blood nor technology can really overcome.

At one point during the conversation, I felt sort of choked up, more in feeling what my dad was going through than out of sadness but it passed and was gone. I haven't cried in years. In fact, I can't remember the last time I cried. Must have been when I was less than eight years old though. I remember when I was a little kid, three or four, and I scraped up myself pretty badly, and was bleeding a lot. My mom kept saying, You know, you can cry if you want—it's OK. But I wouldn't or couldn't cry. I felt the same way yesterday. I couldn't cry. I guess I don't know how. I don't cry and that's that. I haven't shed a tear in years, and if death can't make me, I don't know what can.

Everyone had been saying for a few months now that it was expected. That death was near. Everyone was mentally preparing themselves. My grandfather had been prepared for a long time. He told me once that he had seen and done all that he wanted to see and do. Eighty-four years is a long time. In the end, all this talk and all this mental preparation is futile I think. No matter how expected it is, it's still a surprise. And while I completely understand that all lives must eventually end, and am not really having trouble dealing with it, in some ways I think we make an effort to trivialize death so we can better deal with it and move on. I'm not sure this is the right course of action. Death is still a very significant event, regardless of how sudden or how expected, and I have no intention of treating it as anything but that. Anything less would be disrespectful.


Hey--Its hard, I lost my dad a few months ago and its still hard...From my experiences its been easier when I've been around my family--even though we were all upset, it was still nice to be around people you could grieve with. I hope things get better--let me know if you need to get out of anything for CalSO--I'll work my magic.

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