I lost my step-father yesterday. After a long illness that slowly weakened him, he passed away while recovering from a successful operation. His heart couldn't handle it. He felt that he had nothing left to live for yet in the end he had made peace with everyone and with God.
He came into my life when I was ten, a quiet presence. He allowed my mum to do the talking most of the time (she could talk for them both sometimes :) ) something that already spoke of his wisdom. He was an engineer, brilliant at mathematical concepts that I struggled with in high school. For me he was larger than life. I didn't seen him pass away when he became a shell of himself. It's better that way. I see him still as I saw him the last time. Healthy. Smiling. With a dry and sometimes wicked sense of humour.
My favourite memory of my step-father was from when my son was just two years old. It was lunchtime. My son loves spaghetti and always asked for the one that was sold by a popular fast food where we lived. At that time, my gran and my step-father were in the patio enjoying the sun and watching my son run around in my gran's garden and taking tiny flowers that he would then give my gran.
My gran would chuckle, amusement and fondness lighting up her barely wrinkled face (she was already 90 at that time).
My son would smile before running back to take more flowers to give to her from the garden.
My stepfather would grin, the amusement lighting up his eyes.
Anyway, the food arrived. My son abandoned his flower picking excursions and rushed to the kitchen to get picnic plates of different sizes, and different sized plastic glasses. A friend helped him get the unmatched plastic cutlery and my son set the table - a cute setting with the food in the centre of the low table. My step-father sat at the table with my gran and they watched my son eat until my son offered them the food he loved. When my step-father and my gran told my son that it was all for him, my son stood, took a little of the spaghetti on a fork and went to my gran to feed her. Next, he got my step-father's plastic fork and placed some on his plate from the container.
My gran laughed. My step-father's shoulder shook with mirth and he gave in.
My mum arrived to tell my step-dad and gran that lunch was being served in my gran's room. Since she was tiring, my gran was wheeled back to have her meal.
My step-father remained and had lunch with my son.
I will never forget him. He loved me and my sister in his own quiet, gentle but strong way. He gave us a roof over our heads gave me advice when I asked. A presence in my life even from afar. He was a man of few words, but those few words had a wealth of knowledge, of love, more than a paragraph or litany could say. I wish I had spoken with him more after moving to the UK.
We take the people we love for granted when they are alive and regret that we did when they are dead. We think that they will always be there, short of saying that they are immortal. Then when they leave, we ask, what happened?
My step-dad loved scotch and strawberries. I loved scotch because of him - when I pinched his Suntory Whisky when I was in uni. I haven't looked back since. We had plans to go to Scotland, to visit the distilleries and taste our way through the single malts. But money was tight so this never materialised.
So we did the next best thing. My husband, son, and I took out the Benromach, three shot glasses, and a bowl of strawberries. My step-father must have known something because it was really good. We clinked our glasses, down the scotch, and chased it with a bite off the strawberries.
To the best step-father in the world.