This past Saturday, a day off for all students and instructors, I took myself on a breakfast date. I woke up early, the streets of Patan sleepily coming to life. I walked to a nearby cafe that serves an overflowing plate of delicious food. Literally overflowing as the toast and cheese sort of hang off the plate because there isn’t enough room for them to stay firmly on.
At home, on Sunday mornings, my family and I have what we call a “handsome breakfast”. My wonderfully amazing mother always asks what kind of eggs we’ll have, but we always say sunny side up. The entire meal is made by her, we just lay the table. There are sausages and bacon, fried onions and tomatoes, potato wedges, warm toasts, baked beans, cheese, marmite and hot cups of tea or coffee. We eat handsomely and talk about the week, our lives and whatever ridiculous thing has happened in India that day. My parents read about seven newspapers cover to cover everyday, so mostly it’s just my sister and I listening to them, nodding and vaguely participating. But mostly we’re just trying to keep up.
As I sat at this cafe, alone, without marmite or the company of my parents, I realised how much I miss them. There was an older British couple sitting on another table, eating breakfast and quietly reading newspapers. They reminded me so much of my parents and how they interact with each other — gently and effortlessly.
As the man left to start his day, perhaps go and meet some friends, they exchanged a few words and then kissed each other — something my parents never fail to do before leaving each other to go anywhere at all. I grew up watching this sweet, quick, tiny kiss and wondering if I would ever have that — an act that said, “Hi. I see you. I’ll miss you when I’m gone. I’ll see you soon.”
This intimate moment in this quiet cafe was broken by a loud and alarming sneeze. It came from me.
As often happens on course, I seem to have caught a terrible cold and cough this week. One of those situations where you can’t breath through your nose or swallow effectively. There was a day I was feeling particularly bad, one of those days where nothing seems to go right and at one point I just sat down in my room and cried (pretty difficult as I couldn’t swallow or breath). Charming.
I wanted nothing more than the comfort of my mother, for her to make me some soup and bring me a pot of hot water with Vicks so I could do a steam inhalation, for my father to come into my room and cover me with a blanket and tell me to rest. I’m 30 years old so perhaps it’s ridiculous that I still seek this comfort. But I think we all do.
I avoided calling my parents in the thick of my illness, because they would have heard it in my voice and needlessly worried, as they still do. So I called them as I was getting better, the day after I witnessed the sweet English couple as I ate a solo handsome breakfast. My dad definitely worries more than my mom, the kind of concern you can hear through the phone. I don’t like to admit it, but I need their concern, their care, their love.
I went to boarding school when I was eight and one or both my parents have always come to the airport to pick me up upon my return. This tradition continues even today, when I go home after a course comes to an end. I am overjoyed at the promise of their smiling faces, waving to me as I try to walk faster toward them. I then awkwardly try and hug them with my big backpack still on. (Don’t worry parents, you’ll experience this soon:)) And then, even more awkwardly I bend over and touch their feet, an act of respect. I receive blessings in return, but I touch their feet out of deep respect and gratitude for everything they do for me, gladly and without complaint. I am not always able to show or tell them how much I love them and miss them when I am away. I hope they somehow know.
To any parent reading this — you are missed. Even when your children don’t keep in touch, forget to send birthday cards, seem ungrateful or unempathetic, they still miss you. They still need you. And they will all have moments like I did on Saturday, where they will miss you something crazy, and they’ll put love and gratitude into the universe for you. Or they’ll call you.