On every journey I take (no kidding – even a walk down the road), I encounter a… problem. You can always bet that I’ll be embarrassed as soon as I step outside my front door. But hey, the fleeting moments of pure humiliation make for good stories.
But these are not the kind of stories I’m going to tell here (I know, sorry). Instead, I’m going to share with you a journey that introduced emotions to me deeper than the sensation of heated cheeks.
I was nine years old. The age where my biggest worry amounted to which toy I should play with next. We were going on a “holiday” to Turkey for the summer! Yay. I couldn’t exactly match the word “holiday” to being stuck in a room with my extended family on top of the usual load for three months straight year after year (literally). So I focused on the plane rides. This year’s ride was the best. I imagined I was really going to an exotic country whose name I couldn’t pronounce, or, if my imagination could stretch far enough, a city in Turkey other than the usual Bursa. My sisters and I played cards, watch films – like I said, it was a good trip.
My dad couldn’t join us on holidays for business reasons, so imagine our delight when we found him hiding under the bed covers in my mother’s room one morning: “Surprise!” The lavish breakfast prepared by my grandmother was awe-inspiring. We had peaches dripping in nectar; peach juice; peach jam; berry jam; fig jam! Rose jam! Warm and crunchy simit bread; soft and oozing tahini bread; chewy and salty olive bread; fresh loaf bread; achma bread; slightly weird egg-filled bread – you get the picture. I didn’t take much notice of my dad that morning (I didn’t take much notice of anything but the bread), but I can imagine what it was like for him. He probably managed a smiling thank-you to his mother, forced a weak laugh on cue, and painfully swallowed too-big chunks of bread down his dry throat. I cringe remembering how chirpy I was that morning, how I laughed with ease in front of him – all because I didn’t know.
After breakfast we moved to the balcony for our routine chai. Oh my, you had to see this balcony: spacious with cute white tiles and dainty detailing on the rails. The balcony overlooked the chicken-laden back garden. I sat opposite my dad with my back towards the scenery. Why did I always get the bad seats? Now, there’s something you have to understand about my relationship with dad. While I was no daddy’s little girl, I believed my dad was a real life superhero. Ask him anything and he’ll know the answer to it, promise. He was so strong that he could lift both my big sister and me at the same time!
The question still rings clear in my ears, “are you going down to the graveyard today?” What? I was confused. The question was directed at my dad and I stared at him eagerly, waiting for him to amaze everyone with his answer to the nonsensical question. But it was not his mouth that did the talking – it were his eyes. He looked over to the garden with his hand on his face. His eyes were soft and tender, his mouth a harsh line. It seemed like forever had past, and then we witnessed his eyes welling up. He held it there for as long as he could, and then: slip. A tear came out of his eye. A tear? My dad could cry? To my horror he started to sob, his strong body collapsing right before me.
I learnt three things on that journey: one, my grandfather had died (how could I have not guessed?); two, my father could feel pain; and three, no amount of my kisses could change that. Ever since, I promised myself never to travel to the same place twice in a row again. That journey pushed me to follow through with my imagined plane destinations, because, I just can’t bear going back to Bursa.