Category B: Highly Commended (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition
Author: Ananya Puranam Sivam
Title: Life without you
It has been a while since I last wrote, 18 years in fact, 18 long and painful years without you. The last time I wrote to you was at the start of Grade 8 when I wanted to make sure you knew that I remembered you. I do not really know why I’m writing to you again after all these years but the other day on the 1st of August, on what should have been your 65th birthday, I spent some time looking at our old family photographs. When I saw those old photos, it was almost like time had stilled, each individual photo was a time capsule of my childhood and all the memories I made with you growing up. Every time my eyes landed on a different photo it was as if I had been transported to that exact moment in the past, where I could feel your warmth radiating from you and travelling onto me, hear your infectious laughter and Ma yelling at us to be careful and see you alive before my very own eyes. I wish you were here with me to look back and laugh at those photos and I wish you were here so we could capture more.
Life right now is as great as it can be. I have a compassionate, funny, and kind-hearted husband named Kai and 6-year-old son named Sean. They have heard lots about you, only good things of course. I wish you could meet them. You would love them. As I watch Sean grow up, I cannot help but compare him to you. Though he is still young, I find a little piece of you in everything he does, the way he cares for others, his unconditional love and even in his hugs. I hope he continues to become a man like you, a man who is playful, thoughtful, loving, and respectful.
We have a small house in Oakleigh, near the souvlaki shop you always loved. Having a home of my own is a strange feeling and picking up Sean from school is one the things I love most about life right now. Not a single Friday goes by when I don’t think back to our Friday evenings when you would pick me up from school and we would slowly walk back to the house. Every time we strolled past the local fish and chips shop, I would stop to look straight up at you, doe eyed and smiling, you would look at me and laugh and then take me into the shop to buy whatever I felt like eating on that particular day. My son does that too now, when we pass the local Milk bar and of course, like you, I give in to his big eyes and his cheeky smirk every single time.
On another note, I thought you might be excited at the prospect of us getting a dog soon. I can’t help but smile thinking back on the days when we would scheme together and attempt to persuade Ma to allow us to buy a dog, the letters we wrote and the speeches we made are things I often recount to Sean. I cannot wait to see Sean grow up with a companion that I never had the chance to have in my childhood, but I must admit Ma was right, considering my track record for being responsible, I would’ve never have been able to take care of a dog at such a young age. Speaking of Ma, she is doing well, she is healthy, happy and keeps herself with busy anything she can find. This includes but is not limited to reading, yoga and of course her usual antics of making any recipe that she finds on the internet. Ma still lives in our home in Caulfield, I visit her 2 or 3 times a week with Sean and every now and then I leave him there in Ma’s care to keep her company. Like me she misses you much more than she lets on, but I guess we’ve all grown to accept reality.
I would give anything to go back to those days, where you were always within arm’s reach, the days when you played with me for hours just to make me smile. I know time travel is not humanely possible (at the moment, who knows with technology these days) but if it were, I would go back in time just to relive it all again. My heart aches when I think about what could have been if things went differently, if life had unravelled the way it did, if you never left work late that night or if the driver of the other car never decided to go out in the first place, but I think I have come to realise that everything in this estranged world happens for a reason. All these ‘what ifs’ must remain ‘what ifs’ because this is the life we was destined to live, and I am privileged enough to have memories to remember you by that I can cherish throughout my life. Wherever you are, I miss you and I love you.
Happy Birthday Pa!
Your one and only,
P.S. While this letter ends here, I will continue to write you more to keep you updated.