Halley’s comet last appeared in 1986. My father, trained in mathematics, is fond of astronomy and woke up to see it in the middle of the night, a few nights in a row. Each night, before he went to bed he would say, “Raji, will you wake up to see it with me? It is a rare opportunity, only once every 76 years!” I said yes, fully intending to get up in the middle of the night, but wouldn’t stir when the time came.
The final night, he said with a laugh, “I am going to see it. You may see it again in 76 years, but I definitely won’t.”
He is now 84. His intellect is as sharp as ever, his memory formidable. He remembers everything: dates of birth of countless relatives, political events that transpired decades ago, twists in mythological tales.
His body has become more frail. He walks slowly with a cane. He is much more cautious in his movements. His comment about not being around to see Halley’s comet the next time was amusing at the time. Now, it makes me wistful.
It will appear again in 2061. I may not be around to see it, but it moves me more that he probably won’t. He has added so much to my world, after bringing me into it. His excitement at events both worldly and planetary is undiminished.
How will I handle his passing, I wonder. I am still getting used to the world without my mother.