Relative Relationship

One of my favourite pastimes is to look at old pictures, and allow myself to be transported back in time. Especially after losing my dad, I find a bittersweet solace in looking at photos of him, and imagining his voice and expressions.

It was on one of this expeditions down the path of nostalgia that I came across a folder of wedding photos. It was a second cousin’s wedding, on my mother’s side, and my parents and my mum’s sister had attended. I had forgotten the folder altogether, as it was hidden away in another folder called “to be sorted”.

When I did discover it, it was like finding treasure. There were many pictures of my dad, all dressed up and looking exactly as I remember him. I felt I could reach through and reclaim some of the micro interactions we had: him smoothing out my hair, twitching a shirt into place, me hooking an arm through his elbow, him putting an arm around my shoulders, us sharing one of our innumerable conspiratorial grins, and just generally finding comfort in each other’s presence. Of course, I shed a few tears, but overall I was ecstatic.

I zeroed in on a photo of my parents; a beautiful one taken by my aunt, with them seated side by side with the utmost ease that comes with 40 years of togetherness. My mum was looking into the camera, posing with her jewellery and smiling slightly. My father was placidly awaiting someone’s arrival, and was thus looking off in another direction. The photo reminded me of the sparkle that lilted in our hearts, as we loved and lived with each other.

I posted the photo to Facebook. I tagged my mother in the picture because Facebook suggested it, and I was far too lazy to do much else. Thus, all her friends could see the picture too.

The picture was inundated with likes, and garnered a few comments too. I got the usual condescending ones from people of my parents’ generation, advising me to “look after my mother” or exhorting me to “keep God in my heart”. I ignored these comments, because I don’t need to be reminded of what is essentially my life. I am used to this brand of bad manners, and laughed it off without a thought.

But then one comment took my breath away.

One of my mother’s cousins, someone we aren’t close to mind you, commented on the picture. She must have spoken to my mother about a handful of times in her life, and I would hazard that she never spoke to my dad at all. I would be hard pressed to remember if she ever met my dad, as a matter of fact. This lady comments: “Miss you .”

I am a kind soul, and I make a LOT of allowances for people’s inability to communicate, their difficulties in finding the right words of expression, and much else besides. What I cannot stomach is blatant hypocrisy. This lady was well aware that she had never spoken to my father, and yet chose to declaim on a public forum that she misses him? Misses him how exactly? Misses the concept of his existence? I cannot fathom it.

After my eyes bugged out, I laughed for a full minute. I called up my mum’s sister, because my mother was apathetic to her cousin’s behaviour, and waved it off like one would a mosquito. My aunt however shared my meltdown. She laughed at first, only to stop abruptly and say: “She didn’t even call to condole when we lost him! WTF is her deal?!”

My sentiments exactly.

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