A Family Secret

Sharing below a recent class assignment with the following prompt “Write about a secret, lie or mystery related to a person or place you know well (500-600 words).”

I could well have penned something related to most of you, my dear readers, but decided to be discreet and keep it about the immediate family – it’s a memory from 2016.

It was the first time we had concealed anything of significance from our daughters. Our family is closely knit and Gauri and I have been proud of the mature and open relationships we have fostered over the years as our little twin babies became adults. But that summer, it was to change.

It was the month of May, fast approaching a time of joy as the twins were to return to our empty nest from University for their first summer. Excitement was in the air and the house was being cleaned in preparation. Meg’s roommate at college, Elizabeth, was accompanying her to be our guest for a couple of weeks. Elizabeth was from Nashville, it was her first overseas flight and she had got her new Passport issued for this trip. They were flying in from LAX to Singapore on Saturday along with the twin sister, Maddie. 

In Singapore, I vividly remember that Friday afternoon in the doctor’s office. Dr Lim stood beside me and I heard his voice though did not fully digest the import of his words. Gauri and I were definitely in a daze. He put his hand firmly and supportively on my shoulder and gently said, “ Young man, you are taking the news bravely”. He had misread my emotions! I was reeling from the shock of his announcement – “The MRI and other test results clearly point to an advanced stage of Lymphoma.”

In a couple of hours, Gauri and I were evaluating and discussing immediate treatment which involved a combination of steroids and chemotherapy. Waiting in the Oncologist’s Reception, we tried to collect our thoughts, our lives overtaken by the whirlwind and a raging storm! We looked at each other with similar thoughts swirling in our heads “What do we tell the girls? They will be here in 48 hours. We cannot wipe the smiles from their faces.”

On early Monday morning, when we received the three girls at Changi Airport, they were chirping like little birds excited to be home, to introduce Elizabeth to us and show her their home city. They did not seem to notice the slightly tense, somewhat subdued welcome but did realize that I was not loading the bags in the car and that their mother took the driver’s seat. They showed quick concern over my “low viral fever” and lovingly threatened to exclude me from the fun time ahead unless I recovered immediately! Gauri and I glanced at each other, our hearts sinking but smiles affixed on our faces.

The next few days, Gauri and I would slip out of home to go to the hospital for more scans and treatment at the clinic. Ostensibly, we were going out for meetings and were trying to finish work while the girls recovered from their jet lag. It was a period through which I was constantly racked with guilt, as one lie led to another. I could not fulfil the promises to take the family for meals to our favorite joints, but encouraged the girls to go out and have a good time. Doubts were constantly gnawing at my soul with the sinking feeling that we were deceiving our loved ones, and would be exposed at some stage.

In blissful oblivion, the girls had a fun few weeks. The day after Elizabeth left for her home, the side-effects of my chemotherapy caused me to be admitted to the ER, and our secret tumbled out!

The twins at their High School Graduation (2015)

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