She used to say that to me all the time. And I used to wonder why it was necessary for me to be wild and excited about anything; everything was o dull and mundane. Stars in her eyes did not justify calling the world gorgeous, right?
A rainbow, a puppy cuddled in the centre of the street, a flowerbud - all these silly events had her ooh-ing and aah-ing no end.
Like the other day, she made me stop on the narrow bridge because she wanted to watch the sun setting on the horizon. I mean, a bridge, of all places? Couldn't her valuable viewing have permitted a few more seconds to ride a few more metres? We stood there like fools, she blissfully lost in the scenery, and me shamefully aware of all the hooting people and honking vehicles. When she finally allowed me to move over, I was literally in tears with anger, embarassment and irritation.
But I could not say a word to reprimand her.
A man without hope has little else, they say. But the doctors had not considered that when they stripped me of all assurances and prayers.
Agatha had a congenital condition that had no cure or treatment.
After multiple visits to the hospital, the doctor told me in not so vague terms that there was no point in wasting his or my time - there was nothing anyone could do for Agatha. All I could do now was to ensure that every breath Agatha took was special.
She had few left.
Time passed, and Agatha turned 6. It was time for all kids her age to go to school. Grade 1 beckoned and Agatha was animated like never before. She wanted to learn to read and write and spell.
We had home-schooled her for the last 2 years, and though she got tired easily, her enthusiasm never dipped. I was frankly against her joining a regular school, and quoted all the reasons and excuses possible for her to give up the thought. After our fifth discussion in 3 days on the topic, she calmly said to me, "You dont want me to be away from you, and that's why you are asking me to stay home".
I hadn't admitted that to anybody aloud, not even myself, and here she was, aware of my guilty secret all along.
I could neither accept it nor deny it, so I did the next best thing. I walked away.
"So, will you get me enrolled in school?"
"We'll see. I'll ask the doctor tomorrow."
"He said yes. I called him last evening."
"Hmm. Guess you're old and smart enough to know what's right for you. So okay, take Grandma along and get yourself enrolled."
"Can you go with me? Granny can't speak English too well, and they interview the ward's guardians."
Someone had done her research.
She wouldn't give up...
"Can we make that 5 pm? The school office shuts at 6."
"Thanks Papa. I love you."
And there went my resolve to be angry with her.
2 years later when she passed away, I couldn't say that I was surprised one bit. Not by the timing, not by the enormous turnover at her funeral, not by even the detachment with which I handed over all her toys and possessions to the orphanage as she had firmly instructed me to.
"You don't need those things around you to remind you of me. I know you will never forget me, even if I ask you to. Besides, the children at the orphanage sure need these things more than anybody else."
Even now, after 8 months, when I look at the routine phenomena that Agatha would have found wondrous, a tear escapes my eye. And I don't attempt to wipe it.
That's one thing she never wanted us to do... Hide what we truly thought or felt, appreciated or wanted.
I have hidden it, time and again. For reasons kind and mean. We all have to. But I try not to.
Are YOU brave enough to express yourself? Or do you cower and follow the pack, too scared to have an independent opinion or voice?
Agatha taught me that... Do you want an Agatha in your life to leave you with that lesson??