But of course, when it does, it still hits you hard.
This weekend, I found out from my Mom that she has been asked to clear my Dad’s stuff from his old office. Yes, I know, it has been more than a year and a half. I understand the practical reasons why it should be done, how the office was never really his to begin with, how space must be created for new blood that is being injected into the Department. But somehow the sheer rationality of the event fails to trickle down to a heart still decidedly un-whole.
His office, which he held for more than 15 years, will, come the next couple of months, really, truly be no longer his.
Rain or shine, week day or weekend, he was sure to spend at least a couple of hours within its hallowed walls to check exams or term papers, fine tune his lesson plan, or simply to read up. Students knew of this and a lot of them did not hesitate to take up the opportunity of speaking to him, seeking his advice whenever they needed it.
I still remember visiting him in his office while I was in high school, in college, and later on, in residency. A lot of the time being the only one in his office, the main gate would be locked, so I would have to knock on his window. There he would be, sitting at his desk. He would look up with surprise, and smile…
In my mind’s eye, I still see in his office the myriads of term papers his students have submitted over the years, each one read and graded carefully, never having the heart to discard his students’ labors of love. His books line every nook and cranny of this little corner, with topics as diverse and far-ranging as Homer’s Iliad, Pharmacology (my Med school book which I had given up for lost), Immunology, Neurology, computer programming, history books, even the occasional religious books his well-meaning students have given him over the years. On his desk sits the desktop computer he had my brother upgrade for him shortly before his passing after his beloved 386 IBM finally stopped working. A few of his hats and caps hang neatly on the wall behind the door — his one small vanity in the latter part of his life. Beside these are tools and instruments I would later learn he had his students use when they constructed Skinner boxes in laboratory class. Against the far wall sits a wooden bench he would occasionally rest his head against, the soft cushion still lying neatly on one corner. A pair of Calvin Klein loafers rests beneath the bench, worn but once to humor this child, and never to be worn again. And on the side desk, a carefully crafted collage of pictures of our family, now permanently stuck to the protective glass covering them, photographs of a family that will never be complete again.
Come the next couple of months, the office that once was his, the last remaining corner of his life as a Professor in U.P., will no longer be. And while the reasons remain practical, rational and understandable; while the task decidedly must be done sooner or later; while the details and images of his office will nonetheless remain indelibly etched in my mind for as long as I exist, the heart breaks into a million pieces yet again.