I grew up knowing my father as a strong person who could provide me support and quite acceptance. However, whether due to his or my own communication blocks, we could never really come to intimate terms. A quite mutual respect and admiration for each other was the closest thing I had in common with him.
Dad was inspired to study Gita early on when I had presented him Chinmaya's Gita as a birthday gift. Till then his interest was only in dramatics and he and my mother participated in the Kannada theater in Bombay. He joined our youth group for weekly forays to Powai Ashram and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for Swami Dayananda's lectures. We 10+ youngsters packed into his Ambassador and had a great time. He joined me in Rishikesh for 3 months during his vairagya period and had to be coaxed back to bombay by my mother and the rest of us. His streak of reclusiveness kept reoccuring but his attachment for family always brought him back.
He was a very duty bound person with strong sense of seva. He went out of his way to help people physically, financially, and every which way. His clients remember him for personal equation that he had with each of them. He was more part of their family than an outsider. His depended only on his insurance commission for his savings and retirement and managed to keep the large extended family together.
The only thing I missed in him was the empathetic touch. He provided for the family but had difficulty meeting their emotional needs. Even when he began teaching Vedanta, emotions were more a matter of overcoming rather than accepting. His comfort level was only when he was engaged in some or the other activity or when he was teaching. He found it difficult to accept himself as he was. He was upset that he could not withstand the pain he suffered in his last days by becoming a witness to pain. His rigid view of Vedanta made it difficult for him to accept that pain is part of living that cannot be wished away.
I wish I could have found some way to get through his rigid interpretation of Vedanta. I encouraged him to go to camps in Rishikesh and Coimbatore to study with Swami Dayananda. While that helped him a great deal, he could never really reconcile to the idea that one could be vulnerable to pain and emotions and still be a Vedantin. I only wish that wherever he is, he gets to accept himself as he is without the need to be perfectly immune to pain and emotions.
I have inherited many of his traits - trying to be strong and immune being one of them. I guess my dad's last days were a lesson to me to ease up and stop trying to be super human. It is difficult to overcome lifelong habits, but what the heck, that is what long life is for, isn't it?