Every time the phone rings at odd hours, or if the caller ID showed a number from India or even an “Out of Area”…Hubby and me get nervous when we take the call. Holding our hearts in our mouth, we wait to hear a happy sound come from the other end of the phone. Our parents, live alone in India. Its such a difficult situation that we have no way to resolve. They are staying where they are, by choice. They don’t feel at home living with us, in another country, away from their place of birth and comfort. They are happy to be in their own neighborhood, even if it means staying away from family across oceans. I’m sure, they wish to be with their children and grandchildren but, we first generation immigrants have no choice but to endure this truth of our lives.
Our parents had wished us to have a good life and a successful career. They had seen great prospect in their children’s life when they had sent us here to achieve bigger goals, to reach higher. We had done our part of achieving and had settled down in our careers as we created our family here. But, in that time..even they had grown older..to the point that its not feasible for them to take care of themselves now. Completely engrossed in our careers and working hard to make our family’s function, we live with this discomforting, nagging feeling in our hearts..reminding us that our parents are alone back home.
It is during this time that they need our company and support more than any time of their lives. Most times..with no family around, and their bodies not as strong as it used to be even a few years ago..life, I know, is difficult for them. The only silver lining for Hubby and Me, is that they have close relatives who live around them, who we could turn to, in case they would need emergency care.
In the community we live, most of us neighbors are in the stage of life..where, every now and then..we find somebody mourning the lose of a parent or, have to make emergency trips to India, to be at the side of an ailing parent. Such moments, as difficult as they are…need immediate decisions to be made. When a parent gets ill, or, has been so for sometime, and the condition takes a turn for the worse..its not like we have the luxury to take off from work and family, for long periods of time to be there for our parents, for their support, to be with them, in this last stage of their life.
Even the rest of the family suffers. The kids miss the parent as he/she has to decide to leave home to be there for their parents. When I had made the decision to go to India, I was a working mom with triplet toddlers. I knew that my father health was in a bad state. That he wouldn’t be able to survive his condition further. But, I didn’t know for how long. Each passing day, that I didn’t leave could become a reason that I don’t get to see him or talk to him forever.
Just to even tell him that I loved him so much..maybe just for one last time. To let him know, how proud I was of being his daughter..that, he’d been such a great father, such a motivation for me..in everything I did. I am sure he had felt very much to meet me too. He had been sick for some time and his condition had only gotten worse everyday.
At the time, luckily, my brother got the benefit, to temporarily change his work center to Hyd, where my parents lived. Still, he had his wife and kids, living in another city, who could not move temporarily because of all the things that tie us to a place, the home, the schools the kids attend, the timing and lot more situations that make themselves known, only when faced with it.
I know, it had been a very tough time for him and his family and my parents too. He, torn between being absent from his home and also, be there for my parents. For my parents, scared of his absence during the weekends, when he left to be with his family in Bengaluru.
By the time I made up my mind and left to India, to meet him…he had already passed away the night before I reached my home. I never got to even hold his hand and give him the comfort of my presence. He had known, that I was coming. When I saw him, I saw him lying in a freezer, the very thing he had detested..that cold feeling. He had hated it. He had hated feeling cold. But, it was a decision that was made so that all his kids could be with him to take him on his final voyage.
From my mom’s accounts, it had been the most painful day of their lives. It had been a weekend, my brother had left to be with his family and my father’s condition took a turn for the worse…my father writhing in pain from his condition and my mom helpless, unable to provide him any relief and not having anybody to turn to for help. When his condition got worse, as he groaned in pain..she called the hospital for help. It was the dead of night. I had still taken them 2 hours to reach the hospital.
By morning, he had passed away. The hospital, so callous and reckless, didn’t even consider it necessary to inform my waiting mom that he was no more. This is how much empathy one can expect from the people working in a hospital in India. They see all this pain and suffering, so much everyday that they have become immune to such feelings, I think. The hospitals are always so full, there is no time for anybody to work on the empathy part, to encourage or demand their employees to show some basic respect to the patients family. They had not even cared to close his eyes…when my mom walked inside the room, to check what’s happening to him..since nobody was interested in answering to her about his condition.
As I read in a leading daily today….that if an adult kid is around 40 and/or the parent around 70, then it was time to start the Mom, Dad talk. The talk that most parents hate to hear and we kids feel so awkward to suggest, to take residence in an old age home. This is the way of life here in the USA, where we now reside. Mostly children are packed off once they reach college to fend for themselves and in turn, when children have grown up to have their own jobs, become married and have their own families, the parents never consider living with their kids..They would surely visit them on family gatherings, if they are mobile enough.
Coming from an Indian culture, this way of life is not the way we are used to. Its always had been the practice that the parents were part of their son’s family and continue to stay with them till they depart from this world. Some homes even follow the custom of passing every big decision by their parents for their consent. So, in India, old age homes are not as prevalent as in this country. Even, during the recent times..when so many people are coming to the USA, or moving to other places within the country, in the hope of seeing their career’s flourish. They are leaving behind, a big population of old helpless parents, to fend for themselves without a support system that would take care of their old parents. Even provide them with the facility of providing maids to clean their homes, cook their meals, and medical and nursing facility, if they need help.
As I thought about my Hubby’s parents and my Mom, I was shocked, as well as pleased, to hear the triplets mention their concern for their grandparents. How much they missed being with them and having them around. How much they worried for their grandparents safety and health.
This talk then, led me to recount my escapades with my grandma. That she was blind and used to feel me from top to bottom with her hands touching me at odd spots sometimes,…even to the point of putting her fingers into my nostrils and my mouth and ears etc…to know how big my ears were, or, how wide my nostril had become, or, how many more teeth I have grown and how I was changing physically, as I grew up.
My triplets, had loved to hear about her. They had wanted to know more about her and wanted me to continue talking about her. Then they asked to see her picture, if I had any. I luckily found the only picture I had of my grandma…and as soon as I found it..P took it away. Today, She took it with her, to school to proudly showed off her blind great grandma to her friends at school.
There she is in the center, flanked by her grandkids and daughter in laws. Never let us kids even feel bad for her condition. She was so natural and content in spite of her condition. Posed for pictures very proudly.
The first thing my kids said when they saw this pic was,
“What’s with that funny hair mama?”
I let them know, that I didn’t have the luxury to own lengthy hair..until we were big enough to maintain it well. A rule, I’m so lenient with them…A privilege I so willingly give them.