In the past couple of months, some friends of mine have lost their parents. A couple of them have parents diagnosed with terminal illnesses. The difficult and painful conversations I had with them left me in a melancholy and a soul searching mood.
The stories I tell are a reflection of our times and also question how and who really benefits from the disintegration of joint/extended families. The oft used phrase thanks to opening economies and globalization " The world is a small place" seems to be true for us, the generation X, but for our parents it means a lonely old age, with visits to children and grandchildren, the frequency of which depends on distance, budgets, schedules and willingness mostly of the super busy children.
Since we are dashing off from one goal to the other and planning and micro planning for a future over which we do not have any control really, we hardly have any time to pause and think. The slightly numb, over achieving, more or less self absorbed generation that we are , we need something drastic to move us and get our attention. Though we are also a people with some or the other kind of attention disorder and whatever stops us and encourages self introspection and possibly regret followed by change, is also not gauranteed our fullest and sustained focus. We will surely flit to another more pressing concern and paint a coat of "justifications", "logicality", "practicality" over our selfish acts.
Anyways here are some of the events which gnaw at me........
'A' lives in UK, far away from her parents who reside in India. She suddenly gets a call informing her that her father has taken seriously ill. En route to India she finds out he has had a brain heomaarege and is in a coma. He it seems and so she believes, is hanging on to his life only to allow her to see him 'alive' once, before he departs this earthly abode. He passes away some hours after her arrival.I feel, even in his dying moments, he is the quintessential parent worried more about the child than himself.
She is tortured by the fact that she used to get to see her parents only after a year and a half. And every visit she felt that that they had aged years and looked different from the last visit. With dread I admit, I too, completely relate with this feeling.
'K' and his sister 'B' lived in the same country, India, as their parents, but in different cities. Both lead busy lives and regularly visit their parents. Yet they somehow were not present when their mother had a pacemaker installed. She is about to visit 'K' next month,who is expecting his second child. She has a massive heart attack and passes away on Friday night. 'K' and 'B' could reach only on saturday morning. Their father spends the night alone in the hospital with his spouse of over 40 years lying dead on a cold steel bed. 'B' cries and so do I along with her that her departed mother had requested that they keep their leaves intact because she really wanted her children to be with her when she got her pacemaker replaced in December. The mother confesses, hated being alone the first time around. 'B' sobs heartbreakingly and says "we are useless, we left her alone". And I cry with her knowing the same holds true for me.
'R' and 'M' are wracked with guilt because their mothers underwent chemotherapy and recovered after an accident respectively and did it alone. Both 'R' and 'M' have been blessed with great extended families who rallied around their mothers but the bottomline remains that the children were absent. 'R' and 'M' have trouble meeting the eyes of these dear family members who care for their mothers but who also are a constant reminder of who and what they substitute for.
In a world where parents are loudly and self righteously blamed for psychologically and emotionally, scarring children by a variety of methods...abuse and neglect being primary, why is there no fingerpointing and reprisal if it is the other way round.
I also know what I am guity of and how so. I have my own personal demons to slay and hopefully having done that, will have the courage and goodness, to do what is only right.