Photo Credit : Sukanya Bora
I rediscovered Bond on my recent trip home to visit my aging parents. No, not James. Ruskin Bond. This is an author who reminds me of the power of simplicity. That brevity is underrated.
On days when I got flustered with my parents unchanging ways, I would quietly walk back into my room, close the door and lose myself in Bond’s penmanship. When my forgetful, supremely arrogant mother and I got into a tussle the first time, I returned to his book and the humor I found in his passages helped me cool down. The second time I was prepared. I had Bond with me, tightly held in my hand. As soon as we broke into another one of those inane fights, I opened the book and started reading. It worked like a charm. My sharp mouthed mom retreated. A few hours later she was all nice and polite, asking me how I was and whether I was enjoying my stay. I said I am fine and proceeded to share a paragraph from the book with her.
Dementia has its merits for sure. But I digress. Tales of Fosterganj was the book I read. A thin, evocatively written book that inspired me to visit the hills up North.
This trip was filled with many revelations, to say the least. Age, inevitably has conquered my parents. They have resigned to it willfully making themselves insular, isolated. Their bedroom is their haven. They spend a good part of the day in it, not wanting to leave its four walls. It is their sanctuary. I wish I could call it that but it isn’t quite so. It is cluttered with books, magazines, clothes, knick-knacks -things everywhere, all around. Some of which I discard, rather sneakily but cannot get to it all. It’s not just their bedroom, it’s their entire house that needs serious decluttering. I need to come down for three months to get rid of all this junk, I say to my father one morning. He laughs. His response-why bother? You are here for just a few days-just let it be.To which mom adds in her characteristically defiant tone-why? what’s wrong with how we live eh?
My mother’s arrogance is intensifying with age. She is one proud woman, owing to her much successful and illustrious career. Her dementia, I think feeds into it as well thus making it immensely hard for us to reason with her. She can be funny, easy-going, lovable, an intelligent company but when her stubbornness rears its head, she is the most difficult person to be with.
I watch my father interact with her and I am amazed by his patience. He has been her caregiver for more than ten years, dutifully, diligently taking care of her insulin shots and medicines. But I could tell he is weary. Tired of testing her blood sugar every morning, tired of keeping track of the countless medicines she needs to take.Now he is in need of care. He has become lethargic and distinctively moody. One day he is all chirpy, next day he is sitting in his pj’s well into the afternoon, in the same spot in the living room. What’s up with you today? I ask. Nothing, I have no motivation left in me. I am just waiting for my time to come, his philosophical response.
I set out one day looking for a live in nurse or maid for them. They need someone at night to take care of them, if not give them some company. I come back empty. Finding someone trustworthy, reliable is a tall order these days. Don’t worry ma, we will get by, assures my father as I hug him before I leave for the airport. My stoic, once strong mother’s eyes wells up as I hold her for a brief moment. She is a tough nut to crack, someone who doesn’t shed tears easily. But this Tuesday afternoon, as I step in to the car taking me to the airport, my mother waves at me, her face crumbling in tears. My dad’s embrace is a second longer, tighter.
The last couple of trips have been hard. The goodbyes stretch intentionally, longingly.
Fourteen years ago I moved away from them with a heavy heart but hopeful, thrilled for new beginnings, a new life. It was a choice I made happily, perhaps selfishly. Fourteen years later, I am questioning this very choice.