An elderly relative passed away today. She was 92 years old and had lived a full life. She was lucky to have all her children living in Chennai. She’d take turns to stay with them for a few months in a year. Her grandchildren are married and she has been blessed with 8 great grandchildren. She lived hassle free life with her children taking proper care of her. However, her death raised a question in my mind. How many of us are lucky to have at least one child nearby to come rushing when we need them? I am afraid - thanks to technology - that with the world getting smaller, the gap between parents and their children has hopelessly widened.
A look around me tells me a different story from that of the aforementioned lady. Elderly couple lead lonely lives waiting for weekly calls from their children. Very often the weekly calls become monthly ones. Reason?? Well, in foreign shores weekends are busier than weekdays with everything from stocking the refrigerator to washing clothes is squeezed into the available 48 hours. Children have their dance/music/karate/swimming classes and while one parent takes care of the shopping the other escorts the children to one or the other of these classes. Apart from this they organize birthday/Deepavali/Christmas parties as well as play dates for their children. Who can blame them if calls to their parents are postponed?
I am not blaming anyone. When my children were growing up I just wanted them to have good education. Good education gave them good opportunities and helped them spread their wings. I could not deny them a bright and prosperous future that awaited them. Visits to their homes have been eye openers. Their life is as much a struggle as mine was forty years back. Luckily for me, I had my job and a select group of friends who doubled up for family. So I have learned to lead my life in a productive manner. I cannot bring myself to complain having seen their busy schedule.
Most of the time I am okay. I accept that this was what I had wanted. There are however times when I feel depressed. Like when my husband fell ill or when I had to deal with my arthritis. Waiting for my Kerala style massage at Arogya bhavan I could not help remembering the time when our house was full of people and I was attending to five sick people in our one bedroom flat. Here, I was driving myself to the clinic from college and driving home once the massage was over. There seemed no point disturbing my husband and asking him to wait at the reception area for an hour although he would have gladly come over if I had wanted him to.
Who is responsible for this situation? Was it wrong to educate our children? Or was it wrong to want them to reach for the skies? I see that I am not alone. I have several friends and relatives who go globe trotting to spend time with their children. But they almost always wish to return to their niche. They don’t feel inclined to stay anywhere else for longer than necessary.
Adjustment problems tend to crop up in spite the best effort from both groups. Children exposed to an alien culture are unable to bond the way we did when we visited our grandparents. And with gadgets replacing story times the next best option is to get computer/internet savvy and focus one’s attention on a gadget of our own instead of poking one’s nose into their lives.
I don’t know if I am being pessimistic or cynical. Maybe a bit of both. The best thing to do would be to get involved in some activity and keeping one’s self busy. We have in our township two ladies - nearing eighty years of age - who head NGOs and find no time to brood. I am in awe of their enthusiasm and plan to assist them in whatever way I am able to. After all happiness is just a state of mind.
While I think can manage my old age and the loneliness that is bound to follow by blogging and interacting wth virtual as well as actual friends I worry myself sick when I think of my husband who is a loner and depends solely on me for company. He is not into the social media and TV shows make up for social interaction. He watches a few Tamil serials and very often on returning home from college I can hear him talking while I climb up to my 3rd floor apartment. If you think he’s entertaining friends you are mistaken. He is so involved in the TV program that he is literally in conversation with the characters in the serial and very often seems to know what would be said next!
I have no problem with that except that he doesn’t know a single phone number except mine and when in distress and I am unavailable he cannot call a single person to help. What if I fall ill and need medical aid? We have a doctor in the complex but my husband won’t know to look for his number in my cell phone! He is so laid back and is happy to let me handle things like drawing money from the ATM or booking tickets online. In America I don’t get to use my i Pad because he uses it to watch his favorite shows and read the newspaper. So it is evident that he can become net savvy when he wants to. But apart from that he couldn’t care less.
My friend has a different take in the matter. She says that her husband would take care of things while she took it easy just like my husband. When her husband died an untimely death she had to learn things the hard way. May be she is right. Why should I imagine that I am indispensable and he would not be able to manage without me? Maybe he would when it came to that.
But my question is does it have to happen only if and when tragedy strikes? Why not before?