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?
I live in the US with my husband 2 year old. My parents are in India. This post touched my heartstrings. My parents are now visiting 6 months in a year but what about the future. Based on temperament I am very suited to the US, I feel more at peace here except the constant guilt of leaving my parents alone in India.
We speak daily, my sister from Singapore calls them weekly. Their current schedule is 6 months US, 1 -2 months Singapore, 1 month in Chennai visiting my great grand parents and remaining in Blore with my other great grand mom. My mom continues to wish for kids living close to home, the aspiration with which she talks about my cousing really makes my feel guilty.Sometimes I wish we would return back, but apart from the usual reasons ( husbands work, kids school, my work, pollution etc.) the fact is that this feels like my home. But my mind hurts constantly.
Just a comment as I felt like sharing my thoughts..
Shell: I did not mean to blame anyone for the situation. Even if my children had been living in India they wouldn't be staying with me. I'd want my independence as much as they would want theirs. But it would not matter because they can come to us immediately or maybe within hours if we need them. It won't be the same now. And as one gets on in age emergencies are likely to crop up. Just my thoughts. Don't worry too much.
Hi Padma :)
I am fine, thank you.
I read your passages as and when I get time to peep here.
Ten years ago It was new, passion, energy zeal positive vibes, a bag of goodies I must say.
But all good things end and leave wonderful memories to remember and be happy, and we do want to revisit them.
This post is brutally harsh .. Bitter feelings , and well written. This art of writing simple and with a pinch of salt
Is a quality in your writings.
I know many who went through it and many more are going to go through it,
the past tells me outcome of such is only pathetic and sad and until one realises its late ..
But this phase or way of life is here to stay , cannot be helped.
Your question in the end is correct , and answer lies within it,
One must not wait for tragedy to fall and then learn,
Rather be prepared and have a hindsight.
Passerby: call me Preeta by all means as before. Padma sounds distant from your mouth. Thanks for commenting. I am going through a phase of dilemma not knowing how best to utilize my time after retirement and where to actually settle down. Hence this post. You are right. There are many who go through such dilemma.
I follow your blog. I too taught in a college and retired three years ago, and my children live away. Yes, sometimes I miss having my children, but not really. What I pray for is the strength, both physical and mental to be independent till the day I die.
It is very difficult to not worry about every small problem your children have, and they are sure to have them frequently. Not living with them keeps me in ignorance of their small problems and spares me a lot of stress. I hope and pray they never have any serious ones though.
L: that is what I call positive attitude. Kudos. I too am okay most of the time. I know that I would not fit into their scheme of things nor would they find a niche with me. We all want our space. The best thing would be to visit as and when possible.
HHG - You worked hard all your life, you gave a good shot at your job and in raising your kids. Now is the time to sit back and relax. HHGpop seems to be taking his retired life with a chill pill. You should to. I loved reading your narrative of HHGpop's tv time. I am in my mid-40's and stay at home with no kids. I talk to myself all the time and can relate to him very much on this.
Hip hop why did you stop writing?
Anon: It is comments such as yours that gets me back in the writing mode. I think I will start writing again.
Hi Hip-hop Grandma,
I have been reading your blog since a couple of years now. I really enjoy reading your blog posts. This post is something which touched me in a way which I cannot explain.
I am 32 years old. I stay in Kolkata with my In-laws. My parents are staying in a different city in a different state. They are old now. I travel every month, at-least once, to take care of their medicines/doctor visits etc.
My father can take care of these things, but I do not want to tire him. My mother had gone through a major spine surgery couple of years back. Though she can move around the house, but she needs help with other works. I cannot be with them 24 hours and that bothers me a lot. They are not financially dependent on me. But I have nightmares of something bad happening to them when I am not there. Some nights, I cannot sleep at all. These things come to mind every now and then. I was in the US for 6 months and it bothered me so much that I did not continue there and took an immediate transfer to India as I can travel within a couple of hours to them in case of any emergency from Kolkata.
I try to convince them to have some hobby so that they can spend their time. But somehow, it seems they are not interested. I can differentiate the time just 7-8 years back and now. Then they used to enjoy life. Now, somehow they are just waiting to get rid of this life.
I feel so restless and I do not know whom to talk to and how to handle these situations! I know, this is life, but I cannot help myself!
Reading your post, somehow made me post a comment here.
SSS: I appreciate your concern for your parents. Whatever be your predicament never let go of the feeling that a kind word from you would make a lot of difference in their lives. I can understand what your parents are going through. Their stamina is not the same as it was some 7/8 years back.They have slowed down. I know that I have.I am not into reading or sewing as much as before. Managing house work and cooking for the two of us is all that I manage to do these days. But the moment someone needs my help I get an energy boost and my lethargy vanishes.At my age I just wish to be included.
Continue to appreciate the fact that they are available for you when you wish to turn to them for guidance.
It's ironic. That some people are suffering from boredom, while others are killing themselves because they don't have the resources to live a life of dignity.
Some elderly people were never lucky to have a spouse or children. Some elderly people are widows AND they are taking care of adult children with lifelong disabilities.
Just waiting for their miserable lives to end.
And instead of the fortunate people sharing their resources with the lesser fortunate, they often give them empty, dry philosophical discourses on positivity. "Be strong, be brave, there is a reason for everything. Suffering makes you stronger. God has a higher plan, blah blah blah"
Better to euthanize someone, than torture them with such fake positivity.
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