This is in continuation to yesterday’s post – Empty Platitudes https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/empty-platitudes/ you might want to go through that first to understand what I’m trying to communicate here. My friend who despite all her difficulties still manages to make me laugh responded to the post with, “Imagine I used to keep telling my son to write about Mom dealing with Dad’s Alzheimer and here you’ve gone and made me the subject of your post.”
As I begin this post there is a feeling of trepidation. My concern is not on where I stand about what I plan to write today, but on what you my reader, may make out of this. Nevertheless.
We talk about those who have been wondrously sacrificing in tones full of deep respect. Those who do not take on their responsibilities we judge in hushed whispers laced with condescension. Poets have expounded on the virtues of stepping up and our movies have made good money glorifying ‘the right thing to do’. And we do, that is do, what is right, what is expected of us. But, that is not my purpose here, to sit in moral judgment or to glorify the vigor of the person who is living up to the expectations of honor.
My question to you, dear reader is, have you ever thought about what a caregiver to a sick child, parent, spouse or sibling is going through? Let me answer for myself. I had not.
Up until my earnest conversations with my vibrant friend began, I saw others in her situation as brave souls admiring them from afar. I imagined them to be so strong and selfless that their circumstances were immaterial to their happiness. What I now realize is that they are definitely strong and selfless. But happy?
So my friend sent me a text right now, “My great aunt just left, she’s advised me to feed Mom ‘kabooter meat’ apparently it helps counteract paralysis!!” I call her up, this cannot be discussed over a text, shaking with laughter, I ask her, cooked or raw? Then I tell her to stand on the balcony with a net and catch a fresh pigeon to feed her mom. On the speaker aunty laughs along with us as she says, “Bring on the pigeons I’ll soon spring up from my bed and strut like one gutergooing.” Now this may seem completely irreverent to some of you, but, that is one of the small harmless doses of laughter my friend will have in her day where she measures out medications, props up her parents into comfortable positions and where her conversations will be with doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.
As she goes about being the responsible child that she is we have a number of discussions about her day. She tells me of the various demands that her relatives place on her ‘by wanting to be helpful.’ The aunt who insists on making her special ‘biryani’ for the invalids and then hands her a long list of ingredients to be procured from the market. The incessant calling of another for updates, who could not visit as her daughter had an allergy in her armpits! Another who decides to help by accompanying her to the hospital and takes up the doctor’s time by discussing her own problems with him. Such people who are a ‘disease’ themselves for which there is no cure, how do you tell them to keep away while trying not to ‘hurt’ their sentiments (that being of prime importance.)
She tells me with empathy about her mother who is going through the depression that comes with the loss of mobility. She tells me about how she does sweet little things to cheer up her mother, like painting her nails and cutting her hair into a bob. And then we talk about the depression that she herself is going through. She says that she gets a lot of calls daily from friends and family asking her how her parents are. The strange thing she says is very rarely does anyone ask me how am I doing. How am I dealing with the anxiety? The sleepless nights! The endless pressures! The loneliness! This total change in my life, no one asks! Is a caregiver no longer a person? She tells me of an incident and I am taken aback at the callousness of people. When her mother was in the hospital and after a hectic day of rushing around she was very hungry, the first thing she found to eat were golgappas and she ate them. On returning to the hospital when she told someone they were aghast at her ‘enjoying golagappas’ while her mother lay in hospital. Excuse me!! Why is khichdi acceptable and golgappas not?
So those of you judging take a moment and reflect. She is a young person who by all rights should be out pursuing her interests or her career. She should be with her son who will leave for college next year and needs her support, her counsel critically. She should be sitting with a coffee in her hand as she gossips with her friends in a café. She should spend the nights dancing and being drunk on the headiness of life. She should be on holiday with her spouse with whom she has spent the years of struggle as they climbed up the ladder of success. These are her prime years. Does she not deserve this and more that most of us take for granted?
Shouldn’t she be running with the wind on her face, not sitting looking out of the window of dismay, wondering what the next day will bring!