If we aren’t confronting our own mortality, some of us are at an age where we confront it as it approaches some of our loved ones, usually aging parents. I speak for myself here. My parents are in their 80s. Dad (88 now) has usually (touchwood) been in good health but the body starts to give out at some point as age and time go about their inevitable take down.
Mum is the one with assorted health issues incl non-insulin dependent diabetes, high blood pressure and a weak heart. That and she get stressed out easily. Combine that will all the meds she has to take and their side effects. Her kidneys are not great, she has bad knees, and does not get out much out of the house these days.
I am the only son, they do have domestic help, but things still need to get done around the house. I have a sis who lives close by and she has her own life too but despite that she helps out.
It’s a routine phone call that I make every Sunday to check on my parents. This also happens to be one that holds some trepidation for me. Sometimes merely hearing a change of tone will tell me if one of them is not feeling well.
My dad despite all his rough edges and non demonstrative nature always helps out in the house. Ever since mum realized that with her failing health she can’t but rely on dad, they don’t disagree with each other as much. Otherwise to me they always seemed to be at loggerheads, locked in a battle that neither of them wanted to back out of.
So I was a bit surprised when my normally reserved dad said to me.. “Son, I feel tired these days. It’s hard when you live to be this old and your body gives out. It’s probably better to not live this long”.
It must be hard for him, to care for himself and mum. Me being this far away does not help either. All I could say was hang in there dad. But to me they were just words I said. The emotions that slice thru me after calls like these are a mix of guilt, sadness, frustration, anger at my self for leaving the land of my birth in search for a better life and leaving them behind. I usually manage to push them away by going out running or working out or doing something else to take my mind off things.
But this one just sort of broke my heart. My sis has told me to be ready to come down on short notice. I mean what does that even mean? Am I supposed to keep this thought at the back of my mind and go about life? Maybe I should.
Either way not being religious puts a bit of a different twist on this for me. Perhaps religion also partly evolved over time to help us deal with mortality better, our own and that of our loved ones. That does not work for me (religion does not make it any easy for me to deal with death). I thought about this and the inherently skeptical nature I have about things that can’t be explained empirically. My opinions on how I would like to go when and if I make it to that age might ruffle some feathers so am gonna keep it for another day.
And sometimes some of these thoughts come to me at the strangest of places. While catching my breath at the weight bench, I recalled this kid who lived in our apartment complex when I was no more than 10 – 12. Shekhar was the son of very religious parents and about my age. They were South Indian and would always have ash/sandalwood on their foreheads. Their home was adorned with pictures and idols that belong to the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. I went to his place one day and he noticed me looking at a picture of one of the many Hindu deities. He said to me that picture is special. I asked him why? He said, the picture spontaneously generates vermilion, and it’s the work of god. To this day I recall sounding cynical about it, it must have shown, as he said, you have to believe in god no? I said yes.
Maybe the seeds of my views were laid way back then and there is no larger point to this post, just another ramble about things.
I am not quite sure how I will deal with things with my folks. I dread visiting India these days. The last visit was for a death (A’s brother). A is not inclined to visit anymore and my next trips may well be on my own. I have no friends left behind. People I know seem like strangers or maybe I have become a stranger to them. I visit the land of my birth with a feeling of disquiet in me. I don’t feel like I belong in anyone place anymore. When I visit I seem to withdraw within myself, almost as if I am afraid to feel. What is it that I feel or I am afraid of? Feelings that my roots are not deep enough or that they have already been ripped out? Or are they so deep that I don’t want to deal with reminders of where I came from.
There are good things that the homogenized life in America does for me, but there are aspects to it that are less pleasant but worthy of analysis at some point. Shopping and watching escapist TV does not work for me, in case you wondered.
Yes I do sound muddled I guess, but as Socrates once said “An unexamined life is not worth living”.