>For the hundredth time, Nani has refused to move into my parent’s home. She’s 70-something, can’t walk after her paralytic attack more than a year ago, can’t even stand up without assistance but insists on living in her own house, aided by no one except a young maid. She lives in the same city as her four much-married-and-now-grandmothers-themselves daughters but she cannot imagine leaving her house to live with any of them.
Daughter No. 1, my mom, is at home by herself most of the day, her two daughters married and with Dad at work.
Daughter No. 2, an early widow, has two very busy kids who spent the whole day at work. So she stays alone most part of the day too.
Daughter No. 3, whose mother-in-law actually welcomes Nani’s company, is in much the same position: her two kids are settled in Delhi, while her husband prefers to keep himself busy with work and friends.
Daughter No. 4, also an early widow lives with a young daughter who spends most of her day either at the University or studying at home for her Law degree. She may soon have to leave the city too for her career’s sake.
But my Nani, being an independent woman all her life, cannot now imagine being a “burden” on anyone, not even her own daughters. When she suffered a paralytic stroke, she stayed at my mum’s place for some six months during which time she went into acute depression. And it wasn’t till she moved back into her house that she began to recover and became anything like the cheerful person we know her to be.
Considering that all these five women – Nani and her daughters – have lived for years together, it’s strange how none of them are ready to leave their own house to shift in with either their mother, daughter or sisters. For all practical purposes, it’s a viable option, but no one wants to give up their space – the place they call home – even if it means leading a safer life.
Well-wishers express their concern over the situation, say how unsafe it is for a woman my Nani’s age to be living by herself. It’s not that we don’t know it but we know what they don’t – how she sustains herself on her pride and independence. And to take that away from her would mean taking away her life!
My mother goes through serious guilt pangs if she hasn’t seen Nani in two days, but with a grandson of her own now who is often left in her charge, it isn’t always easy for her to drop everything and spend the entire day with her mother. It sounds strange, considering that we live in a city where distances are not a problem, conveyance is not a problem. The only problem seems to be time. Often, Nani resents the fact that her daughters don’t have time for her, but she also refuses to make it easier for them by moving in with one of them.
Having known the mother and daughters in question for so many years, and having known them well, I am unable to put the blame on any one person. But I am intrigued at an apparently simple situation having become so complicated. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s an attachment to the home they have created, the things they have acquired over the years, the purely worldly acquisitions. Or whether it is an assertion of their independence, their reluctance to start adjusting all over again after having created their own space.
My parents live by themselves in the same city as my sister and I. And till now, they’ve managed pretty well. But when I see my aging parents, I wonder if we will come to the same crossroad too as my mother and Nani have? My mother is no less independent than her own. Will she be able to make peace with a life in one of her daughters’ homes if the need ever arises? Will I be able to leave my own home to go and live with her and will she want me to do that?
It’s never easy to let go – of the place you’ve made for yourself in this world. But I hope that when the time comes (though I hope it never does), I can do it: I can give it up to be there for my parents, either one of them.
This post was lying as a Draft somewhere and was resurrected after I read about Piper’s dilemma as a daughter, her concern for her parents who live so far away from her.
Dear Piper, I want you to know that being so geographically close to my parents, I still worry about them and their safety. You talk of how it’s foolish to uproot your parents from their homeland and expect them to start afresh in another country. You’re right. My mother realises it’s foolish even to expect Nani to leave her house and come live with her.
If my mother calls in distress, will I be able to make it in time to help? I don’t know. Life will not wait for me to be with them when it decides to turn the wheels of change. And sometimes the only solace is to know that God will take care of his children.
* The title is taken from a poem by Simon Armitage, Mother, Any Distance
Mother, any distance greater than a single span
Requires a second pair of hands.
You come to help me measure windows, pelmets, doors,
The acres of the walls, the prairies of the floors.
You at the zero-end, me with the spool of tape, recording
Length, reporting metres, centimetres back to base, then leaving
Up the stairs, the line still feeding out, unreeling
Years between us. Anchor. Kite.
I space-walk through the empty bedrooms, climb
The ladder to the loft, to breaking point, where something
Has to give;
Two floors below your fingertips still pinch
The last one-hundredth of an inch…I reach
Towards a hatch that opens on an endless sky
To fall or fly.