>It’s a full cycle. The parents who hold your hand when you’re learning to walk, hold your hand again 60 years later, but this time you’re teaching them how to walk. The last week and a half I’ve spent in hospitals in Lucknow and Gurgaon, tending to my dad. And in that short a span of time, I’ve seen him act like a petulant child, a wilful, rebellious adolescent and an ailing old man. And like you forgive your child all his follies, you learn to ignore your parents’ unreasonableness and love them still.
But it’s heart-wrenching – to see the man who always climbed two stairs at a time, who ran after you when he was teaching you how to cycle, who held you in his arms when you scraped your knee from a fall, lean on you for support. It’s heart-wrenching to see him fight invisible monsters that come in the garb of disease and age.
Dad’s bypass surgery has gone off well and he’s taking baby steps to recovery. But between his major angina attack last Sunday, the angiography in Lucknow thereafter and the urgent transfer to a super-speciality hospital in Gurgaon, my head and heart has had no time to rest. There’s been fear and hope and so much more of an undefined emotion that I cannot begin to explain it. I’ve seen my Dad’s bro breakdown at the news of the successful surgery, giving vent to years of sibling affection that men must not display by some warped convention of society. I’ve seen a friend, discharged two days ago from the same hospital after an angioplasty, wait for hours in the visitors’ lounge just for a glimpse of his friend. I’ve seen once again the strong support system that a family can offer…
And me? I’ve been angry and strong, brave and emotionally weak – all at the same time. But most importantly, as a daughter who’s stood by her parents through it all, I’ve proved there never was any need of sons to look after aging parents. And anyone who offers that as an excuse to want a son and wish away a daughter has no idea what a girl, a woman – daughter or wife, and even mother – is capable of. It makes me very proud that my mom and dad can look at their daughters and know that they are capable of taking on the world. And it gives me great satisfaction that to every person who scoffed at my parents for having “only” two girls, I have given a befitting reply.
And I’ve not been alone. At the hospital, there were so many mother-daughter duos like us. And they seemed in no way less equipped to handle an emergency than all the men who thronged the visitor’s lounge.
But my mother has been the bravest. If I learnt from my dad to be the person I am, I’ve learnt from my mother to be a woman. She’s been a perfect daughter – extending so much love and support to her own mother, giving so much of herself to her parents that I sometimes feel only daughters can.
But growing old is a strange thing. And when you’re over the 60-mark you do begin to think of the worst as not impossible. And that must be scary. Mummy asked me a couple of days ago if I would take care of when she grew old enough to not be able to do so for herself. She asked me if I would be “nice” to her… And I told her I’ll do exactly what she has done for her mother – never left her alone. I realised then that if children can ever repay their parents for what they have done for them, it’s by giving them love and security – and so much of it that it never falls short – when they grow old.