'My mum's 72, young still. And I want her back fine'
This is probably the hardest thing I have ever written. Didi, my eldest sister with whom my parents have been for the last six months in Gulburga, Karnataka, called this morning. Softly she said on the phone, "Mummy isn't doing too well. She has been throwing up and today threw up blood. Come and see her." Mummy has been bedridden for almost six months with no doctor quite being able to diagnose what exactly ails her and keeps her immobile. Didi was speaking softly not only because the situation is grim but so that my father isn't able to hear her.
On Thursday as my mother's condition had worsened and Daddy himself, not the healthiest of people, had spent the entire day sitting near her, keeping his own personal vigil trying his best to keep illness at bay. If only humans had these powers to keep illness and suffering away from those they love and care for.
My father had been feeling helpless like I assume he has felt for large parts of his married life when he has tried to rescue almost all the time his beautiful and intelligent wife from the ravages of both mental and physical ill-health. Daddy has been impatient with Didi and her doctor husband even though they have been on their toes 24/7 ever since my parents moved in with them trying to nurse mummy back to health.
On Friday I try to explain things to Daddy. I am hampered by language. My Marathi, the language I speak with my parents isn't good enough to navigate this kind of conversation and English seems too distant when speaking to a parent about something so serious. But I try anyway in Marathi hoping that I don't say anything wrong. I say to him, "Mummy has been so ill all her life, yet she has been able to do the best by all of us. You have done so much to ensure that she has always been ok eventually no matter what her illness has been, so don't worry now."
Daddy's response to that was, "She is only 72, young still." I don't know how to respond to that since this is what I have always said to him whenever illness has struck him. "I am also ill", he adds. Again I am stumped as to what to say to him. All his life I think Daddy has waited Mummy to be freed from the clutches of ill-health. He has done everything from going to places of worship to astrologers to getting to hospitals and doctors but nothing has delivered on the promise of good health for his wife. And now once again in his life, in all our lives neither god nor medicine is doing much.
All my life I have lived with this insecurity, this slender thread that I have always feared would snap and that my mother would not be there, so intense has been her battles with serious illnesses. Her strong sense of duty and responsibility towards all of us has brought her back to health each time.
I am waiting for my middle sister to call me from Dubai so that we can coordinate our journey from Hyderabad (the closet airport to Gulburga. In the 21st century there is no airport in the second biggest city in Karnataka). I can't wait to get to see my parents, to hold them both in my arms and tell them that life is worth living, tell my mother that once again to let life triumph over illness.
More about Archana Jahagirdar
Archana Jahagirdar has been a journalist for almost 20 years having worked for some of the most prestigious names in the media business like The Times of India, Outlook and India Today. Her last full-time assignment was with the Business Standard where she also wrote a column on luxury and fashion. She has done her Masters and Bachelors in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.
‘My Parents’ Daughter’ will be a weekly update, narrating Jahagirdar’s experience in taking care of her chronically-ill parents over the last eight years. From dealing with doctors and hospitals to taking decisions regarding medical treatment to changing dynamics in other family relationships – this blog notes the journey of a caregiver.