On Mother’s Day, I Promise Not to Lose Patience With My Aged Mom
We lost our father a year and half ago to a stroke. We are also losing our mother to a slow degenerative disease.
I groaned inwardly as I saw my mother shuffle towards me (for what was the nth time in the last few days) with a phone and a look in her eyes that screamed, “Teach me!”
I felt a flash of irritation at her apparent inability to master the simplest phone she could possibly possess. As this uncharitable thought crossed my mind, however, I was overcome with shame. How could I forget her patience when she corrected me every time I needed to be corrected?
I, who was never a bright kid and have hopefully outgrown that stage, can remember how the difference between a goods train and a passenger train would always elude me. If my mother ever groaned inwardly when I said goods trains carried passengers and vice-versa, I don’t think she ever let it show or got impatient with me.
To Parent a Parent
And here I was, today. Exasperated with her repetitive questions in the sunset years of her life.
We lost our father a year and half ago to a stroke. We are also losing our mother to a slow degenerative disease – and it is extremely difficult to watch a parent who moulded you, slowly turn into someone you can barely recognise. Suddenly, you’re left wondering where you lost that very capable woman who was the pillar of your growing years. Suddenly, your roles are reversed; you are now the caregiver and you find yourself ill-equipped to handle the challenge, both physically and mentally.
By 2021, the elderly in the country will number 143 million according to HelpAge India. With increasing age and its accompanying physical, emotional and psychological problems, the work of the younger and middle aged generation will be cut out. Having said that, are we prepared to – or more importantly, willing to – parent our parents?
Most of the time we have to shamefacedly accept that neither our patience nor our intention is all that pure when it comes to taking care of them. We expect them to live the life we do – if we’re kind enough to provide them space in our homes – and we expect them to be eternally grateful for the same. We expect them to change their routine to ours and eat the food that we eat.
As far back as the 16th century, the Bard had warned us about ‘second childhood’ and ‘mere oblivion’ when he wrote his Seven Stages of Men. He’d written elaborately on the stage of “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”... but let us not forget that this isn’t a stage ‘sans emotion’. Do we conveniently forget the embarrassment we caused them when we were growing up? How we’d mutinously shout “NO” each time we disagreed with their commands, how we’d leave them red-faced in front of other parents or relatives who they wanted to impress? Now, we feel discomfited with their slowness or the questions they ask our friends – the way they eat, even.
Because Old Age Waits for None
Many often uproot their parents from the latter’s familiar surroundings to suit their own lifestyle – and that is not a comfortable change at all. Loneliness is the predominant emotion that afflicts a huge percentage of our elderly population.
One of the most striking memories of my younger days is my father’s insistence that my two older sisters spend some time playing cards or simply talking to our widower grandfather. Unfortunately, not many think this way. In today’s fast paced life, people barely have time or energy to exchange a pleasantry or two with the elderly folk they share a roof with. Caught in our own mire of responsibilities of career growth, midlife crises, difficult children and niggling health issues, we tend to take our own parents for granted.
In the month that commemorates Mother’s Day, I will strive to consciously remember the multiple sacrifices she made for my comfort. All that I am today is thanks to her effort to help me grow. Every penny she scrimped and saved to make her own family comfortable without much thought for her wants is something I will try to recollect when my patience is growing thin. I will also remember that just because she has grown old does not mean that her wants and her feelings are any less important than any other member in the household.
A time to introspect as time and old age waits for none.
(Chandrika R Krishnan is a freelance writer and a freelance Behavioural Skills Facilitator with more than 130 articles and short stories to her credit. She also conducts a story telling and reading club for underprivileged children. For more of her articles visit https://chandrikarkrishnan.wordpress.com/)
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