Undoubtedly, this trip was all about my dad. Watching him go thru the transitions and helping him phase into a new stage of life is what I was there for. What I had not counted on is the level of transition this meant for my mom.
In an earlier post, I had written about the challenges of being a caregiver of a elderly patient with limited ability to move or make himself understood. I had further mentioned that on top of that, being a mother is totally incomprehensible to me in terms about effort and sacrifice.
As the days went by, I realized another thing. My mom is realizing that, in addition to all those, she is now going to be the head of the household. She brought out a couple of big files from the almirah and asked my brother and I if we could explain to her the house finances. (Dad has no ability to explain anything). We sifted thru a lot of papers and bank passbooks and armed with some prior knowledge we had, we helped her understand her monthly expenses, sources of income and current assets in bank.
In fact, my brother and I went to a couple of banks a few times (I went to an Indian bank after about 25 years!!) to set up a few things for her.
In my previous visits, mom would either be cooking or sitting with us or be sleeping (remember, she is a psychiatric patients and those medicines have a strong sedative effect). This time, for the first time, I saw her often sitting by herself and in very pensive mood. She seemed to get very deep in her thoughts.
I always wondered whether to interrupt her thoughts. One time, I managed to take a picture of her and then I did break down and asked her what was going thru her mind.
“Eka songshar ki korey chaalabo tai bhaabchi”.
She was thinking thru how she was going to manage all the family affairs by herself.
That is when I realized that on top of her normal role and the added role of being the primary caregiver, she now has to be the head of the household too. Forget her. I myself became too confused how was one person going to deal with all of these.
I have mentioned this before – For all the things my dad and mom are going thru, we have one of the best support systems you could think of. My sister lives next door to my parents. My brother lives couple of hours away and regularly visits them to get my dad’s medicines (those are available only in Kolkata). And I get to see them every three months. Between the three siblings, till date, we have been fortunate enough to financially support them on any care or services they might need. I know none of these are constants and things can change on any front dramatically quickly but that said, till date, we have been incredibly lucky in our support system for parents.
Even then, watching my mom, the thought came across my mind – may be I should just go and stay with them for the last few years of their lives.
That pensive picture of my mom has been permanently seared in my mind now…