31 October 2017

The defining image of this trip…

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…

Posted October 31, 2017 by Rajib Roy in category "Family in India", "Vacations


  1. By Sibapriya Dasgupta on

    See , how her life revolves round her husband ! All of you three with your family are there to extend support to her .Still her whole world revolves round her husband ! I think your father could not do pretty much prior to his debilitating illness ! The greatest difficulty for your mother is that she cannot communicate with her world , your father, and that is the basic reason for her helplessness , Inspite of her able children being the strongest support a parent can think of !

  2. By Raman Saini on

    Rajib, My father is a very simple man. Assuming very similar to your mother in terms of understanding and overtaking family affairs. In my household these responsibilities were with my mother earlier. She was more the head of the family/prime minister and Dad was in those days more like Mr President.

    Well now things have changed. He has successfully managed, although with great difficulty, to manage bank accounts, fixed deposits etc and how to use Skype 🙂 Nevertheless during his illness this time his major worry was bills. All sorts of bills, electricity, internet, mobile, water, newspaper, maid, Gardner… all that one can imagine. Am sure his blood pressure was more high because of stress due to bills. Unconsciously these matters were of higher importance than his health. He was sad thinking what will happen if he does not recover for one month or if he didn’t recover at all. To calm him down I went on the Internet and made advance payment wherever I could. Informed him all done. For him it was unbelievable. Well, Rajib actually our parents are unbelievable. They are great, no grand! In what all they have achieved in their lives…in their experiences. How they managed strength in all those hard times. And definitely the ocean of patience they have. No doubt life partner is the strongest pillar in a support system. And there is no replacement for that. But having other things automatically managed is a relief in hard times. It is already a lot to see your loved one suffering in front of your eyes and not being able to help much. Stay strong and breath, Raman

  3. By Catherine Michel on

    Rajib, humbling share…
    When my Dad passed away, my Mum was an emotional wreck… almost suicidal … her whole life was revolving around him and the children. I got very worried as to how she would survive him. My brothers and I brought her all the support we could. My Dad had left her a very tidy and well documented set of papers ( almost as if he knew he would go ), so she handled all by herself. But one thing I saw happening is my Mum found an inner strength I never saw in her. She started to invite an amazing old (young) lady for dinner on a daily basis. They had enriching conversations, and were able to talk a lot about their past. My mum needed to talk about my Dad and this lady loved it. You see Rajib, Mums like ours define themselves by the support and care they give to their loved ones. This is how they feel they exist.
    When this is removed from them, they lose their identity, and unless they are on a spiritual path, it can be very tough for them.
    Gradually my Mum started to laugh again and to appreciate the warmth of the friends she would cook for. And her circle of friends increased. They were drawn to her amazing cooking and warmth.
    The other important part in her ‘survival’ was her grand-children, who were still small and coming to this planet… that has been a true savior.
    A Mum needs to feel useful, needs to feel she is loved for the care and attention she gives to others.
    Don’t underestimate your Mum’s strength. You may project your own powerlessness on her. I disagree when people say that elderly become children again. In my family all the ‘elderly’ were still very able to take care of themselves until they left the body.
    It is a mindset that one can encourage.
    The trick is to keep making her feel useful for the family and/ or friends.
    Everything else will fall into place…
    As for me, my spiritual journey started at that crucial point in my life …
    Sending you lots of positive energy.

  4. By Nandita Gurung on

    My mother was a very strong woman and after my fathers death she was the breadwinner of the family with three young girls to look after ….educate n get married off…my mother did that n more….she was my woman of substance….when I took off a year from my work n decided to nurse her through her Cancer…it was the best thing I could hv done for her…my time n my company were my gift to her….she was too independent n proud to tell us she needed us…..she died in 2006 but I would do it all over again if I had to….

  5. By Sripriya Magesh on

    I can totally understand and relate to what you are going through. It is tough when you have aging parents and not being there with them always to take care… it gets harder when one is the only child – I pray to God for your Dads speedy recovery


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