Photo: Teja and Bhai, shot by Teja’s sister A.
As I grew a little older, and the people around me, my mother, my parents-in-law, my aunts, my uncles, much older, their ailments increasing, I began to wonder what is a good age to pass on? What if we could turn off our lives painlessly, effortlessly, at a decent time, a good exit that was not messy, or long-drawn? What could possibly be the charm of going on living, extending life by medical assistance beyond a reasonable span?
A few days ago at a Caferati read-meet, friends told stories of their old parents, fathers specially, most of them in their 70s and 80s, the eccentricities, egos, idiosyncrasies getting sharper and funnier with age. I was mostly silent; I thought my father died too young, at 66.
Like actresses who die young and remain forever beautiful in our memories, parents who die young remain etched in our minds as parents. It is not only that they die young, but that we are too young to have yet freed ourselves from their hold. When they die young, we are still too young to have finished our business with them.
I realized then that parents need to live really, really long, much beyond their expiry dates, their shelf lives, if only for you to reach that age when you can be impatient with them and then begin to learn that all you can really do is be patient with them.
If they live on until they become these frail, funny creatures whom you can do nothing but laugh at, look after, and love, your business with them can begin to wind up. And when they do die, you won’t be left with a hole in your heart that never fills.
When they do die then, you will be able to say like the people of yore (yay, I got to use that word) did, “Well, that was a full life. A life well lived.” You will be able to see that your parents were not so different from you, fumbling along, doing their best, not some magical creatures with superhuman powers to hurt you or heal you.
To have parents who grow so old that you have to baby them one day is a blessing we should all have.