on old cranky parents and the like


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.

14 thoughts on “on old cranky parents and the like

  1. Thank you, dear Batul for this wonderful article.
    Just yesterday, my dad and I sat together till midnight and had a great conversation, which made me feel every word of your line, “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.”
    Merry Christmas and happy new year.

    1. Thank you, Harvey. 🙂 And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. To more conversations with parents and friends and loved ones.

  2. This was bitter sweet, Banno. I can’t imagine what it would have been to have my parents die young, but I’m at the stage where my fervent wish to the universe is that he die without pain, without struggling, without depending on someone else.

    I want to be able to say, ‘I’m glad he lived a full life’ instead of ‘I wish he would die.’

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Banno, and a very, very Happy New Year.

    1. Yes, Anu, one would never wish to see them struggle with pain. Depend, we all do, in one way or the other, but I know what you mean, in terms of the absolute physical incapacity, perhaps.

      But here’s to as much time as we have. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too, and S, and your family.

  3. To have parents who grow so old that you have to baby them one day is a blessing we should all have.

    A mixed blessing! You have the privilege of caring for them and looking after their needs, and seeing them suffer helps loosen the bonds of attachment: you do reach a point where you are willing to let go, nay, you pray that their suffering be over. But once it’s over, it still isn’t. The vacuum is still there inside you, the missing doesn’t ever stop, just quietens down a bit. And though you try and remember them as parents, those people who nurtured you and carried you along your life, through thick and thin, the mind bears the last imprints of their suffering, their frailty, the minds and bodies crumbling as you watch…
    Both parents left us in their eighties. My siblings both did not attain the age of sixty two.
    Those sudden deaths shattered us survivors far more than our parents’ final illnesses, which we knew were more or less terminal. I know how hard it has been for my nephews and niece to deal with the sudden loss of their father/mother.
    I guess my ideal departure age would be seventy-ish, with all faculties intact, with perhaps a few days warning! I want to go peacefully, at home, no tubes/needles poking into me. None of my natal family passed away in hospital: three at home, and my brother on a tennis court , while holidaying in Egypt.

    1. Dipali, it’s never easy for those left behind. We can only come up with reassurances at best. And if we are fortunate, we are left with loads and loads of happy memories. Love to you.

  4. I often think about this, and there never is a satisfactory answer. We don’t want to see them suffer. At the same time, we don’t want them to leave like ever. Happy new year Banno!

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