Fateful Story

It’s funny how certain experiences stick with you. And its interesting how you can easily categorize them as happy or fateful or downright ugly moments of your life. I have many that seamlessly fall under the latter. QUIET. A. FEW. actually.

Like the time when I was the only female in a group of campers and how miserably I got drunk. Luck was totally and  (un) derservingly on my side. Two members in this group turned into guardian angels and protected, nursed me back to a sober state. Trust me, it is one of those “what was I thinking” memories. To this day, I am looking at ways to repay the angels.

This morning as I drive into work, I think of one of the experiences that continues to stick. Soon I am fighting back tears. Circa 1996, when I was in full battle mode with my parents and practically everybody in my immediate family. The reason for this dissent-I was in love with someone who they considered to be a loser (he turned out to be one-but this isn’t important now). What was planned to be restful break for me, turned out to be fraught with intense quarrels, emotional outbursts and ultimately  a visit cut shorter. I couldn’t take the tension. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my parents hated my then boyfriend so much (hindsight is indeed 20/20). I couldn’t bear to stay one more day, I couldn’t tolerate no one. I felt unloved, misunderstood and achingly lonely.

Around the same time, my maternal grandma was fighting a tough battle with Alzheimer’s. It was ravaging her. Her caregivers, mainly my father and his siblings were rapidly losing hope. She didn’t recognize anyone anymore, was thin like a reed and spent most of her time in her room, fidgeting, murmuring to herself. It was clear her time was limited.

With bags packed to leave, I stepped into her room. She was resting. I sat on her bed and started massaging her feet. She woke up, looked at me and with a toothless smile said, don’t worry, majoni, everything will be fine. There was no glimmer of recognition on her face. She had no clue who I was. Yet there she was, blessing me, giving me the strength, love and support I so badly craved for. Copious tears overwhelmed me. I remember vividly hugging her frail, bony body tightly for a few precious moments.

That was the last time I saw my Aita. She crossed over a few months later. This incident will remain with me forever. Every time I reflect about it, I remember walking out of her room, into the car taking me to the airport. I was an emotional wreck with everything that had transpired but after that brief but profound moment with Aita, I felt brave and tenacious to conquer the challenges that lay ahead of me.

This is a story that neatly gets tucked into the fateful category. A circumstance I needed to experience to appreciate life’s accidental lessons. It taught me, in that very moment, that one can find love, light and encouragement in the most unexpected places. It teaches me now that life, in its own sneaky way, forced me to step aside from my seemingly monumental quandary to acknowledge someone dying. Someone who played an important role in shaping me. Who in that moment, however lost or delusional she may have been, was a goodhearted soul and how privileged I was to have had her in my world.

 

A Tween

The first-born gets officially wedged between the eleventh and the thirteenth year.

He is now a pure “tween”.

So how were the eleven years? someone asks me, referring to the first born’s birthday milestone.

Erm, uncomplicated, is my response.

He is my simple, ordinary child. The compliant, quite, even-tempered son.

He is unlike his mama. Yet he is like her. Absent minded, somewhat clueless.

I am nebulous, mama, he tells me the other day. With quiet pride. More so for the use of a fancy word.

Heh? I react.

You keep telling me I am vague. Right?

Well, I mean nonchalant, calm, composed, easy-going…..(feeble attempt to correct myself).

I like who I am, he affirms.

Of course you should, I confirm.

You are my first-born.

The baby who instructed me how to parent.

You are my first-born.

The boy who continues to show me the beauty of patience in a rather troubled, unforgiving world.

You are my first-born.

Who makes me see the immense power of quiet.

You are my first-born.

The baby who, within seconds of making his arrival known, gifted me with love. The all-encompassing, expansive kind of love I wasn’t sure I deserved and was capable of.

And to this beautiful boy, with much delight and honor, I say happy birthday.

My Old Folks

Last night was funky.

Agitated I was. Supremely.

Because I couldn’t find a recent picture of my father. The ones I have in my collection were clicked feverishly last winter while he was hooked up to a bazillion IV’s. Brought back memories of the time when we almost lost him.

It is his eighty eight birthday today. Last few years, birthdays of my parents,  have been tough for me. Distance, aging, serious health issues are some of the triggers. The last time I had the pleasure of being with him on his birthday was three years ago. There was no big celebration. Just family. We sat around the fire pit, and reminisced with much chatter and laughter.

Of course, Chivas as the loyal companion added much color to the evening.

I call him at the crack of dawn to wish him. I am having my morning cuppa of tea, he announces, remnants of sleep still lingering in his voice.

What are your plans for today? I ask my usual question.

He replies with his usual response. Get ready for Uruka meji, go to the bazaar to buy some firewood for the evening feast on the balcony.

The celebration is now understated, the level of excitement has come down a couple of notches. But the essence of it all, remains the same.

My eyes unexpectedly well up. Maybe the agony of not finding a recent pic of his heightened my emotional sensibilities. Maybe because I simply miss him. Maybe because he is older, the precariousness of his age overwhelms me. As if its using a deafening blow horn to inform me of its lurking, inevitable  presence.

Soon I am frantically texting my nieces, my sister in law and my brother to send me pictures of him and my mother, of the birthday boy celebrating. I need them pics OK, barking orders at my kin.

They don’t disappoint, especially my younger niece. By the end of the day, Whatsapp is filled with several shots of the newly minted eighty-eight year old birthday boy. My favorite of all is a pic of him feeding my mum a slice of cake.

Now their photos are only a few taps away. I keep going back to the images. Examining them closely-maa looks bloated, maybe its the diabetes? That shawl she is wearing needs to be replaced. Looks totally ratty now. Funny how she holds on to her things, be it clothes, books, purses, the list is endless. Bapi looks worn out, maybe because he doesn’t leave much time for  self-care? His eyebrows need serious trimming. So on and so forth.

I talk to them regularly. On the phone. Skype, we don’t. They are not comfortable with technology. They will never be. The poor quality of the connection leaves a lot to be desired.  I look forward to our conversations, my father says often. The chats with you and your brothers keep us going.

Lately, I have found my father often questioning his time on earth. The “prolonged” time that he is been blessed with. More so since last year. His extensive surgery and my mother’s increased dependency have forced him out of the many social/ professional commitments he was involved in all along. A change that was hard getting used to. A change, I believe he still struggles with.

I feel like I am biding my time, he comments, some weeks ago.

Biding? Are you sure you are biding your time? With the 24/7 caring for maa?, I ask.

Oh that, I won’t call it care giving. I am just doing what I need to. I am her husband, her partner, in health and in sickness. It is my duty to give her the utmost care she needs.

A long pause and then he adds, my only hope is that she goes first. Before me.

He has said this many a times now. And every time I hear it, I catch a lump in my throat.

It is a testament to his love, dedication and commitment for his partner. It is also a reminder that my parents time on this earth is relatively finite.

Closing Out the Year

Plenty reminders as we closed out the year:

  • of our good fortune and blessings
  • of food being the greatest and most effective connector of people.
  • of time spent with loved ones is time well spent.
  • of the power of uninhibited laughter. Yes, I peed in the process, had to immediately rush to the loo but it was cathartic, fun, freeing. (erm, the laughing silly!)
  • of the privilege of being parents to two reasonable, rather mature kids.

A year that started out shaky ended solidly. The first few months of the year were trying both personally and professionally.  Gradually all the pieces fell into place. Luck and many other factors came together for a stronger, resilient finish.

Personally it was year of much reflection, much unlearning and relearning. There were numerous, priceless moments of conscious, deliberate self-talk and contemplation.

It was also a year of meticulous giving. Of thoughtful generosity. Mainly for the kids. To set a tone for them. They helped, engaged and hopefully became more attuned to the ‘goodness’ of it all.

I was determined that we kept the last few days of 2015 stress free. I am happy to say that we managed. With much help from family and friends. They came and joined us in good cheer and spirits, making the final hours of a rather eventful year memorable.

New year’s day was predictably tough. The house, once again fell silent after lingering goodbyes. Sheets were being pulled out for wash. Bathroom counters wiped clean. Tell tale signs of the past days of cheerful gatherings got swept into the dustpan. Wrapping paper, empty gift boxes, beer cans and wine bottles found their way into the recycle bin. The kids sad, their faces long enough to touch the floor. The gloom after much merry making was palpable.

The kitchen was temporarily closed. This non-cook needed a break. Take out arrived- the food not stellar enough to pull us out of the dreariness until moi cracked open a fortune cookie and was presented with this hard-to-ignore gem.

It didn’t do much for the rest of the family. But it perked me up instantly. It was all I needed to come out of the forlorness. Another quick and easy reminder that it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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Time I Gloat about My Good Fortune

In this day and age where terrorism, violence, random crimes seem to be the norm, it feels awkward to talk about the good fortunes in my life.

But I will.

I am a lucky girl. Mr. Luck has been my fateful and faithful companion all along. Don’t quite understand why and will perhaps never know. But I am incredibly blessed. I feel awesomely fortunate.

More so, because about two decades ago, my life was on a trajectory that screamed gloom, failure, uselessness. Just another warm body with an unremarkable past, a future hinging on lofty, unrealistic, nebulous, unmet-able dreams and goals.

I have indeed come a long way. Characterized with loss, failure, rashness, and rejections but peppered with humility, a ‘holelodda’ reflection and finally acceptance. Acceptance of my flaws, mistakes and ego.

Acceptance that I am just a teeny-weeny speck in the larger scheme of things. I am powerless in the face of certain things. That it is critical I focus, put my energy into those things that are within my control. That I am ultimately responsible for  what I make of this life I am gifted with.

That what I put out to the Universe is what I get back.

That I am a work in progress. I will choose to be, diligently so, until I die.

I am in a happy place. My flaws, I still carry. However I have become better in taming them. In catching myself before I screw up. Or when I do goof up (quite often actually), I push myself to reflect, to question, to dig deeper. It is funny how 9 out of 10 times I  am made to realize that I played a part, that I contributed to the problem at hand. Humility is a remarkable leveler.

I am in a meaningful place. A place where I believe I am adding value not just to mine but to others as well. I am conscious of not wasting resources, be it time, money, talent, opportunities. I am consciously learning, growing. I am conscious of how my actions and behaviors impact others. I am conscious. Period.

In all of this,  I am working my butt off. Some days may seem awfully interminable. Other days I may miss my child’s  important school function or event. But I end them with meaning, worth. I hit the sack, tired, exhausted, but fulfilled.

My latest mantra is, if I don’t now, when will I?, one that a supportive oversubscribed, 24/7 “on chaperoning call” husband/father and understanding kids have accepted wholeheartedly. I call them and everything else on my abounding plate, my life’s good fortunes.

And yes, it feels awkward to gloat about all of this but I need to. For it deepens my sense of gratitude. It underscores how lucky I am. It reminds me that life after all, turned out OK and some more.

Birthdays, Breast Buds and Inclusivity

Birthday fever has begun.

The third grader enters her ninth year in approximately two weeks. Decorations are up, goody bags are ready, menu cards (not sure why we need them but will run with them nevertheless) for invited guests have been hand printed on different colored paper. The gift list gets updated, items closely reviewed and edited every now and then each day. As if a legal contract is being put in place.

The excitement meter is burning up. For her. The rest of the familia, however, is just too caught up to think about this approaching milestone.

You guys don’t care much about my birthday, do you? she alleges the other evening, her forehead carrying a big frown.

I pretend I am deaf. Her brother, however retorts with a ‘yep’. Without batting an eyelid, without looking up from his iPad.

The frown now becomes more evident as the chin elongates rapidly with frustration. I look at her and I am reminded of Munch’s, The Scream. She stomps out, up the stairs, into her room. Soon I hear scrinch scrinch, sound of paper decoration being unrolled and taped to the walls.

Her frustration is fleeting. It is her birthday and she has no time to waste. The drama can wait.

I am turning nine…and…then I will turn ten next year, she says the other day.

She may as well easily pass off as a ten-year old with her recent growth spurt. She gained height, her feet have grown some inches that prompted us on an unexpected shoe shopping spree. Some other things have grown too.

I now have breasts, she declares, examining her buds. Does that mean I will have my period? she bombards me with this not so pleasant question. A milestone that I am not ready for. At all.

You may sweetie,  I tell her. A response that takes a lot of me to muster. More articles I read about how young girls are reaching puberty sooner than ever, I fret. I cry inside.

No amount of talking, reading about period with her will prepare us for this dreaded development. Nothing will get her ready for the changes when they strike. It’s the same as pushing out a baby.  Every thing you learn gets unlearned as you begin to anxiously maneuver through the first months of child rearing. All that prep work-.whoosh, go into a black hole, not to be retrieved until one slowly begins to get comfortable with the enormous changes that come along.

It is an inevitability one cannot avoid, unfortunately. Until then, I will pretend to be an ostrich and go about my merry way. I am also aware that years from now when I read this post, I will say, golly, I wrote about THIS? I fretted over a period? There will be bigger issues to tackle, higher walls to climb and vaster oceans to cross. This will seem like a tiny dent in the overall scheme of things.

I don’t want to mix my Indian friends with my American friends, she decides. I don’t want anyone to feel left out. I want to be inclusive.

Inclusive is the buzz word now. One that gets thrown around quite rapidly and frequently. Along with buds and a possibly premature puberty, she is becoming deliciously intelligent. I mean, emotionally intelligent. Sometimes stuff comes out of her mouth that makes me want to put her on a pedestal and show her off to the entire world. My heart filled with gratification and deep, soaring love for this child of mine. At eight, she is already so considerate, kind and empathetic. For someone who is inclined to impose high standards, this isn’t my bias talking. I don’t know what we are doing as parents. Obviously we are doing some things right. We see the right in her and her demeanor.

This morning, as I drop her off at the grandparents, she pretends to walk straight in without kissing me goodbye. I make a long face. She immediately turns around, and with a naughty grin and sparkle in her eyes, she says, and you thought I was walking away without kissing you bye…never mama, NEVER!!!!!!!

I have always maintained that becoming a mom has been undeniably one of the most profound experiences for me. Each baby shifting something deep in me, each underscoring the power and the glory it carries. As I get ready to join my second born in her birthday planning ruckus, I take a quick moment to reflect, rejoice and be grateful of the priceless gift that is her.