An ageing parent’s letter to his kid, by Vickram Sethi
I am thoroughly blessed to have exceedingly loving children. They take very, very good care of my wife and me. This ‘open letter’ is based on several conversations I have had with friends, especially in the extended lockdowns when we’ve embraced this not-so-new platform called Zoom. Read on…
When a child is born, the parents wrap their baby in a protective blanket. They teach the baby to talk, to walk. If the child falls down, parents pick up the baby and dust off the hurt.
Sometimes parents unfortunately may have to relearn all these functions themselves.
Parents see a reflection of themselves in their children and indulge them. They nurture and nourish their children with overflowing love. The child outgrows the blanket but the protection remains. One fine day, the role is reversed and the child throws the blanket around the parent’s shoulders.
One day you will see that I am getting old. I ask you to please be patient, please try to understand what I am going through. If I keep repeating myself do not snap at me and say you just said the same thing a minute ago. When you were a little child and we went out, if it took a little long to return home you would keep repeating, “Papa ghar kabhi aayega, ghar kabhi aayega?” almost incessantly and we would divert your attention to something else. Often we would read the same story night after night till you fell asleep, so bear with me.
When you see how ignorant I am with technology – I don’t understand the basics and I am slow with the internet and telephony – please be patient. Remember how patiently we taught you do the little things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair, wearing shoes, learning tables, tying and untying life’s everyday knots. Now if I drop food or water on my clothes, remember you did these very things and we cleaned up. After PTA, we were summoned by the principal. Similarly, you might have to take me to the doctors and it will be your turn to be told off.
A person is known as so-and-so’s child, and it is a proud moment for parents when their children excel and even overtake parental achievements. Papa kehta hain bada naam karega. The chest swells up when parents are referred as so-and-so’s mom and dad. Beyond the biological relationship comes a relationship of love. Parents create a family, a child understands love from parents. They nurture family relationships, build love and trust between their children. Strong relationships help each other through good times and bad. Remember, all the virtues of having strong family bonds do not come overnight and one has to continuously work towards this. Parental love has no other desire except to fulfil itself.
Once a child grows up and comes into his own, the relationship undergoes a change. Parents are parents because a child wants them to be parents. There could also be a time when parents have no control over the situation they are in; children can get arrogant, rude, rough-talk their parents and even cheat them. It’s humiliating for a parent when a child conveys that their wellbeing is dependent on his charity. Parental blessings create an armour which no arrow can pierce and parental curses become arrows that no armour can contain. The last thing a parent wants is to be dependent on their children. You drive your car and let me drive mine, but keep a watchful eye on me through the rear view mirror.
Love, not sympathy
Sometimes I could walk into a room and not know why I went there, or even lose the key which is lying right in front. It could happen that I could lose track of what we are talking about; give me time to remember – and if I can’t, don’t be impatient or arrogant. It could also happen that I may lose control over my toilet functions. Please do not get angry or embarrassed. Please be patient and try to understand what I am going through. Just know that the most important thing for me is to be with you. Parents want love, not sympathy.
When my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the way I held on to you when you first learnt to walk. When those days come, don’t feel sad – just be with me and indulge me with love and understanding while I get to the end of my life. Parents hold a child’s baby fingers and help them cross roads. These fingers grow up to be strong hands and help parents in their final crossing.
In case I get dementia, it is my express desire not to be given life extension medication. Do not put me on a ventilator or make a hole in my throat. I know you love me, but it would be selfish to hold on to me and to put me through so much of pain. So let me go, and after I have gone have a nice party with great music. I don’t want someone singing “Maati kahe kumbhaar se.” I will cherish and thank you for the gift of time, love and joy which we have shared.
With a big smile and all the love that I have always had for you’ll I just want to say I Love You.