Recently, both of my parents under went major health issues and crisis of sorts. Each of them had their own separate issues- all scary, all sudden. All of what transpired opened our eyes to what is to come- age of our folks, health issues for all of us, fragility of life and the ultimate reality that we are all mortal.
Each time I have traveled out to be with them mainly because I cannot sleep, eat or think straight when I am so far away. Here’s a laughing matter: I am only 1780 miles away but imagine this and I know some of you don’t have to imagine because you live it day in and day out but imagine being 10,100 miles away from your parents or more. Imagine now that you get a call in the middle of the night, “come now if you can – he or she is very sick, these are his/her final days.” Well for my parents, it was a reality. They received calls like that or calls informing them that their parents were no longer on this earth. I cannot imagine because I do not have to – I do not have to because my parents moved here and made some amazing sacrifices so I could have a better life; so that my brother and I could have a good education, a good life, and a great future- so that they could be part of this American dream as well. But in all honesty, leaving everything they knew behind – their comfort zone, their families, their aging parents to build a new life, 10,000+ miles away in the 1960s is no small sacrifice. My in-laws did this as well. I can’t imagine- I guess I do not have to.
I remember 1987 well because that was when my dad received the call that his father was ill and possibly could die. My father, with us as little kids, had to keep his wits about him, and in the 80s when technology was not all that, had to make international travel reservations for all of us. First, he would go because we were all in school and in the middle of a semester in school. Then, we’d all meet him there and we all prayed my grandfather would hold on that long. Sadly, he did not. My father made it in time but can you imagine, pulling it together to make reservations, then pack a bag, then get your passport and visa and head out the door for a 30+ hour journey internationally when you had no idea what was waiting for on the other end? No Internet, the phones sucked too, not to mention cost an arm and leg to dial internationally, and of course, there was no text messaging. Wow! I can’t imagine because recently I made journeys of only 6-8 hours including airport time and I didn’t think I’d make it.
On the other hand, my mom didn’t even get to see her folks before they passed away. It was sudden, and in their sleep. She couldn’t even fly out for the funeral because in India, bodies are not preserved more than 24 hours. I can’t imagine. I do not have to because my parents sacrificed it all for me. Because of them, and because they stayed here to make a new life for us, I don’t have to know what all of this is like. Because they sacrificed so much for me, I will keep doing what I can to help them. The reality is they are aging, they are stubborn and set in their ways, and they want to be independent. I don’t blame them. After all, I am like them. I inherited their perseverance, their strong will, and their ability to adapt and overcome. I wish I had inherited their strength… their enormous strength to bear so much. I don’t have to because of them. In these trying times, I see them, I hear them, I listen… I shut up because I know how much they have given up for a better life for us. I only pray I can be even half the child to them that they were to their parents. I pray for the strength that they taught me to have. I am not there yet and these times have been tough for us but I know their strength lives within me — and I may not have to sacrifice what they did nor do I wish to but I know if I had to for my kids, I suppose I could.