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‘Only thing parents want from children is a little time’| Let’s talk about our elderly

This septuagenarian was shifted to an assisted living facility by his NRI son after a heart attack. In the third of a five-part HT series ‘Let’s Talk About Our Elderly’, he writes about how much he misses his wife and children.

Let's talk about our elderly Updated: Jun 29, 2018 15:19 IST
Let's talk about our elderly,Old-age home,Family
(Illustration: Malay Karmakar/ HT)

When I was 14, my family sent me to Calcutta from East Bengal for my education. My parents had stayed back to settle their estate before they could move to India. It took them almost eight years to make the move. By then I was in college and had spent most of my childhood without my parents.

While the relatives I grew up with were generous and kind, no one can replace one’s parents. Living away had taken its toll and my outlook on life turned negative. I don’t think I enjoyed my youth because all of a sudden I had become a man.

Reuniting with my parents was one of the happiest times of my life.

But now, at 76 years of age, I have been separated from my family again.

Over a year ago, I suffered a heart attack. I was living on my own. It was my bad luck that my son found a job in America. He came down to India, stayed with me while I had a bypass surgery and moved me to a short-stay, assisted living facility for the elderly in Delhi.

I did not question the decision as I believed that my son wanted the best for me. I do not blame him for taking the decision; today’s fast life has made everyone mechanical.

I would never want to come in the way of his successful career. His busy schedule does not give him time. He had promised to visit me in March. It’s already June.

Here, I am looked after well. I have all the facilities. The staff are pleasant and considerate. Apart from my room, there are a lot of common areas where I can spend time.

I meditate in the mornings, which helps me to be calm. I watch Brahma Kumari on television for spiritual peace. I stopped reading newspapers, which are full of bad news.

I look forward to talking to my wife on the phone every day.

Most importantly, I am happy to be here just so that I am not a burden on my children. As a geologist, I had a transferable job, so we would move constantly to different parts of the country. I thought this is the age when I would sit back and enjoy life. Being away from my family means an acute loneliness that nothing can cure.

More than even children, I miss my wife. She moved to my daughter’s house in another city when she developed arthritis. She was not able to walk on her own and I was not able to assist her. I did not want to be an additional burden on my daughter so I continued to live on my own. But that separation scarred me deeply. I think of her and miss her every day. It is difficult for her to come visit me here as she cannot travel alone.

She has adjusted with my daughter well so she too doesn’t want to move into an old-age home.

I had tried to stay with my son and daughter-in-law before they moved abroad but I realised I would be in their way. Their lives are completely different. They do not want to adjust.

In my time, we behaved differently with our parents. We could never speak back to them and treated them with respect. Today, the children are different. They are impatient and feel entitled. Sometimes, I berate myself. Maybe I am becoming negative again. Everything has a positive side. At least, I am comfortable here without much to worry about. Maybe it is because I have experienced the bitterness of separation from my parents that I feel my loneliness so acutely.

As parents grow old, their needs actually become fewer. They don’t want to become a burden on anyone. They understand if their children live separately. The only thing they want from children is a little time.

In my case, both the children are in other cities. I know they cannot visit me often but I wish they would at least call me every day. I pay my own bills here but that can only provide services, not the warmth of a family. I do not want my children’s money or any comfort that they can provide. I just want to be a part of their lives. But I have accepted that it will not be possible.

I do hope and pray that when I die I am not alone. My children may be busy so I can accept it if they are not with me but I want to be with my wife in my last days. I saw some other people pass away without having their family around and that scares me. I often listen to a Bengali song by Nachiketa Chakraborty called Briddhashram (the old-age home), which sums up the lives of many elderly parents today.

My son is a big man, a big officer

Stays in a big flat

Has many articles and expensive furniture

The least expensive of all was me – an intruder

My son loves me a lot and respects my white hair

Therefore, my address today is an old-age home

My young one is now blessed with a son, now two years old

God is great for my son is just twenty-five years old

Now I wish to live for a hundred years – a century

After twenty-five years, he shall be fifty-nine, my young one

The room of my home maybe small but has space

Me and my young one shall stay here together

I dream of that day quite often

Face to face, me and my son in an old-age home

(As told to Niha Masih)

This is the third of HT’s five-part series, #LetsTalkAboutOurElderly. Join the conversation on @htTweets and send us your ideas and suggestions.

First Published: Jun 27, 2018 09:04 IST