He was our lighthouse, my dad. The rock that we could hang on to, at times of storm. We never expected to be shaken up, the way life shook us one day, not this early in our lives. The dreaded phone call came on a regular summer morning. It was their wedding anniversary, the day that we should have been celebrating. Instead, they were rushing off to see a doctor as he had been getting severe headaches. And then began my days of being a parent while losing one.
The doctor took an MRI and asked him to get admitted immediately. They saw bleeding in his brain and dad kept insisting that he felt fine. When the doctors at the hospital said what they said, he told them “,
If you do the things that you are saying, things are not going to be normal for me.” And he was right. The next nine months were the hardest times that a man and his family would face. His life went back and forth between the hospital and home and our lives went back and forth between hope and fear. One phone call took away life as we knew it.
Being a Parent While Losing One
While our mom was thrown in the midst of full-time care giving, my sister & I had our own share of realities to face. It started with , which one of us could get to them faster and for how long. We both had our own families to take care of, our husband, children, in-laws, all of whom proved to be our rock.
As we went back and forth between our homes and our parent’s residence, we had to contend with the big G, the humongous guilt factor. When we stayed with our parents, we felt bad for our little ones, and when we came back home, we spent sleepless nights worrying about our parents. It was a lose-lose from all ends, or at least it seemed that way. Being a parent while losing one is unimaginable.
The nine months seemed to have passed in a daze. To be honest, as I sit here trying to recollect what kind of parenting I did in those months, I can not point a single moment in time when I did anything great.
But the days did pass by, one day at a time. Lunches were made, kids were dropped off and picked up from their activities, home-works were accomplished, parent-teacher conferences were attended and we managed to stay sane through it all.
Emotional roller coaster…
However, even the little ones had to experience their share of emotional upheavals. Though my younger one was not fully aware of what was going on with his grandpa, he had to undergo separation from his mom, at least a couple of times.
So, every time I would come back from the trip, he would make me promise that I wouldn’t go back. And every single time, I promised him that no matter how many times I had to leave, I would always come back.
My older daughter became my rock, even as she occupied herself with her school work and taking care of her little brother. As much as she was heartbroken at the thought of her grand-dad, she always stood by her mother. She sometimes became the second mom of her sibling, and at other times, a strong shoulder for her mother, so much so that her mother lost track of who was the parent.
The dreaded final days…
Even as we dealt with day to day activities, my dad’s health deteriorated. After repeated surgeries, we all began to accept the fact that he couldn’t survive the latest of his health crisis for long. We didn’t want him to undergo any more trouble and we couldn’t bear to watch what it was doing to our mom.
The decision was officially taken out of our hands as my dad went into a coma and the doctors too asked us to take him home, as there was nothing else that they could do.
As our mom struggled with watching him slip out of her hands, we struggled with maintaining our sanity, especially in front of our children. I had to leave one more time, just so that I could spend a few days with my dad and support my mom. I have often wondered where we got all the strength to deal with the necessities of taking care of a terminally-ill person. But we held strong, especially my mom, surrounded by a network of well-wishers and some very able doctors and nurses.
While my children coped with my absence, I sang to my dad, talked with him, held his hands and promised him that we would take care of his wife, our mother. And when my son came down with flu, despite my husband’s protests, I flew back to take care of my son, at my mother’s insistence. I will always admire my mom’s clear-headed thinking at times of such emotional turmoil. We each had to do our duty, and there would not be any confusion on who does what.
No matter what kind of situation life throws at you, it comes with its share of lessons. We always think that we could never handle something, and it could be anything. Then, one fine day, that situation stares at you, you are faced with being a parent while losing one and you find yourself coping with it in ways you never thought were possible.
You are surrounded by your village, people near and far, friends and acquaintances, near and distant relations, each and every one of them contributing in their own magical way. But the most important contribution is your own self. You are stronger than you ever imagined, braver than you ever thought. You tackle it, one problem at a time, and one day at a time.
And, the biggest parenting lesson that I learned was from my mom, there is no guilt in parenting , period. You do not have to feel guilty over your choices, nor should you make others feel guilty over their choices.
You do what you can do, to the best of your abilities. Some of them will be right and some might even be wrong and you face the consequences of each of these actions …again to the best of your abilities.
Nothing more, nothing less. A standard that we always saw our dad live up to, and what we continue to live by, as we move on in to a life without him.