Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Too tired to think anymore

I have never visualized what my father’s brain might look like. At some point, I learned to draw and name the structures of the human brain, the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the medulla, and all the major nerves that emerged from it. I even learned to classify people as brainless, brainy, brainwashed, brain dead, and brain pickers. However, I never stopped to imagine what his vital organs would look like.

Tragedy happened all around me. Other’s fathers suffered massive heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, and neural dysfunctions. I sympathized, I felt sad, I even consoled. But I realize I never really empathized. How could I? I had never seen death or suffering closely. My grandfather died when I was 11 (and he was old and ailing anyway). I wasn’t around my grandmother when she died. Death was like news that came, not a visual display of the physical manifestations that happened, someone stopped functioning, or someone I saw everyday was no longer visible. The living members of my family have never been seriously sick. Childbirth, indigestion issues, or removal of kidney stones did not count. A distant uncle of an even more distant cousin once had a hepatic inflammation. All we ended up saying is how careful he should have been with his alcohol intake habits.

So it came as a surprise when father complained of severe headache. He jokingly blamed it on my mother’s nagging habits when she nagged him into seeing a doctor. Before we knew, there were talks about high blood pressure, cerebral hemorrhage, multiple blood clots in the brain, and an arrangement made for immediate surgery. One morning, I called home to be told he had a headache. 2 mornings later, he was recovering in the ICU. And all I could do, like a helpless nincompoop, too busy to battle courses and stay put in the American soil was, listen. Listen helplessly as I saw images of my father in a hospital, his head bandaged, strongly fighting cerebral strokes. This is not what I imagined would happen to him at his age. For the first time, the possibility of my parents dying occurred to me. And it scared the shit out of me. Not that I ever thought my loved ones were immortals, who would be untouched by death. But some irrational part of me always believed that death and suffering can never happen to my parents. It happened to others, when they grew old, and you were supposed to empathize and wish them well. But it wasn’t going to happen to my parents. Ever.

It’s a helpless feeling, and no amount of convincing can help you. You know you can just take the next flight and reach Kolkata, screw the semester. You haven’t sold your soul to anyone. Yet. And this is what I have been questioning myself. Would my father not come see me wherever I was if I suffered a stroke? Then why am I not doing the same? Because I was greedily waiting for the semester to end, so that I can take full 2 weeks off, even bargain with the advisor to see if I can extend it up to 3 weeks. The irony is, my father would hopefully be back on his feet by then, and not in as much need of seeing me as he is now. Seriously, how naïve I am, that I have never imagined him lying in an ICU, hooked to bottles of IV. Blood clots in the brain, are you kidding me? Those only happened to people in movies.

My stomach churns at these thoughts. I have suffered from a strange physiological phenomenon since morning. I didn’t cry, but my eyes kept shedding tears, not once in a while, but generous amounts of raindrops. It seemed a dam had broken somewhere. I unseeingly stared at the TV. I wasn’t crying, but tears rolled down my eyes in abundance. For the first time, I fear the power of death, and the devastation that mortality leaves in its wake. Morbid thoughts engulf me as I try to think and reason, like I would do with a research problem, how exactly this could happen to my father, who I thought was neither old, not ailing, and who most importantly, I thought would remain unaffected by pain and suffering. He once told me that the day you really grow up is the day your parents die, and not when the day you finish college, get a job, or have children. I am amazed at how the veracity of his words just started to make sense to me.

sunshine

18 comments:

Abhi said...

Sunshine,
I have never ever commented on any blog that I follow/read. But this one struck a chord with me somehow in a way I cannot explain. No, my parents are not dead, nor are they in a hospital. But the mere thought of it happening is unimaginable, so I wont try to console you. But I lost my best friend 4 years back, and the loss is still very fresh in my mind. He was 23 and staying in US at that time and I was in India. I still feel a little guilty because it was our plan to go together to the US, most probably in the same univ or atleast the same state. I still regret that I was not there with him, because whatever happened to him wont have happened.. or atleast would have been handled. I would just suggest you to prioritize... is it worth doing what you are doing if you are not with your loved ones at times when they need you the most. Or most importantly, at times when it is "your" need to be with them. I know this sounds emotionally foolish, but there are times when this foolishness kicks logic's ass in the long run. I dont understand what you are undergoing right now, because this is family. But, do you feel that "you" need to be by his side? If yes, I would suggest you to go. It is just my viewpoint. Obviously, you know better...

~AB.

Deepika said...

I so, totally relate to this post sunshine. My mother was detected a small, tiny little malignant growth in her bladder JUST as I landed on the American soil after my annual winter break, and all I wanted to do was take the first flight back home. It wasn't before that that the thought of any catastrophic disaster happening in my family had EVER occurred to me. And suddenly my world came toppling down. She's doing fine now, everything is under control (touchwood) but tears spring into my eyes even now when I look at her photos long enough.
Your father will be fine, all fine. And you'll see him completely hale and hearty in no time. Cheers!

M said...

I am not sure if you've received my previous comment (tech issue), but I realise what you mean. I felt the same a couple of days back when one of my aunts died.I realised that my folks are mortal and aint getting any younger.Making efforts to bridge whatever gaps.

Totally appreciate you for writing this on your blog.

Raam Pyari said...

go to him. Just go.

Lekhni said...

If your Dad is in the ICU, he will not be allowed any visitors anyway. Your support would be of more help to your Mom. However, if you have siblings, or she has sisters or other relatives to support her, then your immediate presence may not be of too much help. So my suggestion is - check with her as to how she is managing - does she have someone to sit with her in the hospital etc? (Don't ask her outright if you should come - she'll likely say "No".)
You can then make your decision based on how you think your Mom is holding up.

Dew said...

I sometimes get this thought and I get very disturbed with it.

I can't digest the fact that my parents too will be gone sometime.

I became teary eyed reading this post..Strikes the cord

SurAj said...

Wow - My mind fails to comprehend how someone could go through that and not take the next flight home.

I know i would.

Padmanabhan said...

I think you should leave.

ashkd said...

Go right away.. may be your father wanted to see you and thats why you were getting nostalgic a few days back.. your face would make him recover very fast.. go..

there is nothing more depressing to even to think about such things.. :-(

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

This feeling is familiar. My grandmother was down (with age-related illness: she was 87, and they told me on phone that her days were numbered now), and she was more than a mother to me. I was 29, and was returning home.

She passed away when I was on my way back, waiting for a connecting flight, at Washington-Dulles airport.

Keep your cool. I know how helpless one feels in such moments. I've been through this, feeling like banging my head on the wall out of sheer helplessness, separated by thousands of miles. Remain focussed, and take a decision.

I know how hard it is to have a grip, but you just have to. I'd possibly have rushed back, but then, screwing up a semester isn't the best of ideas.

My (rather uncalled-for) advice would be to base your decision on how strong your "support" is back home - whether the group of relatives and friends is good enough to handle the situation.

Pavana said...

Hi Sunshine,

I have never commented on your blog. But this one really touched my heart.

I totally understand what you are going thru.I have been thru this turmoil few yrs back. All I can say is be brave, positive and emotionally very strong. If it's practically possible, just make a short trip to India. Who knows..he could recover much faster if you are with him.

My prayers are with you and your family. Hope he recovers soon. Keep us posted.

snippetsnscribbles said...

Its horrible to say I'm delurking to comment on a post like this. But I had to. This one hit home hard. You have put in words what I have forever felt about death and ahving to deal with it someday...I still cannot fathom that day...

I honestly thing you should fly back home. This is the time your presence will be more needed. I'm sure you will not regret your decision if you decide to fly.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

The Furobiker said...

The only reason i HATE staying out of India.. we gotta think before taking the next flight...

Menagerie said...

Hi, I have been reading your blog for a while, and just wanted to pass my best to you and your father. I hope he recovers soon, and you dont have to grow up as yet.

God bless!

Jeevan Baretto said...

Sunshine,
Just stay calm, it will all get better.

When I came to the US for the first time in Aug 2009, I saw my dad at the airport for the last time. I could see tears in his eyes, which was unusual. After I reached US I sent home pictures from here. He was so proud of me, he shared the pictures with all his friends in office and relatives. Sometime at the end of sept. I called up and asked if they could come to visit me, and that would be awesome. They were very happy. Next week, it was halloween and I was busy at a pumpkin carving party, and there was no cellphone signal. I got home late. I had 3 voice messages. One of them said, call home asap. Nothing else. I called home (landline), nobody picks up the phone. I get a call from my sister's friend that my father died of a heart attack that morning and I should come home asap if possible. That was the worst night ever for me. Booked the next flight for home and I reached the funeral just on time. I could see his face, he was still smiling. Like he did all the time.

pritam said...

Hi Sunshine,

My Best wishes to your dad.. hope he gets better soon..

Ketaki... said...

Hey Sunshine,
I hope your dad gets well soon.. I know the helplessness of getting stuck in US and not being able to travel back to India when needed. I will pray things work out for you and God bless all of us with enough strength to bear the inevitable loss of someone close to us in future.

TGFI said...

Hey sunshine

this is a belated response. hugs and hope your dad is doing well now. take care.