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Seven months later…

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Father Time marches on relentlessly. Unbelievably, it has been seven whole months since Lechi’s passing!

 

In these intervening months, I have realized this. During the time I was caring for Lechi, I was reacting to the mental and physical humiliation wrought on her by the ravages of the Voldemart of medicine. This reaction was manifest as a deeply rational response, in that, it was based on an understanding of the underlying biology, the capabilities of the state of the art in medicine, and the necessity of being a pillar of strength, to help Lechi through this enormous ordeal (I remember one time she was in her wheelchair and I was preparing her for bath when she looked at herself in the mirror. She was quite distressed by the growth on her neck. I had to lie through my teeth to console her that it was not as bad as she really thought it was. Maybe, Harischandra {his ideal life involved two virtues: never go back on your word, and, never lie, no matter what} needs exposure to situations like these to understand the virtues of lying). In effect, I had mentally dedicated myself to service Lechi’s every need to the best of my abilities, wherever possible. I did not allow myself to be overwhelmed by any of the extended ramifications of the situation (I must add, office work helped immensely to keep the mind occupied. Of course, we couldn’t have done without the tremendous support provided by the family).  I even carried this behavior to the logical extreme of thinking about and planning in advance for the final journey (As it would turn out, seems like Lechi anticipated this and surrendered to Yama the same morning that I was going to meet the funeral director!). In all this, I had an outward showing of raw emotion (as in crying) only on three occasions: first, the day I learned about the diagnosis, while driving. Second, the day the doctor came into the hospital room and gave us the “game over” news, and third, some minutes after Lechi’s passing, when I went into the bedroom to wake Mahati up, so that she could say her final goodbye. In short, throughout the ordeal, I had the demeanor of a clinical, hard-core rationalist.

 

This veneer started to unravel, almost immediately after Lechi’s final breath. I have noted elsewhere, in these blogs, that I wanted a pillow for her, so that she could be comfortable, when she was being taken away. Later that same day, I was whispering in her ear, that she would not be alone at the funeral home, and that I would be thinking of her. Grief, can stretch the rational fabric very thin. She has unfettered access to your pysche, announcing herself, at the oddest of times(in conversations, in the middle of work), in the oddest of places (shower, while shaving, in the car, while watching TV, in performing the monthly ceremonies, in a restaurant. Modern science tells us, that multiple universes are a possibility. I have wished for Lechi’s existence in one of those alternate realities. Just this afternoon, I happened to be near her dentist’s office and it triggered a whole flood of emotions). During these visits, Grief, can wreak enough havoc, to choke you up and tear you up. While I have not invoked a God, I do admit to have conjured up many irrational possibilities for maintaining continuity with Lechi. I had led Mahati on, with the notion of building a “Wish Machine”, so that she could bring back as Mahati says “you know who”. But, I am slowly abandoning this idea, as I learned from her school psychologists, that this could cause Mahati to completely mistrust me when she realized it was all make believe. Longer term, that is not at all good for our relationship, is the warning.

 

 Mahati’s mental gyrations have been even more tumultuous. When we were in India (mid to late August) she made it a point to share mom’s passing, even with strangers. My mother even observed her talking to herself, on her favorite swing (yes, she had discovered a go to spot in the complex playground). Nights were when she would miss “amma” the most. At other times, she has been upset watching kids interact with their moms. Over the past few months, there have been very violent outbursts (bloodshot eyes from the crying and a very strong urge to hurt), triggered by something very trivial. Initially, I would react but it took a lot of learning, talking, and patience to let these storms pass.  These episodes have started to subside. She has a good counselor at school who introduced her to another kid and they have exchanged notes. This was very important in that it has helped provide her the right frame of reference, as well as realize there were other kids like her. Now she is bolder in invoking “amma” in conversations. In fact, Lechi is my brahmastra, “secret weapon” that I very sparingly use, when I sometimes need her to comply. It works ! I have tried to come through for her but it is a continuous learning experience. On many an occasion, I have fallen woefully short. The “mom/amma” bar is really high! {I acknowledged this to my mom when I first came to the United States. I can still see how hard my mom (as does my mother-in-law)  tries to help with the situation. Truly amazing!} In spite of my middle-age, I still turn to her for relief.  This is probably my biggest source of despair, that my child will never know or have much of this infinite, indefatigable ocean of love, and always available resource called “amma”.  In general, dads are dispensable, moms are not. Old jungle saying : Dad-hunter, Mom-nurturer. That is the challenge I must step up to.

 

The ordinary has never been more desirable. I say ordinary because intact families take it for granted. Lechi and I enjoyed each other’s company. One of our favorite things to do together was watch Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie serials. I miss that! As I was putting together a slide show of Lechi’s life, many photographs from the trips we had taken together, really reminded me of the good times. {Incidentally, Lechi seems to have had a premonition of sorts even before she was diagnosed. She always asked me if something happened to her would I remarry. In the same breath, she would ask me to promise that I wouldn’t, which I did, and have every intent to honor till my time ends. A few days before she breathed her last, I was wheeling her towards the balcony, as she wanted to look out. She said in a weak drawn out voice,”Suresha…” paused for but a moment and then made a sound “tch!  …paravalai vudu (its ok) “.  I immediately understood what was on her mind, said so, and reiterated my promise. } I remember the many conversations where she aspired for a relatively simple life and was even looking forward to and imagining how our retired life ought to be.  As someone said, “Life happens when you are making other plans!”. On occasion, I do find myself mentally reaching out to her for bouncing off ideas or in making decisions. I also discovered I had only started to really know her and there were many unfinished conversations.  I have also felt, if I only knew we had so limited time with each other, I may have done things differently (for example, time spent doing my MBA would have been worth a lot more had  I spent it with her and Mahati instead). Even a heated exchange or disagreement is more welcome than this void. There is so much to be said just for the simple presence, and nothing more, of someone you love. In some ways, I miss caring for her, as it afforded me the opportunity to always be around her.

 

There is absolutely no doubt that Life as we knew it has fundamentally changed for Mahati and I. Mahati feels vulnerable enough that I have to negotiate, long absences during the day, with her. It seems like when Lechi was around, there was some intangible tacit purpose for everything I/we were doing or trying to achieve. Now that, strangely enough, seems to have disappeared. There is an ongoing effort , on my part, atleast, to determine the right balance between career choices/ambitions/priorities versus being there for Mahati and paying attention to her needs. One thing that I have lost for sure is the capacity for fitful sleep. Some days it feels like I have slept a lot only to discover the clock is showing 1 or 2AM. Thankfully, insomnia has spared Makat. Afternoon naps are more restful. Sometimes I do worry about what it will take to get Mahati safely into adulthood. Our changed lives means, I have to put in place living trusts, insurance, and the like, so a dependent minor, is adequately taken care of.

 

Amongst the most undesirable activities I have had to engage in, over the past few months, include removing many of Lechi’s social footprints, such as canceling her mobile phone service, credit cards, changing titles, changing ownership of bank accounts, etc., It was very uncomfortable.

 

But Life must go on. I am reminded of a song my dad used to sing around the house.  The lyrics go like this

 

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me.
 

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

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Written by asterix98

March 10, 2011 at 8:42 am

3 Responses

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  1. Dear Suresh,

    Congratulations for a deeply moving post. I was deeply moved by the way you’ve related your reminiscences of a very happy time with your wife. I’m surprised that no one has been moved enough to leave a comment on your blog.

    I share with you your anxieties of your future and I wish that all turns really smooth and wonderful for you in the days ahead. I’m sure the spirit of Lechi (pardon me for using that name too) will strengthen you in your endeavours.

    The song that you have given is from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man who knew too much”. I liked the film too.

    Deepak Bellur

    July 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

  2. Dear Suresh,

    We are getting to know Lakshmi now through your writing – i am sorry that we did not reach out to know her in person all these years. We often tend to place more weight on what’s current and urgent and lose perspective on what’s important as we go through our busy lives. Much as it is cathartic for you to write these blogs it will also help Mahati to understand her parents more when she grows up through these writings.

    Venky

    Venky

    August 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  3. Suresh, thank you for sharing your feelings with us all. My father died long ago, and my mother died in 2010. Your essays help revive some of my feelings, and I find that sometimes my activities bring up feelings in other people who have lost a loved one.

    I felt twinges when I closed my parents’ newspaper subscription and telephone number of 42 years. I got to talking with the agent at the phone company. When I told her that my sister had moved temporarily into my mother’s house, she told me about her mother moving permanently into her late grandmother’s house.

    When I inquired at a bank about retitling an account, the new accounts person fell to tears. My mom made adequate legal arrangements in advance. That reminded the bank employee of the guilt she feels because she didn’t encourage her mother to set things up properly before it was too late.

    Ron

    September 16, 2011 at 4:49 am


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