Monday, August 4, 2008

Is it always black and white? Or is there a deep grey somewhere?

It was a super hectic weekend. It had me wishing there was a bit more time to relax and that is not me at all. Nathan's aunt and uncle had a stopover in Singapore on their way to Australia and they were staying with us over the weekend. If I'm honest, I wasn't looking forward to their visit. For a number of reasons. Recently I had heard only negative things about them from DD so that obviously put me off. I was really wondering why I should spend my weekend taking care of people my husband wasn't even close to. But the weekend was an eye opener.

The main reason DD felt like that was because his maternal grandmother (Naani) was recently asked to stay in an old age home by this aunt and uncle and he was very upset about that.

DD has 2 uncles and 1 aunt from the maternal side. His Naani has always stayed with the middle son (the uncle who was visting us) because the eldest son didn't want to keep her. She has taken care of their children while both husband and wife were working. Both their children are overseas and the couple took VRS a year ago and now want to spend their time visiting their children. They can't take DD's Naani with them as she's very old and she doesn't have a passport. The flight to Australia or the US would in any case be beyond her. Plus, they were looking for a bride for their son and kept needing to leave town to go check out eligible girls. In addition to the above, they live in Kerala where apparently domestic help is difficult to come by. And DD's aunt had recently had her uterus removed so she was unable to do much house work for a few months. In addition to DD's Naani, his aunt's mother was also staying with them. So, they had the responsibility of both mothers which they felt they were unable to deal with. So, they left both mothers in the old age home.

It would be unfair not to point out that DD's mom hasn't paid a stellar role either. When she found out her mother was staying in an old age home, she was upset and shed loads of tears but didn't take any steps to either confront her brother or take action and bring her mother to stay with her. In fact, I was in Delhi at the time and I remember I asked her why she wouldn't keep her mother, and her response had been that DD's sister was expecting and we were in town so there was not enough space and she didn't have enough domestic help to take care of her mother. What utter rubbish. It made me furious to hear her say there wasn't enough space in the house. Not enough space for your own mother! And this is a god fearing woman.

Anyways, we were in Delhi again in March and we'd gone to visit his Naani in Cochin and stayed with her in the old age ashram. It was such a difficult experience. This place was full of old people who were there because there was no one to take care of them. Either their children were overseas or they were childless. They were so happy to see us and of course Squiggles. We made it a point to talk to most of the other inhabitants of the home and enquire about their lives. They all seemed happy there but it almost felt like a place where people come to die. Not that it was a depressing place but there is no purpose to being there. You have only one another (if you're a couple) or no one at all that you can really call your own or spend time with. How sad. We spend all our lives chasing after material things and yet when it comes to a time where we really have material comforts, that is all that we have and it's not enough.

After we returned back to Delhi, DD spoke to his parents and impressed upon them the need to ask his grandma to stay with them. They maintained that they were always in favour of the idea but that his grandmother was the one who wanted to stay with the SON and not with the daughter. She was afraid that if she made a mistake her son-in-law might not be happy and ask her to leave. Not that his parents would ill treat her but this was the old fashioned notion that his grandmother was carrying. DD spoke to her and convinced her that he would buy the room in the old age home for her so that if she ever felt that his parents weren't treating her well, she would have a place to go to. We even considered bringing her to Singapore but the logistics of getting her a passport wasn't going to be easy as she didn't have a permanent address etc. And asking her to adjust to a foreign country just didn't seem like the right solution at her age. After a lot of convincing, she has finally come to stay with his parents in Delhi.

Now I compare this situation to what has happened in my family and is it any wonder that I look at DD's family with disappointment? My maternal grandfather was suffering from Alzheimers and was extremely difficult to handle. And yet my eldest uncle and aunt took care of him like they would of a new born baby. At the worst of his illness, he would hit them, verbally abuse them, not recognise them, call my aunt a slut and tell her she was having an affair with sundry men. He would leave home and run away without telling anyone and they had to deal with the stress of looking for him. He would pass urine and poo all over the house and they would clean it. He was extremely violent and yet would cry inconsolably like a baby sometimes. I don't think there is anyway that I can explain in mere words what they went through with him for the last 12 years of his life. And yet they took care of him with love and affection. They treated him with dignity. That is why I respect them so much. So, this is my standard of how children should take care of their parents. It's a very high one but it is the only one, as far as I'm concerned.

DD was very upset when he first heard about his Naani being all alone in the old age home. He's very attached to his grandmother because she has brought him up when he was a baby. For a few years after DD was born, his mom was working and she would leave DD with her mother for the day. As I found out this weekend, this uncle was staying with his elder brother at the time. The elder brother refused to let his sister (DD's mom) leave DD with them during the day because it was too disturbing at home. That's when this uncle left and found another place to stay even though he could ill afford it, just so that DD's mom could leave DD with her mother and continue working.

This is the same person who has now left his mother in the old age home. I don't condone his behaviour but I think having spent some time with them this weekend I realised that not everything is black and white. They were very nice. They stayed and were comfortable just as they would be at home. His aunt cooked and fed us. I was ill last night with a terrible stomach bug and she made dinner even though we had been out the whole day and she was tired. She even made some home remedy for me so that I would feel better. I kept thinking that she probably expected me to do much more for them and is right now thinking what a crappy girl her nephew has married who couldn't even make a simple meal for them. But even if she thought that she never let on. After dinner, they were regaling us with stories from their youth and telling me stories about DD as a child. It made me realise that DD and his aunt and uncle had a bond. It was there for me to see in the stories that they were telling so effortlessly. Maybe the recent events weren't great, but it wouldn't do to forget the past either. Maybe there's a middle ground, at least in the way we relate to them. It doesn't have to be all animosity. It was a comfortable evening. And we did have fun the whole weekend with them.

There is a deep grey somewhere.


karmickids said...

This was so so touching. My mom is 70 and lives alone. My heart breaks but she is happier alone than living with us, in the chaos of our home. My husbands mother lives with us and is also getting old, but she is difficult to get along with. I know sooner or later, they both will need to come to a happy compromise and bury their egos and live together with us, and hope they are able to....

Mala said...

Glad it worked out finally..what happened to the aunt's mother though?

I find myself thinking about stuff like this more and more. Can't bear to think of my parents being old and helpless.


Squiggles Mom said...

K - Oh, that's tough. But you have to respect that they want their independence too and yet it's difficult to see them on their own as a child.

Mala - The aunt's mother is still in the old age home. She has 3 other daughters but apparently she fought with all of them and now no one wants to keep her. She's a wealthy lady but she cant stay in her ancestral property and has to stay in this home. Wonder, whats the point of hoarding all that money, huh.

DotThoughts said...

I think this post, more than anything else, showed the generosity of your feelings. Despite having such a strong opinion about DD's grandmom being left in an old age home, you tried to find a middle ground with them. That, I think speaks a LOT about who you are. This was a touching post, but also made me proud of knowing you via your blog.

Squiggles Mom said...

Awww. Dottie. That was so sweet. Thank you. It really means a lot. I never thought about how I would come across....

choxbox said...

absolutely SqM. it is a very deep grey.