Old article which was posted in Times of India on September 5th 2016. It was for my Dad who died a few months later. Link here-
“How are you Dad?”
He turned around slowly and then looked up at me from lost eyes which were straining to convey the visual message to the slowing brain, the registration of a known face. And then they lit up brightly with sparkles that only true love can provide on seeing a son come home after a long time. A tear desperately tried to stop its flow out of my mother’s eye standing next to me while I was not sure why I felt so weak and soft inside. Maybe age was catching up with me too and even a slight whiff of emotion would cause some malfunctioning inside.
Another day in my dad’s life when Alzheimer’s was won over! Another day perhaps when his jumbled up memories swirling ferociously in his mind could come up with some clear resonance of the external reality! Another day when his continued presence brought joy and gratitude to our lives!
For years now, his soul has been captive in the body which is finding the burden of existence more and more difficult. He needs help in performing the basic functions of life and is confined to the four walls of his room or at best the four rooms of the house itself. His slow, swirling walk reminds me of the way my daughter walked for the first time in her life, trying to balance, twisting and twirling in measured, small steps. Alas! I have to hold back my hands and watch from the distance again. For my children, it was with a desire to make them learn to walk the miles that they had to tread ahead so that when time comes, they could march away with dignity and poise. For my dad, it was with a similar desire to let him continue to walk with the same dignity and poise lest he forgets.
He likes living alone in his room with his thoughts. The TV runs endlessly and is his only outlet to the outer world. The room has four walls, a window that may as well be closed and a ceiling that has well and truly capped blue skies of his real and virtual world. He prefers the captivity of that room and yet his mind seems to be travelling through a time machine connecting him to various events of his life which he jumbles and spurts out in a dementia-induced trance.
Sometimes he lets me know that he has to get ready for his next meeting with a leading political figure, reminding me of the childhood when I really believed that such a day would come in his life.
Sometimes he asks me as to why my son is not with us right now when he is still in India and not in distant Canada. For him, his grandson has stayed back and gives him company in this room and holds the hands of his ‘Daddu’ with warmth and love which traverses the distance of thousands of miles.
Sitting in that room, looking at him as he sat quietly staring at the wall with lost eyes, time stood still. Here was a man who was full of life just a few years back and whose thunderous voice echoed in every echelon that he traversed. And today, he was the same man who had no words left to be spoken. No one to hear them too but a handful of family members that too in their limited visits!
I had seen this before. Just a decade and a half back with my grandmother who was a scholar par excellence, a nationalist and a free thinker revered for her dignity and wisdom. And yet, in her last few months, she was but a caricature of herself and a caged soul chained in a burdened, decaying body. As Alzheimer’s took over her mind, we lost her everyday, day after day, till she was almost incoherent. The last time I met her, I had touched her hand and requested her to let go of this body and be free. From that hospital bed, she had reached out and touched my finger and a tear came out of her dry eyes letting me know that she understood. And then we had parted our ways, mine to meet the objectives of this life while hers to look for the next one, if at all one existed.
It is difficult for me to accept that Alzheimer is slowly taking my father away from us. He may grace our life with his physical presence for years and yet his soul is withdrawing into a shell and creating distances from us which would be difficult to traverse.
Deep inside I know the future holds something similar for me too, if I too have to face longevity in my life. There will be a day when my children would know that I am going away at a pace faster than my body can muster and would request me to let my body free my soul.
Every Sun has to come down and sleep. And while the Sun moves on and shines at some other place miles away, night falls in the lives of the people it leaves behind leaving a darkness which is difficult to fill.
Yet his warmth, his energy, his ideas, his thoughts still lighten up the sky and keep the darkness away if he leaves a moon that can reflect his glory. Will we leave a dark night behind or be able to leave a full moon behind with reflections of our glow which could brighten up the skies even in our absence?
The choice is ours to make with our thoughts, deeds, and action.
And yes, Dad if you could read this, you have miles to go and walk together with your companion, my mother who supports you silently in thick and thin! Hang on there as your silent, unsaid words are clearly understood by us and adds reason to our lives.
Keep walking! Keep smiling! Keep shining!