It hasn’t been anywhere near smooth going on the family front in the last 4-5 months, but until a few days ago things had settled down in a manner of speaking. Nani was still going to the hospital for two days each week for chemotherapy and the house was still messy and chaotic, with attendants bustling all over the place - but at least the pain levels had reduced and she had even started using the walker for a few minutes each day. However, it looks like she’s definitely on her last legs now, and given her condition that's probably for the best: she had a terrible reaction to the last dose of chemo, has had to be readmitted in hospital, and the internal organs are all packing up, we're told. Members of the family have flown in from London and other places since the doctor has gently indicated that it might be final-farewell time. No doubt it’s going to be a bit anti-climactic, even disappointing, for some of them if she continues to linger for a few weeks – especially considering there’s a lot of tension between various branches of the family and the hospital room is now frequently populated by people who would much rather not see each other’s faces. But c’est la vie etc.
My main concern in these last few months has been my mother, who hasn’t had anything like a proper night’s sleep in weeks; some of her own medical problems have been exacerbated and she’s aged a decade over this period. Nani was never an easy patient to look after, even in much less difficult times: she’s loud, boisterous, very extroverted, derives a great deal of her energy from the constant presence of other people (to the extent of repeatedly calling out for someone who might be resting in the next room, even when there isn’t anything specific to be done) – and in the past this has often caused frustration for my mom who, like me, needs a lot of time to herself every day, a lot of personal space. Of course, in the present situation, with an 82-year-old woman in pain and discomfort, all this is academic – there’s no question of mum expecting to have her own time and space now. But it still is very difficult at times, especially when she has to simultaneously deal with relatives who specialise in the ancient arts of Giving Advice, Delegating Instructions and Passing Judgement from a Safe Distance before getting back to their own lives.
Meanwhile, a proper trip together continues to elude Abhilasha and me. Many cancellations and rethinks have already happened. Around a month ago, when things looked like they would be relatively stable for a while, we had almost confirmed a plan to go to Egypt for 8-9 days. We were supposed to leave on October 5 but postponed it thinking we’d wait till after Ramzan – and this turned out to be providential because, scarily, nani’s condition deteriorated on the night of the 4th, which means that if we’d stuck with the original plan we would have had to cancel at the last minute. In the present circumstances planning a foreign trip beforehand is much too big a risk financially, so we’ve decided to put it off for now and content ourselves with weekend getaways whenever possible.
P.S. There’s much more to be said here – about old, ailing grandparents (of which I have three); about watching the physical breakdown of a woman who led such a vibrant life (even driving herself to the local club for cards sessions every day, past the age of 80); about first-generation NRIs having to cope with the guilt and frustration of not being around for aged parents, and how this manifests itself in strained relationships with the people who stayed back in India – but at this point I don’t know how to say it without making it clichéd and maudlin, or repeating the things that have been written many times before in these situations. More updates will follow whenever.