Grief

My father passed on Sep 3rd. The same day my US Passport was issued. It has been tradition that my life progresses when he visits me in the US. The first time he came, I bought my first house and got my green card. The second time he came, I bought my second home, a dream home. The third time he was here, I got my citizenship, and got divorced. The last page was getting my passport and that happened right before he passed. Thinking back, it is strange that my passport was issued on a Saturday.

3 Saturdays later I sit here on my couch watching an SPB concert on YouTube. My younger kiddo is playing on his PC upstairs. A Saturday I have longed for this entire year. There is nowhere I have to be, there is nothing I have to get done today. Even if I do nothing today, its okay. I don’t like roller coasters, I am shit scared, yet this year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. A job change, my elder son graduation high school, researched and visited colleges for him, got divorced, cared for my younger son through his wisdom teeth extraction, sold my house, moved to another house, convinced my dad to come to the US for the third time, vacationed with my boys at Mexico, got COVID, appeared for my citizenship interview, saw off my son to college in another state, nursed my father during his last two weeks of life, held his hand as he passed, cremated him. And I am here on the other side, strong enough to tell the story.

The week my father fell ill and the week after his passing were the worst. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would google ‘signs of death’ for my father. But I read each one of them and recollected what my aunts or uncles or mom had mentioned when others in the family passed. It all started on Aug 27th when he started throwing up only to discover on Aug 28th that the endoleak from his aneurysm repair had caused an aneurysm rupture. Almost lost him on Aug 27th and Aug 29th but I guess he was not ready. He woke up like nothing had happened. Nursing him for the one week before he finally passed on Sep 3rd is what I consider as one of my biggest blessings. The last few days of a parent is the absolute last ask they have of their children. There is nothing after that. Absolutely nothing.

I have had some really strong eye openers these past 3 weeks. After he passed, the funeral home tied him in a white sheet, transferred him onto a gurney, strapped him and covered him with a fitted blanket. They loaded him onto the back of a minivan and took him away. Everything one does in a lifetime ends in the back of a minivan. How much we emote, stress our asses off, hold grudges, push and pull in relationships, things we want to buy, positions we want to achieve, the egos we manifest, everything seemed so meaningless in that moment.
I am a believer of the concept, where the soul lives on and the body is merely a cloth that the soul sheds when someone passes. I also believe in signs. Three days after he passed, I saw the brightest light, lighting up my garage as I opened the door in the morning to drop my son to school. I knew he was going. I have never seen that light before or after. The funeral home director placed the bag with his box of ashes in the front seat and fastened the seat belt around the bag. It appeared like he was sitting right there, I spoke him on the ride home. When I got home, there were 4 birds, I have never seen them before waiting on the trees around my driveway. Like they were there to welcome him home. That first night, deers from the neighborhood sat vigil next to the wall where I kept his ashes. So many signs he has shown me, strengthening my belief in the soul.

I have been perusing a lot these last two weeks after his passing, and I realized that two roles of my life that I had been playing for years, ended in a matter of months, that of a wife of 19 years and of a daughter for 43 years. I may be a wife again, but I will never have to be a daughter again. And that has been the strangest feeling. We get so used to the multiple roles we play, that of a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and we think these roles stay until the end. They do, but the realization that we stop being them is strange.

Suddenly I am not so sure what I should grieve for. My son leaving the nest or my father passing or my divorce. Walking into my son’s room and trying to organize his room is the most painful thing. I cannot bring myself to moving his clothes or looking for something in his closet. It is easier to hold my father’s phone or see his shoes outside the door or his glasses on the coffee table. Bringing a life to this world, giving that little human everything you have, taking every chance because there is no rule book and then letting them go is by far the most unfair transaction in this world. In the end parents are just bridges for the first 18 years of their life. When I left him in his dorm room briefly and walked out, I felt something leaving my body, maybe the umbilical cord? Weird.

Then seeing your parents pass and doing everything for their physical being, is just so unfair. And you go through that twice. It takes years to overcome (if you ever overcome) to push the sadness of one, that the other one goes and creates another layer of sadness that you have to push through one day at a time.

All said and done, I am not quite sure what I should grieve for or just let it be. As my therapist says put one foot in front of the other and take one day at a time.

Prepping

Like my friend put it, it is a ‘weird feeling’, sending off your kid to college. There are a few moms I know who are going through this weirdness this month. For some moms it is the first child, like me. For some it’s their second or third child and they have no more at home. For me, this is my first one, the one who has taught me most of the firsts of parenting from caring for a newborn, to teenage years, to everything a young boy goes through in their first 17 years of life. He made me better prepared for the second one.

What is prepping for college? I don’t know. I guess it is savoring every moment you have with the not-so-little-one before they walk out the door. It is not like you will never see them again, but what bites is that you will not spend years with them under the same roof, like there is no end. They will come for breaks and summer, but all those are finite times, a few weeks and they have to go. After college, they will decide where they want to live, work, and start chalking out their paths. So this is when the umbilical cord really slivers down to a bare minimum. Oh it never is cut completely, that I am sure of. You loosen the reign little by little, but you never ever let go.

I have not hit rock bottom yet, or had that crying like someone is ripping your heart out, but it will hit, sometime in the next few weeks. I am not quite sure what I am going to miss most. Most likely its the calling out ‘Ma’, a thousand times a day. It is always Ma, this or Ma, that or something else. Even if I am sitting next to him, his conversation always starts with ‘Ma’. Or the hug, or the bragging about muscles, protein, gym etc. I guess what I will miss the most is the singing. I don’t know. The feeling is of standing at the shore, waiting for that huge wave to come and drench you.

I don’t know how our parents did it. Let us go in a time without cell phones, just handwritten postal letters or a PCO booth, dinging at every minute. It is a strange feeling, because you have fed, nurtured, been with them through their emotions, held their hand, given them a hug every time they felt low, told them right from wrong, watched their every step.. Now you are letting them walk out the door into the wild, on their own. All you can do is sit back and wait and hope that you did well.

I know you may be thinking, what is the big deal, it may not be, but I know fear for their child is something almost every mom carries in their heart for their child. Fear of being safe, of eating good food, of taking care of their bodies, of being respectful and being respected, its a transition where we switch from being sure to hope. Hope that wherever our children may be they are healthy and happy.

Like I have said before, my children are the best thing that happened to me. My older one says to make me feel better, ‘but you’ve got the younger one’. It is just not the same. It is like 2 pieces of a puzzle, one cannot replace the other. A void is a void. So like everything else, this is the next phase in parenting. The most challenging one so far. Everything until now was easy peasy, compared to this. And now I fully well understand why they call it empty-nest. Whether you have a partial empty nest or a full empty one, hang in there Mama and believe that ‘you did well’.

She is a woman.

As you read this, imagine you have a blank paper in front of you. If you feel any respect for a woman, throw some paint on it. I hope at the end of this you paper is filled with color.

Right from when we are born, there is a moral code placed on our shoulders, even without our knowledge. Girls are “supposed to be” a certain way. I won’t say its all men who place this heavy sword on us, sometimes there are women too. Till around 11 or 12, I think we are ok. We get away with a lot of things we do. But even at that age we have to protect our vaginas. We have to learn what a bad touch is, our parents are always circling us like hawks to protect us from physical and emotional trauma. As we start menstruating, we have probably read why it happens, or are told by someone the why of this phenomenon. But what nobody can tell you is how you will feel. The pain that starts either in your back, or your lower abdomen, or legs, or head, it can be anywhere. It lasts for hours while you feel like your insides are crumbling. When the sanitary napkin gets soaked, you have to run to a restroom, to change. Wrap the used one. And for a fleeting instant, you feel the freshness of a new sanitary napkin. Every night you sleep uncomfortably, waking up to check if you have stained the sheets or your dress. There is a constant thought lurking in the back of your mind, are you staining? This cycle of menstrual stress repeats every month from age 11/12 to age 55/58. Fucking 45 years, we bleed every month.

As we start menstruating, the boobies grow and now you have to wear a bra to support them and not show your nipples. That is another lifelong commitment we make to our bodies, hide them forever from public eye. It is another piece of cloth we have to wash and maintain and wear every day. And those straps never stay in place. I am sure who haven’t not seen a woman sliding her hand into her top and pulling those straps back in place.

If periods and bras weren’t enough torture, there are UTIs, PCOD as accompaniments. You use a public toilet and pee starts burning the next day. I never asked for ovaries in the first place, now you give me cysts in them, which make it so difficult to lose weight. If nobody in my ancestral generations had abnormal levels of blood sugar, PCOD will definitely alter my blood sugar. These are internal mess ups, there are the external ones too. Hair for example? How many ways can you cut this thing, then there are 100s of shampoos and conditioners to choose from to make it look pretty. Pretty for who? Did someone say face? Dont even get me started. Moisturiser, foundation, concealer, blush, powder, the list is endless. People have taken the face as a prime research material. Why not just let it be? How much can you decorate 2 inches of skin above your eyes.

Well, coming back to the woman, we haven’t talked about the mother of all fucks, pregnancy! Whoa, the first 2 minutes are blissful, but then that tattoo on your face, is PERMANENT. You eat, you grow, the being inside you grows. Yes its wonderful, to feel this little human inside you, but let’s look at the things nobody tells you. It hurts! Hurts like hell! You are lying there with your legs in stirrups, opening up your entire being to whoever walks around looking at down there. It is a very come-see-me-naked experience. You have no idea what you are passing out, just baby or something else too. After your tummy shrinks back, never to its original form or size, you look at the mirror admiring yourself, patting yourself on the back and see these tiger skin marks on your tummy. If you cannot look inside, well this is a visible sign of what my body just went through, it expanded to its maximum and shrunk back. Depending on whether you had vaginal or c-section, the doctor’s artwork on your body deserves a special mention. Down below, you cannot pee, it burns like hell. And if its c-section, you just cannot move until it heals.

Breastfeeding. Yes have a good laugh. Amazing experience, agree. But this is when we understand the feelings of a cow. You are nothing but a cow, ready to milk anytime. You feed and feed and feed and feed and feed and feed, sometimes for a year, sometimes for more. Note that the first two evils of periods and bra still exist along with stitches.

While we go through all of the above, we are expected to go to office, work, earn money. We are also expected to cook and feed the rest of the (useless) people in the house. We are expected to drive to our doctor appointments. We are expected to keep the house clean, car clean, baby clean, and ourselves clean. Maintain relationships with people in the world. We haven’t spoken about feelings, have we? Oh yes, we feel too. We get angry, happy, sad, cry, frustrated, scared, apprehensive and what not.

I don’t think we should fight for equal rights, there is something more basic that is missing, respect. So all she asks for is respect, not because she goes through all of this, because she is a human being. If you cannot give her that, leave and let her be. She will survive and thrive because she is made of sterner stuff.

One evening..

Naina had been standing at the bus stop for over an hour now. The sky had turned pink and red and blue and violet. The sun was slowly moving to yonder shores. She looked around nervously. First to the left. The stores were still open. A lady was standing at the counter of what looked like a medical store. When the lady looked at Naina, she looked away. To the right, across the street was an open playfield. Children were kicking around what looked like an old football. This was the edge of town. She had covered her head with a scarf and wore dark glasses so no one would recognize her. She looked left again, there was no one at the medical store. She knew that next to the medical store was a vegetable store. Last minute shoppers were buying vegetables before they headed home to make dinner. Her mother must have started looking for her now, she thought.

Nervously she looked at her watch. It was 6.45pm. She saw a bike approach. As it came closer she realized it was someone else. She thought when you are waiting for someone, everyone around starts to look like them. She had to take off her dark glasses soon. Nobody wore dark glasses in the night. She didn’t want to be traced so she had left her phone at home. As time passed her anxiety got the better of her. Many questions ran through her mind. An accident? Abandoned me? She clutched her bag a little closer to her and continued the rhythm of looking left and right. The boys had now retreated from the playfield. A biker passed her and slowed down staring at her. She turned around. Through the corner of her eye she saw that the bike slowly drove away.Something must have gone wrong she thought again. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. She wiped them off trying to tell herself to be brave.

She looked at her watch again. It was 7.45pm. Her feet were hurting. She wanted to sit down, but there was no place to sit. She thought she should go back home, pretend that nothing had happened. Suddenly she saw a vehicle approach her. It was not a bike, it was a car. The headlights were piercing through her eye. The car came to a stop in front of her. And then she saw him. At the same time someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around, took one look and screamed.

“Naina.. Naina.. Nainaaaa. ” she heard her mother’s voice.

Wait..

Waiting is a cruel game
there is hope
yet despair
it will happen says a voice in your head
but what if it doesn’t
then life lingers on hope
hope of a new dawn
of spring
i hold hope in my heart
waiting for you…

In or out?

I have heard of these experiences where friends distance yourself when you file for divorce. I didn’t quite understand it until I experienced this first hand. Its like a hard line that is splitting up a bunch of people into three categories. The open, the hidden and the forgotten.

The open ones are the ones who believe you, root for you and pray for your happiness. They genuinely care and make you believe that a divorce is a new beginning to your own life, not the end.

The hidden ones who support you and do everything the open ones do, but not in the public eye. They have their reasons and I am just glad for the support.

The forgotten.. wow! this is a class apart. People you spoke to almost everyday, take sides and leave you hanging. This is the most valuable lesson one learns during this process. It’s like someone said, you know who your friends are during difficult times. And boy, have I seen some fade away as quickly as receding waves.

Pretense is something I absolutely hate. Everything is either black or white, there are no grays. The forgotten ones try to put up a show and pretend they are onto something here. What they don’t realize is that the one going through the divorce is dealing with something much bigger, its life changing, that the pretense is easily called out and becomes a joke.

I can go on about these forgotten group of people, but I just want to count my blessings for open and hidden ones in my life. Grateful.. thankful.. blessed.