Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lost Forever




January 4, 2005


A new year, some new beginnings. I have never been one to maintain a diary, but I want to record this new journey that I am embarking on -- the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs.

Ravi and I got married today! The ceremony was beautiful. I didn’t want a ritualistic wedding, but mama was right. There is something magical about the saat pheras!

Everything went off without a hitch, though I must admit, I was very nervous. Mama’s forgetfulness is legendary, but this morning, she forgot that it was THE wedding day! The poor dear - she has been working so hard planning the wedding over the last couple of weeks (and I can say it here, she almost made a mess with some of the arrangements) that I suspect she ran out of steam on D-day.

It is going to be difficult for her to manage without me – we have always been together, especially since papa passed away. The good part is Ravi and I have found an apartment that is just a few kms from hers.
Gosh! Already the house I grew up in and spent 27 years no longer seems ‘mine’!


January 4, 2006

Can’t believe that it is a year since Ravi and I got married! I had so many plans for this diary, but I have not written anything beyond the wedding day log. Got to set that right so I don’t forget the small, precious moments Ravi and I spend together!

Today, we had a small party at home – just family – at which Ravi and I got absolutely drunk! Luckily, MIL was quite amused. “It happens,” she said.
One thing was quite strange though. Mama couldn’t recognize Ravi’s parents! I am getting just a little worried about her forgetfulness.

I wonder if Mama is getting too lonely. I haven’t been the most ideal of daughters either – I should visit her more often. But then, Ravi and I love being with each other.

I discussed it with the GP and he feels that a change should do her good. Maybe, I should ask her to come and stay with us for a few weeks? That should cheer her up.


April 29, 2006


Mama has been staying with us for about a month now, and her behavior is starting to puzzle me. She forgot it was my birthday today! I remember how she would plan my birthday celebrations weeks, even months in advance – almost to the point of embarrassing me, especially in my teenage years. I had the fanciest of cakes – all homemade, so beautiful that my friends would beg me not to cut them.

Today, Ravi had to remind her to wish me.


October 5, 2006


Diwali – my favourite festival! I am not really a jewellery person, but I can’t help stare at the lovely bracelet Ravi presented me with.


Mama has invited us for lunch tomorrow. I think I’ll wear my new tussar sari. She always shakes her head in dismay when she sees me clad in my trousers and jacket. “Tch, tch,” she says, “you look so lovely in traditional clothes. At least make an effort sometimes!”


I am quite unlike her when it comes to dressing and grooming. Always immaculately dressed, not a hair out of place, smelling of jasmine – that is my Mama!


October 7, 2006


I am starting to get very concerned about Mama. First the food…..it tasted horrible. I hate to say it, but it did. The potatoes were burnt and the dal was half-cooked. It was as if she had never cooked in her life before. In the middle of the meal, she remembered that she hadn’t made anything sweet and decided to quickly whip up some semiya payasam. She, however, couldn’t locate the vermicelli – which, incidentally, was right in front of her.
She seemed to be in her element as she fried the vermicelli in the ghee. “Keep an eye on it always,” she said. “You don’t want it to burn.” She poured in some milk and let it bubble away till it reduced to half but if I hadn’t stopped her in the nick of time, she would have added a cup of salt instead of sugar to sweeten the payasam.

The house was in a mess. There was a time when she was a compulsive cleaner, now bathrooms stank and there was a layer of grime on the washbasins.


I am scared. What if she is seriously depressed and does something to herself? We decided that I would stay with Mama for a few days. Ravi also said he would try and locate a good doctor who can help us find what is ailing mama.


Ravi is such a darling. I wonder what I would have done without him. And to think, there was a time when I was hesitating to accept his proposal. I had really made him wait and grovel! Must make up to him soon and I think I know exactly how!


November 17, 2006


A terrible day! Work was awful. To top it, Ravi and I ended up having a tiff. He wanted me to come back home but I wanted to spend a few days more with mama.


When I returned home to Mama’s, I found my chargers missing. I always leave them plugged in to the power points and yet, I couldn’t find them anywhere. When I asked Mama, she looked at me as if I were talking gibberish.


At that point, I just gave up on the day and decided to fix myself a small drink. Vodka with a slice of lime sounded just right. Opened the fridge to get a lemon and there they were, both my chargers, lying in the vegetable crisper. I was shocked. Had mama put them there?


                                                       pic credit : Desi Soccer Mom

I had just put the vegetable tray on the counter-top to retrieve my chargers when mama let out a scream. “Snakes, snakes,” she shouted, her eyes staring straight at the cables coiled around some sundry fruits and veggies.


Something is very wrong with mama. I am worried. Really worried.


March 20, 2007


I am in denial. I can’t come to terms with the diagnosis. I have had Mama checked up by numerous specialists and their verdict is unanimous - Alzheimer’s disease.
Oh God, why me? And why her?


February 12, 2008


A few days ago, mama wandered off alone at night. Luckily, a neighbor saw her and brought her back home. It is increasingly clear that she is not going to be able to live alone anymore. I don’t want to send her to a care facility. I can’t abandon her like that. We have decided that she will come and stay with us.


April 23, 2009


This diary has been witness to many a sad entries. It’s about time I shared some happy news. Ravi and I have just discovered we are having a baby! I am over the moon…can’t wait to hold her in my arms. I can’t wait for someone to call me ‘mama’.


My mama, in the meantime, has continued to deteriorate steadily. These days, she seems more and more disoriented. Some days, she seems a little in touch with reality and for those, I am grateful.



August 1, 2011


I watch with a mixture of pride and pity.


My little girl is growing up fast and becoming more and more independent. My heart swelled with happiness today as I watched her eat a few spoonfuls of the khichdi on her own. Hopefully, in a few days, she will be fully toilet trained.


Mama, on the other hand, struggles to eat. The food dribbles down from the sides of her mouth and onto her bib. I try to help her, but she pushes my hands away. She manages to put in few spoonfuls into her mouth but chokes over the khichdi that I have so carefully mashed. A faint odour of urine and disinfectant emanates from her body. The ailment has robbed her not just of her memory and identity, it has also stripped her of dignity.


I am reaching the end of my endurance. Watching my mother and my daughter together, one progressing, the other regressing, is taking an emotional toll on me.


August 10, 2011

We finally sent mama to a care facility today. It hasn’t been an easy decision. I was worried that mama would protest at being moved away from home. I had hoped that she would protest.


But as we neared the care facility, it became clear that mama had no sense of what was happening.
I could hardly keep my tears in check. As we walked her to the reception, I hung back. Suddenly, she turned around. My heart soared. Maybe, she will give me a hug, I thought.


“Are you looking for something?” she asked in a slow, halting voice.

“No,” I told her. Taking a deep breath, I walked next to her, not wanting to leave her side till she was settled in her room.


Yes, I wanted to tell her. I am looking for my mama. She is right here in front of me and yet I’ve lost her, forever.


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This is my entry to 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' that Jaya is hosting this month. The picture above is the visual cue she gave us.
Jaya, thank you very much for your feedback and your help in editing the story.

Some stories are easy to write, some others not aren't. This story made me step out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. Firstly, I chose to do the narrative in a diary entry style. Secondly, the story - line itself made me a little uncomfortable - writing in first person about a mother's ailment was very difficult. Finally, the subject - Alzheimer's disease - is not something I know too much about (or want to know too much about - if you know what I mean). Though I have tried to cross-check the stages and the symptoms of the progress of the disease, it is quite possible that some errors have crept in. I do hope you will ignore these.


Just one thing - if you have read so far, don't just be a silent reader! Leave me a comment. I don't ususally solicit comments on my blog, but this time, I would sincerely appreciate all feadback.  




26 comments:

  1. Like I told you before, I love this diary approach to tackle a very serious subject. The daughter's paradoxical emotions, anguish over losing her mother and the joy of raising a daughter,come through very well in the diary style narration. It is an excellent first attempt.

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  2. This was a very nice write up. As you said, none of us want to be in the main character's shoes and we don't want to know about Alzheimer's. Your effort in writing about it is commendable.

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  3. I didn't enjoy reading this story, Aqua, it leaves me feeling very restless and agitated - that should tell you how effective it is.

    It's not easy to look after sick people, even your own parents, and the anger, frustration and the self-hatred that come from the effort not to mention what your parents go through ("why is the child I've raised reacting this way?") - I always wonder if I can face up to such demands, but putting them in a care facility and imagining their loneliness ... or is it our own guilt that's the hardest to face up to?

    At least if they didn't know what was happening to them, i wouldn't feel so bad about putting them in a care facility, but if that wasn't the case, it would be so hard for everyone to accept. If you can take off from work and manage, that's a measure of comfort but we need good, reliable, trained help at home, which is hard to come by. Or maybe we won't like to give up that pay packet easily, when it comes to it?

    It's a very difficult, wrenching decision to make, I would imagine. I wouldn't like to live in a care facility, either, so how can I put my parents in one? This is one solution I keep praying I'll never have to face.

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  4. Your story tugged at my heartstrings. It is a work of fiction but it is all too real in terms of what our lives are like. Great job!

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  5. The prospect of such a thing happening to our loved ones is unimaginable and heart-wrenching! But I know some 'old' people in our family who are going thru such torment day in and out and their loved ones waiting for 'them' to 'pass on'..Does all this have to be so close to reality? I really don't know..This story touched a raw nerve in me for sure!

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  6. I've gone through a similar situation personally- although not Alzheimer's. And I can tell you that you brought tears to my eyes. The line about watching one loved one progressing and the other regressing is heart-wrenching. And seeing the parents, who were your strength, as helpless as your babies is not easy to live with.

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  7. right now we are going through a bad phase where several critical diseases are diagnosed for some family members. today even I was diagnosed with jaundice...
    dont know why it brought tears to my eyes. there's certain things that God does are beyond our power. we just have to watch and accept it.

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  8. Your story struck a chord within me. Very real. The beauty of your story lies in the simplicity of the words and the way you have weaved them without being superfluous. Keep up the work!
    - Madhu

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  9. Wow! I am tears! Vy touching! Well done!
    Rashmi

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  10. Very well written story !!! I was left in tears reading it.

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  11. After Reading I ended up with tears.. wonderfully written. Seriously Very touching..

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  12. Very touching story...Well written.

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  13. Aqua,
    I have known one of my friend's father to be like that..she used to serve him food/meals or often used to feed with her own hands ..but he kept forgetting that ..would ask for meals/supper again..many a times just plain blank staring and it used to kill her emotionally..days after days ...you know they are just physically present but mentally perhaps somewhere else ...

    This is perhaps one of the best stories in C&C so far ..
    feels so real and moving ..and you know often this simplicity binds the correct chord with the reader..and you have excelled in that ..well done ..hugs and smiles

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  14. Aqua

    This felt so real, so true that I am in deep thought. The diary approach made it very real and close to life.

    How would I have handled the situation, what decision I would take, so many questions.

    Beautiful piece of work Aqua

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  15. Wow wat a wonderful write up, very touching..

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  16. OMG Aqua, I actually had tears in my eyes almost spilling when I finished reading this story and I am not even exaggerating. I am writing this comment with tears, beautifully written dear :)

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  17. Jaya, your cue was a tough one but I am glad for it really made me stretch my boundaries and attempt something different. Thanks again for your vote of confidence!

    Thanks Anjali. Actually, I was hesitating to use the A word (that should tell you how far from my life I would like it to be), Jaya suggested I should and then I added it in.


    Sra, my husband had warned me not to get into such topics. I don't even know why I wrote this - it was just that the idea refused to get dislodged from my mind. You are right, it is our guilt that is the toughest to face up to. It is something I hope I too have never to face.

    Nupur, I am really sorry to hear that. BTW, I do hope that you can spin us a yarn sometime soon.

    Harini Jaya, I think it is a terrible ordeal for the one who are suffering as well as the care-givers and it is indeed sad that sometimes death is in fact a release for both parties involved.

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  18. Who would have thought that reading a diary would capture one's imagination and touch a chord deep inside the heart! Very well written Aqua.
    You, Jaya, Sra and Sandeepa are such awesome writers. Kudos girls!.

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  19. Deepika, I am sorry to hear about your ordeal. Even when we are grown up with families of our own, parents continue to be a pillar of strength. I guess that is what makes their suffering and helplessness a bitter pill to swallow.

    Take care Sayantani, I am sure you will be fine soon.


    Madhu, thank you for all your words of encouragement.

    Rashmi, Anonymous, Pavithra, Priya Mitharwal, it doesn't make me feel good to have left you in tears. That wasn't the intention. I was in two minds over publishing this story considering that I was depressed too after having written it.


    Munchmunchcrunchcrunch, Notyet, Jayashree, Priya, Apu, thank you very much.

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  20. Jaya, situations like the one your friend faced are particularly difficult. Like I said, I don't know too much about the disease and so my narrative comes nowhere close to a real life ordeal. Thank you very much for your appreciation. All I can say is that this event makes me try harder to write better.

    BongMom, real life is fraught with so many variables that influence a decision that no matter what we think we would or should do, when really faced with a situation, sometimes the responses are quite different.Glad you liked the diary approach.

    RC, you are right, Sra, Sandeepa and Jaya are excellent writers and my inspiration to write better. I am delighted that you've jumped into the Of C and C bandwagon yourself!

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  21. Very nicely written Aqua! I always like your stories. The photo cue is a really good trigger. Flows so smoothly in your piece.

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  22. only one word : brilliant !!!
    If you havent mentioned that this is a work of fiction, I would have thought that this is your story..and felt so sad about it sametime..utterly realistic and harsh...

    Sukanya

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  23. Aqua you have written this story brilliantly ! Loved it, it was so beautifully done, you have a gift.

    I think I have mentioned this before, you should write fiction, I would definitely buy your work:-)

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