I try to go down south twice, every year. After spending decades in the capital city, my parents chose to go back to their hometown. Suddenly, the city was too noisy, too fast, and too rushed for their liking. At that time it seemed a good enough deal. I was studying, I would go back for every vacation, they’d come see me often, and things were working out just fine.
While I was busy growing up, they were growing old.
Jobs took over and going home became a luxury. It’s a realisation that dawns with time, the fact that your parents no longer have the vigour they used to.
And it’s worse when you’re not there to see it happen gradually, only on those few visits do you actually see all the changes that have surfaced. They forget where they’ve kept things, they cannot move too fast, even the slight chill of the night has taken on corrosive properties and I’d be damned if they’ve complained. Not even once!
The sight of hospitals now means a place my parents would be taken care of, if need be.
When I was five and visiting my grandparents, I would count the bridges, rivers, and thatched houses that fell on the way. Now, I tell my parents of the best clinic that has come up near their place. In fact, when I moved into a new flat, the relief at detecting a hospital nearby was almost like I had them living right here with me. I may catch a cold and ignore it, but if my parents take their health lightly, I can’t take it.
My parents are relatively healthy for people in their late sixties, but I have never seen them like I do now, bowing down graciously to time and age. The only memory I have of my mother visiting a hospital was, up to this point, her work. When I watch that woman go for a check up, it’s like watching a pillar of confidence crumble down.
I may have taken their presence for granted, but I know I can’t turn back time. Death is inevitable, for all of us.
I’ve always shared a very old school relationship with my dear old people. We have not been the best of friends, they are not the storehouse of my secrets, I have not shared drinks with them, neither will they ever tolerate the ‘rubbish idea of boyfriends and dating!’.
They’ve always pulled me through all the mess I created, tolerated my outbursts, and put up with my very, very rebellious teenage years. They’ve always been my pillars of strength. And may God forgive me, there’ve been moments that I have taken them for granted, very complacently believing that they were going nowhere. We all think we have all the time in the world, right?
I want to hold on to every little moment I get to spend with them. I am obsessed with thoughts of not having them around, but I stop myself. The fear is too real.
And I hope before it’s really late, everybody realises that time really waits for no man. Going to live with them is not a feasible option, most of us have moved out of our homes to make something out of our lives. And it’s when I am staying away, that I cherish the small moments that I am able to spare to spend with them. It could be over Skype, a phone call, and sometimes a selfie shared over WhatsApp. The conversations are as mundane as they can be. My mother would tell me I am ruining my hair and my father would ask me if the chill has come down in the city, but that small, mundane, everyday detail has taken on a quality almost equivalent to meeting them.
There’s nothing I can do to stop it. I keep telling myself that what’s happening to them will come for me someday. It’s put a lot of things into perspective. It drives home the realisation that I don’t have much time, nobody does. Their ailments makes me change a little something that could lead me to it, but nothing is going to ease away the anxiety that hits with the ‘little reminders’ that I get of their age, of the fact that I no longer cut the cake with them for my birthdays, or that neither can they physically share with me the pride of my achievements.
There’s a small voice of reason somewhere that keeps telling me that I do have my own life to live, I hold on to it dearly. It’s the same voice of sanity that also tells me to let go of things that I cannot ever bend to my will. Which means, all I can give them is time, and maybe, just maybe I’ll have enough of that.