I'd like to believe that I have been a good daughter to my parents, that I have done them proud. And that they've lived, quite vicariously so, through my successes. But there's something just so wrong about what I just wrote and I realize that now.
My parents have given up on a lot of their own hopes and dreams and this very truth is not sitting well with me.
My parents aren't the cool sort. They're traditionalists who've always believed in getting things done right. Their functional and level-headed approach to raising me and my older brother is the reason we feel so confident about the things we take on these days.
But on that solid bed of life lessons lies the grave of all the little aspirations and hobbies that didn't make it through.
You see, my dad was a financially responsible man. He'd rather, in his early days, travel miles on foot to save money than travel in leisure and forage for money at the end of the month. With a mere 4 annas in his pocket, he'd travel from Kandivali to Bandra, hanging on to the local trains for dear life, stopping outside his office for a frugal boiled egg, one of the simple joys in his life. And that too, he'd eat half of, saving the rest for tea. Because a clerk's salary couldn't afford such luxuries when there's a family of three back home waiting to be fed.
Mum too would make sure we had our fill first before she'd eat herself and that always meant the last dregs, the scraps. She'd rather deck me in the frilliest of frocks, ensure that I always get the cutest of shoes, but would darn holes in her petticoat and make it work just a little bit longer. That's just the kind of people they were. They knew early on that there was no windfall on the cards to rescue us and the only way to a lovely future was through the difficult cesspool of the present.
We were just a middle-class family, straight out of "Little Miss Sunshine" who were moving towards an optimistic tomorrow with the little that we had.
I remember this one time, on my way back from school, I'd rush to the toy store, press my nose up on the glass display and gawk at the Baywatch Barbie. My mum waiting patiently with a small smile on her face would let me have my moment of glee. I'd tell her how much I'd wanted that doll and she'd smile and beckon me towards home. That night, over dinner, I had heard my mother relay my wishes to Dad. I remember the distinct look of worry on his face when she told her just how expensive it was. That week, my Dad picked up an extra shift at work, working nights just to get the overtime.
Then in a month's time, right around my birthday, I come home from school to find Baywatch Barbie on my study table sitting pretty in her box. I do remember jumping around the house in joy and my mother laughing her heart out at my happiness, but now that I look back I only remember my dad's hard and long hours at work, earning his overtime to get me what I so dearly wanted.
We, as children, see our parents in a number of roles (as superheroes, as our bodyguards, heck, sometimes even as strict disciplinarians) but we never really learn to view the humanity behind their larger-than-life appeal. This way we never learn to see what our parents had to give up to see us smile. And that kills me now.
To know that my dad was an excellent photographer who had to pawn his one and only Leica camera to ensure that I could go on a school trip with my friends. To know that in spite of loving chicken so much, my mother had settled for measly table scraps for years, always making sure that we got the choicest pieces. It kills me to know that they had to hold off on many vacations because our school exams would always fall on the most inopportune of times.
All I feel is immense regret at being so caught up in my little life that I let these heart-wrenching instances of selflessness pass me by.
My parents are well in their in the late 50's now and even if their zest for life stands untainted in the face of time, their bodies are gradually beginning to fail them. The notion that they'd be gone and I'd have done nothing to give them an ounce of happiness while I could, is haunting me. And I'd be damned if I let myself sit idly by and be a party to this neglect.
So when I came across Ensure's wonderful new website about a new life after 45, I couldn't help but share it with my dad over email. He sent me an adorable email telling me of how he'd like to travel again and take my mum along with him. That night, over a call, Mum tells me how she'd like to like to start painting again and I could feel the dull ache in my heart dissipate slightly.
See, here's the thing. You have just a single lifetime with your parents and you need to do everything you can to make every moment count.
And that starts with their health. If you don't know where to start, or if you feel they need guidance on health based issues, don't back down from talking about it. You'd be surprised at how much help you get. And if they still feel that their zest for life is past their prime, take them through the inspirational stories on Ensure's website. Check them out here.