I don’t really want to do this any more. I don’t want to see my father in this state. I don’t want to believe that something so unlikely could happen to us. I don’t want to accept that something so awful could happen so fast. I don’t want to accept that after all that chemo it is never going to get better and that it will almost certainly get worse. I don’t want to cart my dad to doctor after doctor in a wheelchair, worrying that he will fall when transferring from the chair. I don’t want to think of my dad as someone with brain damage. I don’t want to see him with a beard as until his cancer I had never in my life seen him anything but clean-shaven and put together. I don’t want to open my e-mail 20x a day and find no e-mail from him. I don’t want to remember all the medical blunders and mistakes that cost us two months. I don’t want to hear my mom say how we need to fight the disease with everything possible, thus prolonging the torture for all of us. I don’t want to research drugs and treatments. I don’t want to know more about this disease than our oncologist. I don’t want to call the onc and ask for a prognosis. I don’t want to worry that I will give my father my cold and kill him. I don’t want to lose him. I don’t want to see other grandparents walking down the street with their grandkids and know that if I’d just married earlier my dad would have had that too. I don’t want to hear other people complain about their parents. I don’t want to hear about a God whom I can only conclude either does not exist or is indifferent to the suffering of kind people who believe in him. I don’t want to see what said God has done to my father, who–unlike me–believed with all his heart. I don’t want to ride to doctor appointments in a special wheelchair van.
I don’t want to love a husband who changes the subject when I talk about my dad. I don’t want to accept that before too long this husband and my baby daughter will be my only family, so that my life will consist of two people I can’t talk to about anything and one whose welfare I am responsible for so that I cannot take a break to grieve. I don’t want to admit that a huge part of the problem is probably me. I don’t want to accept that if I get cancer at similar ages to my parents, my life is half over. I don’t want my life to end like my father’s. I don’t want to hear my husband say “you feel so alone because you don’t have siblings, like I do,” because I don’t have siblings, it isn’t my fault, and at this point in my life none are going to spontaneously materialize. I don’t want to think that now only my mom and me remember my childhood, and that someday there will only be me. I don’t want to Google “will we meet our loved ones in the afterlife?” knowing that most likely the answer is that death is going to sleep forever, and that after we go there is nothing left of us to care about questions like these.
I don’t want to remember my uncle’s e-mail after the earthquake that destroyed my family’s home in India–“don’t worry–we have not lost much, compared to others who have lost all.” I don’t want to remember how a few years after the earthquake, my uncle died abruptly in his 40s. I don’t want to think that now my father has a brain tumor, and that he and my uncle will never retire together in India the way my father used to talk about. I don’t want to think that now that the time has come to worry, neither my uncle nor my father is able to do so, as one is beyond worry and the other is no longer capable of it, and that we too now have lost all.
Before this year I would never, ever have thought of leaving the United States. This is where I was born, and it’s the only country I’ve ever lived in, or considered home. But the events of the last two years–my mom’s illness, my pregnancy and childbirth, my father’s illness–have made me realize how very alone I am here, and also that the US is a very difficult country to grow old in or raise children in. Most of that is that the costs of home care or assisted living here are prohibitive, the costs of good childcare are equally prohibitive, and there isn’t much of a “village” to help each other out–at least, not where I live.
I am the only child of two elderly parents, both of whom have cancer. It is a stab in the gut to say this, but it’s likely that I will not have my father for much longer. I’m not very connected to our US extended family, as most of them are in India and the ones in the US are far away. A lot of the US members of my family have gotten heavily involved in a religious organization that influences all aspects of their life. Since I am not particularly religious, let alone a member of this socio-religious organization, it is hard to connect to them. Also, all of my cousins have multiple siblings. And even though people in my family talk a lot about how cousins are equivalent to sisters or brothers, there is a huge difference. (Of course there is; you either grow up in the same house, or you don’t–I certainly don’t expect anyone to feel close to me, when we have only seen each other a handful of times in our lives.)
It’s been very hard, raising my baby alone. I had thought my parents would be able to help a little, but my dad’s health crisis came weeks after my baby’s birth. My husband began residency and is gone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, sometimes later. He keeps saying we should send the baby to his family in India for some time if I can’t handle her–his family is well-to-do and has a household staff, and I am sure she would be well cared for. I am physically and emotionally exhausted and sending the baby to her grandparents for a while sounds awfully tempting. But literally everybody I have floated the idea past has told me that a prolonged separation from me would be very traumatic for the baby and should be only the last of last resorts.
I am tired. I long to have an extended family, to belong, to have some moral and emotional support. I don’t have that in the United States, and I don’t see any way of getting it.
Maybe it’s time to go “home.”
Some names that are really beautiful in Sanskrit just do not translate well into English.
For folks who have just immigrated, I thought it might be helpful to start a list.
- Aaryan. This sounds way too much like “Aryan” and makes people think of Hitler.
- Harsh. “Harsh” is an English word meaning “unpleasantly rough.”
- Ashit. As beautiful a name as this is in India, it contains an English curse word.
- Poorn. I don’t think this is a very common name, but I did meet someone with this name and felt bad for him.
- Forum. A beautiful name in Sanskrit meaning “scent”–but in Western countries, a forum is either a meeting or an Internet board where people post lolcatz.
- Panini. An Italian sandwich. Not vegetarian, either.
- Palak. Most Indian restaurants serve palak paneer, and in English the spellings of the two types of “palak” are the same.
Last week, my husband told my mother in law (in India) that my back had been killing me. Last night he reported that it had gotten better.
My mother in law was very proud of herself and informed my husband that my back had stopped hurting because she had been saying mantras, which are–loosely translated–Hindu incantations.
I suspect the real reason is that the baby decided to stop doing baby Zumba on my sciatic nerve, though.
I’m a pretty laid-back dudette, so we didn’t have a housewarming, we skipped a Big Fat Indian Wedding because my mom got cancer, and honestly it’d be nice to celebrate something. More so since the last few months have involved both me and my mom puking a lot and getting medical devices shoved into places where the sun don’t shine (unless you belong to a nudist colony).
So it might be fun to have some kind of celebration.
[Ooo…fishy just did a somersault. Also, I noticed that my belly button is getting shallow.]
Anyway, like all good 2nd generation Indian-Americans, I get my information about traditional Indian ceremonies by Googling. It seems that the Indian version of a baby shower is something called godh bharai, which means “dress up and eat lots of Indian food.” (Just kidding. It means something more like “filling the mom’s lap.”) It is usually held at the end of the seventh month.
I dunno…it might be fun to do, if my mom is feeling up to it.
Speaking of mom she has chemo coming up on Monday. I reminded her to start hydrating. I thought it was only the day before but I read that it actually helps to hydrate the whole week before. I found that out online, like I find out most things about both cancer and pregnancy. I guess it’s hard to get much information in a rushed doctor visit. I wonder what folks did before the Internet.