I won’t be able to protect you from the bullies at school.  I won’t be able to stop you from skinning your knees, or stop that jerk from breaking your heart.  If you get cancer, short of taking you to treatment, there is nothing I will be able to do.

All I can say as I push your stroller is that I will care for you better than I care for myself, and that if something happens to you it will be because I couldn’t prevent it, not because I didn’t want to, or didn’t try.  If I hear a gunshot I will lie down over you.  I can’t stop the car from crashing if we are driving–but tumne jab bhi hoegaa, wo mujhe bhi hoga–whatever happens to you will happen to me, too.

I look at your chubby little hands and remember how last year, as per the Hindu duty, I initiated my father’s cremation.  It crosses my mind that if I live to old age, you will be my parent and care for me.  And that with those chubby little hands, one day you too will consign my body to the flames, and visit the funeral home to carry me home in a paper bag, ashes and bones.  It will be a long ride for you.  It is an eerie thought.  I try not to dwell on it.

That is the gravity of what I signed up for, when I created your lives.  My life isn’t about me any more; I had my turn in the sun–and I didn’t even realize it was going on.  Now it is about you.  Being a family, the responsibility for your well-being, and (as someone said) to have my heart live outside my body for the rest of all of our lives.


I don’t want to do this any more

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.

Leaving Home to Go Home?

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.”

I am a doctor’s wife…

…it sounds quite the life, doesn’t it?

I am home alone with the baby at night, with my own job sitting on the back burner, and my thirties running through my fingers. I have no money; he’s doing his residency again, because the US doesn’t fully recognize international medical training. I can’t pay for home care for my father. I can barely pay my babysitter.

My father is ill with a rare form of brain cancer. But my husband isn’t a neuro-oncologist, so there isn’t anything he can do. And anyway, he isn’t around to do anything; he’s at the hospital.

There isn’t a great deal he can say either. He’s a good-hearted man, or I wouldn’t have married him. But he deals with horror and illness 12 hours a day, and dead babies, and much younger people undergoing tragedies and getting organs cut out and whatnot. So what’s one more? What’s the loss of a father? Things like this happen every day at the hospital, after all, and every day we have on this Earth is a gift, and everyone lives long enough to see their father go, if they are lucky that is.

Someday it’ll be his father; as certain as taxes. Then he’ll understand what it’s like. Or maybe not. His father is a doctor too.

I need some time to exercise. He says he is too tired to watch the baby after 12 hour shifts, so go do my Zumba when the baby is with the babysitter, except he forgets I’m at work then supporting us as somebody has to do it and his resident’s salary doesn’t cut it in this city. He can’t exercise either. His life is about health, and we neglect our own.

He says I have no emotions, that I run on logic. My dad is ill and my mom is caring for him, and my baby is too young to understand words. I have emotions; my grief and my pain and my horror are the Mariana Trench. Just I keep them to myself, and I go to work and smile, while inside I churn in flames like a pig on a spit. I had my parents once. They understood. And the sweet smell of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is something of a balm, but I wish there were somebody left to listen.

An interesting comic book on caring for elderly parents…

“Lucy Stone” wrote an interesting review on Amazon:

Whatever happened to those giveaways from banks; the blenders, toasters, clocks etc.? Roz Chast finds them in her parent[s’] closet. Ancient supersize jars of petroleum jelly, a drawer of jar lids, a “museum of old Schick shavers” and all the detritus of a life….What will our children find when our time comes…?”


Someone in my vanpool said to me this morning “you seem to be doing a lot better than my other pregnant friends!  They’re complaining that they can’t sleep, they’re constantly in pain, whatever.”

And I said “no, I’m feeling like that too.  I just haven’t been complaining.”

It’s true.  I try and act tough and like Superwoman at work, and if anyone asks me how I’m doing I say I’m good, and then I hole up in my office with the door shut and try to work.

But the truth is that I’m tired.  I feel sick.  I’ve been feeling sick for seven months now.  I went on a tour of the hospital’s maternity ward and watched some birth videos and they were gory and really scared me.  I don’t feel excited like all the other women on the maternity tour who were making big shows of rubbing their tummies.  I don’t feel excited like the new moms on Facebook who are posting streams of photos about their babies.

Maybe it’s that I’m 34 and not 24, and all my friends did this a decade ago and are so over it.  Maybe it’s that I didn’t have a baby shower, because my mom is not the type of person who is into that type of thing, and even if she were, her cancer is the priority now.  Maybe it’s that without siblings I feel like there is nobody to celebrate with.

I’m still at work every day, getting more and more work dumped on me.  I’m weary of the now bi-weekly doctor appointments and getting needles stuck in me–and about constant anxiety over whether the baby is healthy and will be born healthy, in addition to the even worse anxiety over my mom’s health.  Last weekend we went to the hospital for a maternity tour, where they handed out a brochure saying the leading cause of death for babies was car crashes and how pregnant moms should avoid driving in the last few months.  Great, but I live 22 miles from my job, and teleporters haven’t been developed yet.

I’m scared.  I’m going to have another human being to raise.  A girl, which I suspect is that much harder and where the burden will be a lot more on me than my husband.   I don’t really want to watch up close as someone else like me goes through the types of things I did growing up (hopefully either she is different or the world has changed).  I thought I’d be excited, but I’m just full of apprehension.  Having a baby is such an irreversible life change.  After so many years being single I feel awkward around my parents suddenly being a married mom-to-be.

It’s not that this isn’t something I wanted to do.  It’s that…I guess I just want to rewind my life by ten years, so it all happened differently.  So the baby didn’t happen when my mom got sick, or when I was restarting my career.  But I guess we all have regrets, and hopefully they inform the future.