Thursday, March 31, 2011


Blink. Blink. My contacts have fused to my pupils. My eyes hurt. Wait, maybe it’s my head that hurts. A flatness has moved in behind my eyes much like an unwanted houseguest. I hear noise. I roll my neck to the right. Small bones go crick and crack. Oh yes, the news is on again - Sunrise with Kim Insley and Tim McNiff. Sunrise? Who are they kidding with that? At 5:00 am, winter mornings can be mistaken for the inky blackness of 10:00 pm. So cold. So miserable. So Minnesota.

Meteorologist Jonathon Yuhas is getting ready to report. His face is two feet wide by three feet long on this GIGANTIC television. “Well Kim and Tim, we’re nearing 88 hours of temperatures below –20 degrees Fahrenheit,” he says.

I hear a thud outside the front door. The newspaper. A reminder that a new day is here and Dad is still sick. This is awful to say – but I am angry, with Dad. Heroes don’t get sick. Their bodies don’t stop working. Growing up, death was reserved for 3:00 am phone calls from faraway places like India and Kuwait announcing the departure of grandparents and uncles from this earthly life. People to be loved from a far. But Dad?  

The digital clock on the VCR (yes, my parents still have a VCR) turns to 5:30 am and I can no longer prolong the day. I pull myself off the couch and walk up the stairs. The tiled landing is cold. With my stocking foot I kick aside the doormat. Outside air seeps in through the weather-stripping. I know better than this. Even for a five second outdoor journey I really should put on my tundra-rated parka and boots.

With a yank I pull the front door open. Instinctively I knew it was cold. Yet the air, crisp enough to snap, still surprises me. The black morning, naked trees with anorexic limbs and snow banks salted and sanded into a Coke colored slush, startle me.

I reach down for the paper and a wind cuts across my cheeks. The paper is out of my reach and I refuse to step outside. What if I lock myself out? With no outerwear I will certainly die of hypothermia. I don’t know how long it would take, but with the real sunrise at least two hours away who is going to notice my brown body in the white snow in the pitch dark? I can already hear the headlines Kim and Tim are going to announce tomorrow. “A squirrel was found with a yogurt container on its head…Al Franken files another petition against Norm Coleman in Federal Court…this just in, IDIOT MANHATTAN girl visiting IMMIGRANT PARENTS FREEZES TO DEATH outside family home…now back to that fascinating squirrel story…

Forget it, I think and slam the door. The paper can wait until the light of day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My life is officially a routine. Wake up at 5:00 am, get ready, go to the hospital, pick-up Mom, bring her home, stop for a $4 gourmet latte, go to the office. Leave at 5:00 pm. Come home. Take Mom to the hospital. Leave her there. Come home (sometimes with wine). Repeat.

Tonight is a wine night. As I lay on the navy blue couch, huddled under a layer of blankets, I survey the room. The fireplace mantle is lined with photos of Desi Niece. I am not sure if it is my niece specifically or children in general, but she can instantly change my mood from glum to glad. As I come closer and closer to an age where I am unwilling to have babies (40, because of health complications, infertility, etc., etc.,), I sometimes wonder if I want children for me or for some sort of societal expectation.

Across the room is another navy couch with fluffy cushions identical to the one I am nestled against. Two matching over-stuffed armchairs are squeezed into the remaining corners of the room. Nesting tables and a jungle of money plants line the wall behind me. Directly in front of me is my mother’s larger than life-sized (literally it is taller than she is) 54” Sony projection screen television blaring the late edition of the local news.

“Well, Mike and Julie, from the KARE 11 backyard, it has been –20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder in the Twin Cities now for over 80 hours.” The blonde meteorologist stands against a sea of white snow and her breath is a lingering grey puff of air. Her cheeks have reddened two shades and her blue eyes are on the verge of watering. I doubt she’s even warm in her black wool coat, hat, scarf and mittens. Who in their right mind lives here? And why? Every time I think I’ll leave Manhattan, I remember this weather and immediately change my mind. I’d rather be poor in the City, than frozen in the suburbs.

Slowly I pull one hand out from under the covers and reach for the cheap Australian wine. Condensation has formed on the glass. I really should drink red wine. Even in a heated house while wearing two sweatshirts, fleece pants and socks, it is too cold for white wine. With a whoosh the furnace kicks on and momentarily scares me. I miss the comforting sound of water rattling through the old pipes of my radiator. Wine drips down my chin and I set the glass aside.

When I am alone in this house, the combination of twenty-four windows, half of which are at ground level, and three doors leave me feeling vulnerable. The police refer to this section of my parents’ suburb as Sleepy Hollow because it is free of beatings, break-ins, murders, or muggings. They send a cruiser out every now and then to ensure people still live here. This is why my practical parents see no need for a security system that I so desperately wish they’d install. 

I take one last sip and lay my head against the cushion. I close my eyes and slowly my heart feels like it is beating in reverse, moving from my chest into my back. Every thought leaves my mind. Sick dad. Cold state. Stupid Dr. Froggy. Empty house. I breathe slowly. I am weightless. The dull throb of fear gives way to release, escape, and finally sleep.


Because I cannot get a read on Dr. Froggy, I’m re-reading our emails. I am becoming increasingly worried about our ability to communicate. And I get it; I’m an uber-girl, who is all about expressing feelings and talking.I personally don't know how you can have any meaningful relationship (work, friendship or romantic) without constant communication. Am I asking for that much? I don't know, you tell me.

As a pretty standard man, I am sure Dr. Froggy would rather scale Mount Everest without a parka. But, I don’t think I am out of order by wanting him to show me some compassion, to actually call me, rather than send texts that convolute messages. And since I am dealing with Dad, I don’t want to react in a hasty fashion and tell him to bugger off. 

He did tell me once that he’s a doctor and he deals with death all the time, but I won’t be able to deal with being handled antiseptically. Maybe there is a type of woman who is meant to be a doctor’s wife, and maybe that person is not me. And I am independent, but the point of being in a relationship and getting married, I thought was to build a life with a companion. Sometimes I feel like I will be on the sidelines making sure the heat works and going to Florida when summoned. And maybe this the conversation we need to have. I feel like am being relegated into becoming something, someone I am not.

There is another thing that has been bothering me. I invited Dr. Froggy to come to Minneapolis (before Dad got sick) and meet my friends and family. I understand that maybe Dr. Froggy does not think of Minneapolis as a place he’d want to visit (but Minneapolis is a bigger town and media market than where he lives). And this is where my “people” are. You want your friends and family to like the person you are dating. I am not saying they need to be stamp “approved” across Dr. Froggy’s forehead – but I would like them to get along. Since I have met his family and friends, I don’t think what I am asking is that outrageous. Yet he has not responded to that email either, not even with regret, which is a perfectly fine answer. Not the one that I want, but an acceptable one nonetheless.

Instead Dr. Froggy asked me to come to Florida. So now I don’t know what is going on. Am I just expected to fall in line like his mother does, like my mother does? Then I am DEFINITELY not the right woman for this guy. And does he think that whenever he wants to go to Florida I am just going to follow? Because sure once or twice is nice for a Sunshine State 3-day weekend, but every month is too much for me. Something I would tell him if we ever had a conversation. 

Which segues into, he really doesn't know anything about me and begs the question, are we ever going to talk about anything real, that matters? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I have been single for a while and lived alone for about a decade. But I feel really lonely in Minnesota, lonelier than I do in New York. Which kinda makes Siobhan right, that being here is not good for me. Then again, if I was in New York, I'd feel helpless. You don't know which way to turn when someone you love is not well. So having all this time with my thoughts is allowing me, if not forcing me, to admit some Dr. Froggy truths.

It has taken a while to admit this because on some level, Bangalore Cousin is correct. I am not getting younger and how many single desi men in their late 30s and early 40s are JUST sitting around waiting for me. And Dr. Froggy is not a horrendous person (if you put his insensitive, unable to emote in times of emotional crisis quirk aside). He is educated and genuinely nice. He is a little obsessed with his money. Since I‘m just a middle class gal, it’s a lifestyle I don’t live. But his friends and family are picture-perfect. While I don’t really want to leave New York and live the suburban life, I don’t think you get everything in life, unless you are one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. So a common gal like me must make concessions.

And while my parents picked each other when they had their love marriage in New Delhi 1967, I am sure they made compromises, especially Mom. I don't doubt their life in America was good, but I am sure it was tough to be a brown with a bright red bindi on your forehead against the white snow banks. Maybe they did not contend with bus bullies, but a few years ago Dad told me that when Mom worked for telephone company back in the 1970s, they told her that her saris were distracting and that she was forbidden from wearing them in the office place. Today, these CEOs and three generations of their families would get sued. But back then, the choices were: (1) conform or (2) go away. And this is Minnesota, not the deep South.

But Mom and Dad stuck it out and made a life for themselves, raised a family and built a little business. Growing up I resented not being like my friends, now that I am adult, I realize I am not like my friends.  My mother doesn’t drink chardonnay from a coffee mug on Saturday mornings. She drinks tea morning, noon and night. While some of my friends observed Lent, we don’t eat meat on Tuesdays. There were no confirmation classes for me on Wednesdays. We had no temple for worship. I am not white, Lutheran and Swedish. I am brown, Hindu and Indian.

And on so many levels, growing up brown in Minnesota taught me a lot about life and myself. I have learned about tolerance, ignorance, survival and that is really okay to be Desi Girl in a sea of blonde Jennys. I'm tough, I can put up with a lot. Fine, Dr. Froggy is sedentary, has an unused gym membership and doesn’t read. But he’s passionate about his work and has interests – sports and Florida. He gets along well with his parents and sister. And he’s is very good at managing his money (and could clearly teach me a thing or two). But if he cannot muster up some compassion for me now, what will happen as my parents get older? What will happen if I get sick? Or one of the kids?

I'm pretty sure I won’t stop being an empathetic person. And he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to notice another person’s emotional pain. So I'm not sure that one of the concessions I can make, for the sake of getting married, is marrying a man who does not care for me emotionally. That may be more of a deal breaker than a smoker, pet lover or a divorced gent with kids. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I am running a command center from my mobile phone. Relatives and family friends are calling day and night, from a variety of time zones, asking about Dad’s condition. Which, I guess is the measure of a person’s life and the quality of people in it.

In so many ways I am really glad to have the brother that I do. Chacha, Dad’s younger brother, has not YET called to see how Dad is doing, which is shameful. Frankly, if I was lying in a hospital bed, on the other side of the world and my brother couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone…well then, I guess there’d be nothing left to say, other than I hope I don't see you in my next life.

When the phone rings again, I reach for the Blackberry (I finally upgraded to a smart phone). I vowed never to be one of those “crackberry-heads” that roam NY, heads down addicted, and worshiping their phones. Yea, well that lasted two days. I now sleep with my phone. It does everything other than make my morning coffee and kiss me good night.

I have never been so delighted to see a 212 number and hit the green talk button. “Hey!” I say. "Dude, how are you?” Siobhan asks. “I am okay…you are like the first person to ask me how I am,” I share. “I am sure. How's your Dad doing? I’ve been worried about you. It’s a lot to deal with. Are you doing okay?” Siobhan asks. I sigh. “I guess so. We don’t really know what is going on. The doctors are telling us that Dad needs PT and OT. They are getting ready to move him to the rehab center. But it’s pretty hard Siobhan – he can’t sit up, he can’t move. Whatever this is, it's pretty messed up,” I share. “I'm so sorry…” she says softly. “I really think you should come home. There is no one there to support you….” Dear God, I think I may lose it. This is hard because we have all lost focus and it seems like we’re just going through the motions, stuck in an emotional holding pattern.

“Do you know what Dr. Froggy texted me when I told him what was going on?” I ask. Siobhan groans. “Is he STILL in the picture? I can’t stand him.” “Well…yes, currently I am not that keen on him either. He wrote ‘hope your Dad didn’t have stroke’,” I say. “Is he capable of any emotion? This is YOUR father. I don’t care what kind of doctor he is – he’s an ass. I know PLENTY of doctors who can emote. You need to stop talking to him. And you need to come home – now. Let us take care of you," Siobhan insists. 

Hhhmm - now might not be the time to tell her that I have extended my stay by another week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


It takes another day to pull myself out of my own blackness. It is not that I think my friends don’t care. It’s just that, I cannot seem to process what is happening and what impact and implications it has for us (my family). We all work in a company whose founder is literally immobile. I am sure this is kicking Dad’s spirits, too. Mom spends all day cooking Dad’s dinner, to spend all night tossing and turning on a hospital cot. I am worried about how his health will take a toll on hers. My brother and I aren’t really up for talking. And Minnesota is freaking cold this weeK.

When I finally have the bandwidth to process what is going on with Dad, I call Siobhan. “Hiiiii! What are you doing in that cold state, come home!” she gushes. I think I am stronger than I credit myself, because it is not until I hear her voice, a reminder of the life I now live, not the one I used to have here, do I finally crack and break down. In a panic between gasps of air I blurt out what has happened over the past few days. When I finish speaking and crying I hear Siobhan sigh so deeply that I realize I have bottled so much in for too long. Clearly, I don’t NEED a boyfriend, I need to let go and fall apart. I need to just let time find THE ONE. Bangalore Cousin once told me to stop being strong and let people in, let people help, let people care. So I do.

"Ugh, you are dealing with all that?" Siobhan asks.I sigh. "You need to come home, I am worried you are going to become really depressed, especially since we're all here in New York and can't be there for you. But look, Minnesota is known for good health care. I know he'll be fine."

A little while later I text Dr. Froggy and let him know that Dad's not well. I share some details. He texts back. "I hope they checked for TIA - hope he didn't have a stroke." I have to read and re-read the text a few times, debating if he was trying to be helpful, optimistic or is unable to emote. Ugh, I mean really? You are sort of dating someone, a someone you have introduced to your parents and all you can come up with up is, "Hope he didn't have a stroke." Well - yea, me too!


Turns out Guy-yan Bar-ray Syndrome, really Guillan-BarrĂ© Syndrome, can be one little mean mo-fo depending on your symptoms. On Day Two, we learn Dad must have contracted an infection that caused his immune system to attack his nervous system and basically render him immobile. 

From Desi Brother’s research (which is why he came back to the hospital in a panic last night) Guillan-BarrĂ© Syndrome can be fatal if the muscles around your heart and lungs slowly lose their ability to function. Unsurprisingly it is most dangerous for the young and the elderly because their immune systems are weaker. This is why the doctors asked us NOT to conduct our own research. Because Dad’s case is severe the doctors are keeping him in ICU for three days and beginning a five-day course of immunotherapy which involves an intravenous immune globulin. 

So now we’re freaked out, going to and from the hospital several times a day. Because Dad doesn’t like the food, and Mom doesn’t drive more than 3 miles, every night I am taking her to the hospital with Dad’s dinner. When my niece comes to the hospital she makes it very clear that she does not want to be in the hospital either, and especially not in the room, unless she can play with the remote control to the bed. I wonder if she can sense something is not right with her grandfather. 

I know this is not happening to me, but the first 48 hours are pretty rough because I don’t know what is going on. From continued online research I have learned that recovery can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months. But Dad cannot open a can of soda or sit up on his own, so his system has really deteriorated. I find myself unable to spend more than 10 or 20 minutes in the hospital room so I have begun pacing the hospital corridors and going to the lounge 3 times an hour for water. On one of my water breaks the nurse sees me and says, “He’ll be fine.” I drink the entire eight-ounce glass of water in one sip; remain quite for a minute and say, “Really? Because, I don’t know…” She nods and something in her eyes is the kindest, most empathetic gesture I have received in a long time. “He will. I see this all the time,” she explains.

When visiting hours are over, I leave Mom at the hospital and go home. Dad is having a hard time with this too, so, Mom has started sleeping at the hospital at nights. I get home and begin to feel very alone. I have a lot of friends. A lot. But as I scroll through my mobile phone contact list I don’t feel like I have that ONE PERSON to reach out to. I am at an age where having a best friend is juvenile, especially since so many of my friends are married. And there is a part of me that wants to be left alone.

I really don’t have the energy to get on the phone and talk about what is going on with Dad, mostly because I have no idea. And my normal support network of Desi Brother and Mom are gone too, because they are living this unsure footing too. I have never really NEEDED a boyfriend or a husband. I have never been that girl whose identity is determined by the number of men who are in love with her at one given moment. I have always WANTED a true and just companion, the real deal. But right now, I NEED and WANT a man, my man, to stroke my hair and comfort me. Assure me that everything will be okay.