Before Dad got sick I used to call Mom a few times a day, sometimes to say hello, other times to hear her tell me everything is okay, that I am okay and destiny will figure itself out. Now that Dad has come home, it is really hard (understandably) to have a private conversation with Mom. Between cooking, cleaning and coordinating all the care givers, she has very little time for anything else, including herself.
In order for Mom and me to have a few minutes alone, I have to wait for her to run errands where she calls me from the parking lot of the grocery store, mall or bank on her mobile phone. “How’s Dad?” I ask. “A little cranky, but fine,” she replies. “How are you? You sound tired,” I ask. She pauses. Because I have the tendency to over-react when anyone gets sick or has to have surgery, my parents and brother prefer to withhold the truth from me (I am sure they think they are saving me from panicking). Now that I live 1000 miles away, I am pretty sure this strongly motivates them to keep things from me. But every now and then I can get Desi Brother to crack and tell me what is really going on.
“So Dad wants me to come home? In case there is a fire in the house…” I ask calmly. “Yes that is what he is saying. But I don’t want that,” she replies. Hhhmm. Dad is a pretty typical Indian man who left India in 1967, he still lives in that “head-of-the-house” era, even though Mom runs our lives, but we don’t argue with him, because we don’t win. “I see,” I reply skeptically.
“I said no. I don’t want you coming home, do you understand? No arguing with me,” Mom says in her authoritative, I’m-in-no-mood-to-be-trifled-with-I-gave-birth-to-you-and-if-you-challenge-me-I-will-slap-the-sin-out-of-you-I-don’t-care-if-you-are-taller. Make no mistake, normally is VERY hard to silence me, but after all these years, I conform to this Desi Mom tone. “Okay, but Dad thinks I’m booking a ticket right now,” I reply, still calm. “You have done enough for me, for him. I want you to stay there – in New York – and do what you need to do. End of story. He can hire a night nurse,” Mom says, pauses and continues. “How much did we do for our parents after we came to America? Nothing. We were not there when all four of your grandparents died. You are not here to fix everything; you have your own life to live. So live it.”