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Open Letter From A Mother

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by jayasala42, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Success has its price. An ailing old mother, residing alone, in a large house in , writes a soulful letter to her successful and busy children, settled far way, in distant America. A heart wrenching piece.

    My Dear Children,

    Hope you all are enjoying the new leaves of a distant Spring in your adopted land, as I wait alone in this huge house for the monsoon to arrive. Rains remind me of that stormy night when your father had passed away in sleep and I sat up by his bedside alone remembering the children we raised together. He always had a wish to die with his children surrounding him.

    But I knew how busy my children were, am sure if you could, you would have definitely come down once in the past three years when your father was ailing. Deepa accused me later of not calling her that night over phone or skype, but you all would be out working, and Rupa (daughter-in- law) would be busy picking kids from school. After all, it must have been a bright day at the East Coast then.

    This letter might be the last one I write to you all. Hardly have I received answers to my previous ones, barring the one or two that you sent regarding the status of the bank accounts and the house that your father had left behind. But writing letters is an old habit, and trying to know how my children and grandchildren are is also an old habit. I still have the letters I wrote to your dad many decades back when he was posted abroad. And I have kept those pieces of papers and each card you all sent in your college days in my drawers.

    But well, I perfectly understand why you can’t reply to this old format letters. They are very time consuming, something which you all don’t have. And when emails can reach in seconds then why not send mails. My daughter-in- law has often complained why I can’t upgrade myself? After all I am an educated woman and did graduation. But using skype on a laptop that Rupa had sent is too difficult for my arthritis-affected fingers to operate on. I dictate my letters and Shyamali writes them. She has studied till class 8 and has good handwriting.

    Probably Rupa doesn’t know I have almost become immobile due to the crippling pain. But how will she? You all couldn’t visit India again after your father’s shraddh ceremony. The last time I saw you lighting your father’s pyre.

    But don’t be alarmed. I am not asking any of you to take a flight out of USA to attend to your ailing mother. You all have demanding jobs in your adopted country and your kids are growing fast. I was thinking of sending some children’s books for Apu’s kids.But I learn that Apu and Rupa do not speak mother tongue at home and though they have settled in that country only a decade back, they have forgotten to read even. The kids speak only English. So I gave away the books to Shyamali’s son. He is studying in class III and I pay for his tuition fees. He is a very bright child and was so happy when he got those books.

    Well, now coming to the reason for writing. The house needs repair and as you know I have very limited resource as your father had made all joint accounts with you both and after his death you became their soul operators. I do not have much resource left for the upkeep of this old house. Your father’s pension however takes care of my medical expenses. I guess you wish to come down and sell off the house after my death, and hence feel spending money on this house where your ancestors once lived is bad investment. Surely, you should always keep practical thoughts before emotions. They help to frame grand success stories just like yours.

    But though my relatives feel I am a successful mother being able to make my children settle abroad with plush jobs, somewhere I feel my success story is just a society’s demand. Did I really wish for this lonely life without even seeing my children once in a year?

    By the way, some roofs are leaking. But don’t worry. There are many rooms. I can always be shifted to those where the roofs are still intact during monsoon. Last week a promoter had come. He has connections with the local political mafia and maybe I shall someday meet the same fate that your aunt met. She was murdered last year for she refused to sell her property.

    They did their homework well. They know you both are settled abroad and hardly have any interests here. They wanted your phone numbers and email ids. They are ready to pay a hefty sum for sure. And if you both wish you can sell it off now. I shall go to an old age home that I have already identified. Janu Auntie stays there and is enjoying among the old and ailing, many of whom have been abandoned by their children. Only that I shall miss the evenings at my sprawling balcony where I sit every day to see the sunset, asking myself when my sunset would finally arrive.

    I haven’t repainted some of the rooms, some of the walls still bear the scribbling of your children when they lived here as infants. Remember, Apu how you and your wife left for jobs keeping Rahul with us and I taught him to draw animal faces. He drew them all across the walls. On lonely noon, when Shyamali goes to her son’s school, I stare at them. The faces have faded, but the lines are intact bearing testimony to the time we spent with our grandson. Does Rahul still remember me or have all my American grandchildren forgotten their dilapidated home, dying city and their ailing Grandmom?

    But I thank my lucky stars. After all you didn’t turn me out of my husband’s house. I am not an abandoned old woman like Akila who had to beg on the streets. Me and Jhuma ensured that she be sent to a rehab. The centre wanted her son’s contacts so that they could move court and send her back to the house where she lived. But I am lucky. Am I not? I can still live in the same house where I lived since I was a 20 year old blushing bride. Hope you both, my computer engineer son and my professor daughter, will not throw away the letter into a waste paper basket as a sentimental brooding theory paper. Just read them if you get time as a treasure trove of memories. And oh! I forgot to tell you. I have kept some money aside in the bank so that you can perform my last rites with that after my death. I wish to buy the passage to heaven with my own money, it’s the one I earned years back as a teacher at a primary school, that your dad never allowed me to use. All my luck to you and your children.

    Love,
    your ailing Mom.

    This seems to be not an isolated instance but a common affair in many affluent families.The sons and daughters residing in US may think that this is the exaggerated version and that they keep very much in contact with parents and have a nice communication with all the current technologies.
    Do the parents wantonly blame the children? The survey says that the condition prevails in many families and mushrooming of old age homes is a concrete evidence.
    It is an undeniable fact that upto 75 or so parents may look strong but afterwards deterioration in health is faster and declining ratio is much higher.Year by year neuro problems develop, brains shrink, memories fail and fear of death is fast approaching.Essentially during this period overseas residing boys/girls too have their own responsibilities,pink slip threats, teen age problems etc.Insurance premia are too high and it is not advisable to take the parents there,nor is it practical to visit parents often.
    Decent old age homes with proper care is a feasible option while domestic care is impossible.
    Many parents like us are sailing in the same boat, and it is not such a bad option to those parents who are prepared to accept the realities.
    Is there really any dearth of emotional support or do the parents have unrealistic expectation from NRI sons and daughters?
    How do my friends view?

    Jayasala 42
     
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  2. vaidehi71

    vaidehi71 IL Hall of Fame

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    Mami,

    Really heart wrenching story, same goes to my parents and my situation. Am I to blame or what is to be done now and for future, is still nagging me. I am yet to find some solution to this situation. I am feeling responsible for their future and at the same time have no concrete solution to this at this moment.
    I have just left what future holds as something to tackle at that moment. Sorry sailing in the same boat without any answers.

    Take care,
    Vaidehi
     
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  3. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Smt. Jayasala:

    It is very painful to read that letter looking at the point of view of the ailing and aged mother. In some situations, adult children might force mothers to stay in India to avoid additional medical costs and in most situations, it is the mothers who have significant attachment to the homeland and the home in which the husband lived. Despite repeated request to migrate to the US, it is difficult for the mothers to move away from the environment that they are so familiar with. I feel it is the loneliness that kills more than anything else. I have no doubts that the adult children should understand their responsibilities to take very good care of the mothers either by arranging someone to look after the mothers or by mutual consent move them to an old-age home where they find similar aged people as company.

    But, it is my honest opinion that a mother who taught their children how to love the parents would never have to write such a letter. Moreover, the mothers would understand their adult children's responsibility towards their children as well.

    The world has become a global village and more and more people are going to face that situation. Someone like me who have lived for more than 20 years is planning to return to India after 4-5 years and will have to lead a life on our own. If something happens to one of the spouses, the other will have to be alone and will have to face any eventuality alone. We can't expect our son who is raised in the US to think of migrating to India to look after us.

    My mother is ailing and aged and I have my brother who resides in our parent's house. But she keeps telling me how she has been mistreated every time I meet her. Whenever I interfere, the situation becomes worse for my mother and therefore, she stopped telling me her ordeals now. She is afraid, me being in the US, if my brother doesn't look after her, she would be in trouble. My role is now restricted to just confine myself to her room when I visit her and patiently listen to her pains and sufferings.

    At least, I am able to take very good care of my mother-in-law who was left alone when my FIL died two years ago. She listened to me and agreed to move to the US to stay with us as my wife is the only child for her. She showers her love to me and I find a great sense of fulfillment as though I am looking after my mother.

    I also recall the wonderful child-age experiences from time to time to feel connected with the family. I lost my father who was the greatest inspiration in my life when I was 33 and there isn't day pass by without me thinking about his wonderful qualities.

    Viswa
     
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  4. shyamala1234

    shyamala1234 Platinum IL'ite

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  5. shyamala1234

    shyamala1234 Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear JS madam,
    What all you wrote is correct to some extent. But there is no perfect answer to it. We cannot blame neither the parents nor the children who have their busy lives. No perfect solution. We cannot generalize also....varies from family to family and every famiy's circumstances are different. But one thing I believe is that parents love children and vice versa...whatever may be the circumstances. Not only abroad even if they are living in the same country same is the case....only difference is they can visit often. I was reading A Telugu story " Drawing room parents"....Parents come to live with their children in a city. Two bedrooms. Two children. Parents have to sleep in the drawing room. No room for their things and no privacy(even they need privacy to talk at least). Son cannot afford a bigger house. They prefer to go back to their village to their own house with all the neighbours, everyone knows everyone. Now both parents and children visit each other often and are perfectly happy.
    So, we have to think...each family is different.
    Syamala
     
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  6. joylokhi

    joylokhi Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Jayasala maam,
    A truly soulful letter and it does feel heartless of the children to not even respond to the emotions of the
    ailing mother.
    Only recently, we(husband and self) have joined the group of numerous parents whose children are settled
    abroad and have decided to stay on independently in our home here.
    As u say, till around 70s or so it may not be a problem to handle our maintenance and lives ourselves provided no unforeseen illness or such strikes. Personally i feel this independence is required for us, and although we may be comfortable visiting, definitely an indefinite stay is impossible.
    Such being the situation in many cases, i feel , after a certain age when the parents feel they are too old (irrespective of actual age) to handle their affairs themselves, it is safer always to move to an old age home or if it can be afforded, move to a retirement community where everything including food/medical issues are taken care of and at the same time, can have your own space. It is surely dangerous to stay alone knowing that one is ill and cannot manage. It places unnecessary burden of guilt on the children also. In today's competitive world it is only fair to let children decide their stay etc based on their career needs instead of making them feel guilty. A naturally caring child will automatically do what is possible for his or her parents without asking for it. In my opinion financially independant parents should allow their children their freedom and be there for them when needed. It is only in cases where financial and physical dependence is there,
    the problem arises and if there was mutual love and understanding throughout their upbringing, the same would follow in later years also.
     
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  7. magician

    magician Silver IL'ite

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    If you have ( or are) NRI children, there are organisations that provide helpers and physical assistance to the elders in your home.
    Although emotional support is something you might not get there. If parents are in mid fifties, sixties and in good health.... A Labrador or retriever can become a loyal friend. In fact, in elderly homes in Japan, dogs are the most loved companions.
     
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  8. satchitananda

    satchitananda IL Hall of Fame

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    No doubt a very sad situation. Sad in and of itself and sad because the kind of family structure we have grown up seeing was different from what it is today. However, there are a few points that need to be looked at dispassionately and honestly before we indulge in any blame game.

    When did the joint family system start breaking up? Was it only with our generation or was it earlier? My grand father who would have been about 115 now had moved out of his village and settled in Mumbai when he was 16. He came there looking for a job. He had to, to support his father and younger brothers. How often could they go and live with their parents in the village? Their parents could of course come and live with them if they chose to. Today it is a global village and people are highly mobile. Even if they stick to one job, they can't be in one place all their lives.

    Which generation was ambitious for their children to be employed in 'multinational' companies? It was the generation of my parents who had these aspirations for their children. It was they who liked to revel in their children earning 5 figure salaries (in the 80s) and working in international companies, going abroad for studies, living abroad ..... It was they who wanted their kids to be highly qualified, have foreign qualifications and so on. They were the generation who looked for trophy kids.

    How many parents can accept the fact that they might not be grandparents? Are they willing to let their kids live in peace without pressurizing them to have more kids? What happens to the population figures, breakneck competition, dwindling opportunities, falling quality of life (oh yes, you might live in a villa in a gated community, but look at the piles of garbage just outside the gates of that community - just to list one example). Which person in their right minds would want to come back to live here permanently once they see a better quality of life (never mind the fact that it is a rat race)? Would these parents be happy for their children to return and then keep complaining about having returned 'for the sake of the parents'?

    Given the state of affairs where job security is concerned, how many could dare to keep taking leave every other year to come home?

    Coming to specifics, this letter indicates that the father in his wisdom had held joint accounts with the children without including the name of his wife who lived with him and looked after him. Who is to blame?

    I totally agree with Viswa when he says that no loving mother would write a letter like this. I can understand to the extent that she feels short-changed now when the reality of NRI kids dawns upon her (that it is not easy for them to visit her as often as she would like), but I certainly winced at the complaining and accusatory tone of the letter and then she wants them to keep the letter as a 'treasure trove' of memories (of bitterness?)! How does she assume that the children have not read the letters? Probably they have but if they were all in the same tone, then what kind of reply does she expect them to give?

    Then on the other hand, 3 years no visits? Mothers abandoned on the roads? I find this hard to palate or even believe. Does this really happen? Yes, I have certainly heard a 'story' of a mother who was abandoned at the airport by a callous NRI son after he sold off her home, belongings and such like. Although I heard of it a few years ago, I still don't know whether to believe it or not. If it is true, then it only indicates that there is a lot about filial relationships that I have yet to learn and in this case, I would say Ignorance is bliss. One would need to know what the interpersonal relationships of the parents and children involved were from the word go.

    In a broader perspective, we just need to get used to the reality of changing social structures. Save wisely for such eventualities. Times have changed. Children fly the nest and are gradually moving the way of kids in other countries (leaving home and leading their own lives). So let the parents also learn to follow the same kind of social pattern where they fulfil their duties by feeding, clothing and educating their children upto a reasonable degree. Then let the kids fend for themselves for higher education if they wish to study further. Let them realize the value of money and not mistake the parents for 'akshay patras' or bank ATMs for life. Save money for your old age requirements and then depending on how the kids treat you, either leave what is left over (NOT BY SCROUNGING ON YOUR OWN NEEDS) to them or write it off to a charity/retirement home etc. Don't do any favours and don't expect anything in return. Stop looking on children as 'budhaape ka sahaara' (props for old age). If they do love and look after you, be grateful to the Lord above for such kids. If they don't, then don't set yourself up for disappointment.

    Or gradually go back to the joint family system if you can accept that.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
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  9. GoogleGlass

    GoogleGlass IL Hall of Fame

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    a loving mother may not write but can we rule out that she didn't feel so???

    parents and children are well aware of the effects of seeking greener pastures and may have to build up the immune system to tackle the mental agony associated with separation.

    the physical needs of help due to the crumbling body is what that shakes the mental composure.

    if only children empathize and provide the suport required, to an extent this trauma can be put under the carpet, never it can be ridden.
     
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  10. iyerviji

    iyerviji IL Hall of Fame

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    Jayakka dear you have written the present situation in many houses for which we cant blame the children or the elders. The feedbacks are also thought provoking . Me and my husband are also staying alone only. In one way it is good we have our own space and the children also.My husband has been very economic from the beginning so we have no problem of finances. He does not like to take money from the children.He leads a simple life and I have alsogot accustomed to it. Now a days whether they like it or not many have to go and settle abroad. Its not like our times to wait for the letter to come, now thanks tomodern technology we are able to keep in touch immediately with them. I also second Viswa that no mother will write a letter like this. Mothers like their children to be happy.Also parents like to stay in their own homes and dont like staying abroad . They might go and stay for sometime but not permanently. Like Shyamala has mentioned each family is different and their views are also different
     

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