My mom, 77, a cancer survivor and as tough as dough. She has taken to bed the past two years, gained a lot of weight, refuses to stand and only says “Maa”, when she is happy, when she is upset, when she wants something, when she doesn’t like something. You have to recognize by the tone and context what she is trying to say and deal with it. If she tries to say anything else, it gets garbled up by the time it comes out and you can’t make head or tale out of it.
My dad, almost 80, was fine till about a couple of months back and then suddenly went into a mom-effect. He lost a lot of weight, needs a catheter and is pretty stubborn about- I don’t want to eat, I want to see a doctor, I don’t want to bathe, brush, and only want “Umaji” who has been their caretaker for the past 3 years. He sometimes believes he is 48, wants a ticket to Bihar, talks about everyone as “rascals”, calls someone called “Robinson” and insists that he needs to visit the washroom every 5 minutes.
Looking at this state, we decided that staying at Jodhpur was no longer a viable option for them and planned to bring them to Pune to be close to me where they can be better taken care of. (I heard that my dad remarked- I am least interested to go to Pune.) The journey was the longest I have ever gone through. And I am not even talking about the work that was needed before and after.
I don’t know why there are no direct flight between the two places. After looking at all alternatives- shall we bring them by road in an ambulance – it will take more than 24 hours, ruled out, shall we get a charter flight/ air ambulance – after looking at the cost- ruled out, what about train – same issues as road and their decibel level will not let anyone around sleep,- ruled out. So no option left other than our very own Air India Jodhpur-Delhi-Pune.
So, come Thursday, having mentally prepared them for the journey- don’t talk too much, don’t shout too much, the pilot may refuse to take us, we loaded them into the car to get to the airport. Remember that every load- from bed to wheelchair, from wheel chair to car, and so on- is a herculean task in itself as my mom does not support her weight. If not done right, with proper strength and in one fluid motion, she will slip down and then it will be 15 minutes of “maa” in loud complaining tone.
Reached airport with no incidents, got attendants and wheelchairs comparatively easily, breezed through security check etc and waited for the flight. My mom was excited, so many people, so much ambient noise, so kept on excitedly telling me “maa”. My dad was depressed. Umaji was not to be seen. He kept on asking for Umaji in an undertone,with me shshing him every now and then to keep the decibels down. Jodhpur does not understand aerobridge, so it was “दम लगाके हईशा” to take them up the stairs to the aircraft, seat them on the aisle and window seat respectively with me in middle. So far so good. Dad slept through the flight, mom was her excited self and we landed at Delhi an hour later.
Exiting after everybody else is way different from standing up as soon as the plane lands and pushing and pulling to get out first. Found some easy-chairs to wait for the next flight. By this time my parents were getting tired. Fed them some खिचड़ी . By now the “Maa” had turned to a wailing tone as she kept slipping down the easy-chair, could not pull herself up and neither could I. My dad, in his hyper state of mind, started calling out to everyone around – “ओ gentleman”, “ओ सरदारजी ” even after my admonishing tones of “don’t bother others, tell me what you want”, he would calm for a minute and start all over again. Couple of hours later, time for the next flight. Holding my purse and a cup of tea for both of them and intermittently pushing their feet on to the wheelchair platform which kept slipping, while shshing them and saying sorry to all passerby’s who were called out in a loud voice by dad, it was altogether very noisy situation and I was just thinking, when people make a spectacle of themselves, I am relentless and blog about it, might as well write about us being a spectacle.
Boarded the next flight. Air India, intelligently, had given us seats in row 18 and row 8, even though they were wheelchair passengers. After a big fight, we could get 1 aisle seat on row 3, and then 1 more after asking for consideration from other passengers, so two aisle seats. The entire flight I stood between them calming them both (with the air hostess banging into me every time and asking me to sit down) , who were really agitated by this time, my mom’s hat kept falling off and she wailed loudly every 2 minutes. My dad wanted Umaji to serve him in the flight and kept asking the people around to call her. They refused to sleep. I kept on repeating like a parrot- a few minutes more, we are about to reach Pune, then you can go home and rest. They would listen disbelievingly, look away and wail again. finally my dad slept for ½ hr on the shoulder of the next passenger, drooling on him. Poor guy, not a word of complaint. He would even put his head back on the headrest as it kept falling down.
Landing at Pune was quite eventful. We landed and the pilot announced, we cant get an aerobridge because it is allocated to a Spicejet flight, hence we have to take the stairs, as per ATC. It took them 45 minutes to sort out the mess before we could disembark. The last leg of the journey to home was uneventful. Reached home at 8 pm, after starting from Jodhpur home at 11.00 am. As soon as they could lie down on a flat bed, both were quiet and relaxed slowly.
Making a joke of all this is easier. It prevents me from being depressed and crying. Every time I look at them, remember how they used to be and how they are, I want to weep. To see your parents reduced to being totally dependent for feeding, sanitation and every little need, they are like children who don’t understand and all you can do is not lose your temper (guilty as charged, there are so many moments I get angry, want to give up, be a good boy, I will take care of you, when they don’t understand, it is so depressing), be patient and help them relax.