It was one of those routine calls to my Mom… more as a means of reaching out…not that I had some news of importance to convey – the telephone line had transformed as the umbilical cord between my Mom & me.
So she would call and talk about anything and everything under the sun and finally lead me to her favorite subjects….my eating habits….and my weight….”Munna, somehow…you should seriously try to lose weight....
Mom, can’t you think of anything else but my weight”… that familiar laughter… all my irritation would vanish and she continued… …
I listened patiently for…she was, in her own way, trying to share her joys and sorrows through the torrent of words.
So that day, just before signing off, I asked, ‘So when is she coming next?’ Who? ‘Lali…our neighbors daughter… you know…’ ……(pause)….…. ‘Never mind! I am getting old! One of these days I am going to forget my own name’… And she banged the phone down.
I did not realize at the time that it was the first manifestation of a trauma that would progressively engulf our family, plunging us into a state of helplessness beyond comprehension.
And it happened again….
One day the phone rang. I answered. “Hello……..hello………hello…….. “Munna, I called you because there was something I wanted to tell you. And now I have forgotten.” I thought I heard a sob.
The sound hurt like someone punched me in my stomach and I was left gasping for breath…...
Then another day, she called…and in the midst of a long ramble punctuated by many pauses and as many repetitions (by then she had started to forget that she had told me something and would go back and start all over again). “My throat feels dry,” she said. I waited. She never came back. Long minutes later, I panicked and called my sister on her mobile. It turned out that she had forgotten that she was talking to me and wandered off…doing some other house hold chore…
That year I decided to spend Onam with my parents. I called my elder sister over as well.
The three siblings without the spouses…in the company of our parents. It was like going to back to our childhood… ….my sisters and I continued the chat at the lunch table and none of us realized that Mom decided to go and wash…
When I went to wash…she was just standing there, staring at the wall,..she looked at me and her eyes were blank. “Mama! You want to wash your hands?” She nodded…. I noticed a few tears in her eyes..
My Mom’s disease progressed in incremental stages. She used to sleep most of the time…sometimes even for 10 hours at a stretch during the day…
One day, I got a call from my sister, “Brother, ….mom is not able to remember anything and she is not even able to stand on her own…looks like it is serious… you better come”
I took the first flight out of Dammam and rushed to her bedside…she smiled at me… “Goodness!! How much weight have you put on?”…
And then she called me by the name of her older brother – the man the man she had never spoken to for over 10 years; the man who died ten years ago. I was devastated.
She would keep staring at me as I moved around the room, her eyes followed me — blank eyes, Eyes like glass, reflecting what they focused on, absorbing nothing.
And then, at 3:40 PM am on May 1, 2009, she finally forgot how to breathe.
When I reached home after a tense and sleepless night. I saw her lying with her eyes half shut. I felt a vain sense of hope….she was still there…going to smile at me…as she always did…
As I drew closer to her, I knew she was gone. I saw her lying there, desiccated, shriveled, still, a shell within which once resided a warm and loving person, who among other things, gave me a life, imbibed confidence in me, instilled values and morals that have made me what I am today….
She succumbed to the Alzheimer’s disease, left us and went on to embark upon her final journey….
Time is the biggest healer and we strived to overcome as years passed by.
Until a few days ago, when the memories of her trauma came back to punch me in the stomach once again….
I was trying to leave a voice message and I could not remember my own mobile number…I panicked. I tried to calm myself…tried to recollect. Yes…it came back in a flash. I dialed and as I was trying to leave the voice message…..I forgot again…and finally left a wrong number. …are these ominous signs of the same problem?...Is this the beginning of my end???.... the thought disturbed me for a few days…and I decided to forget it and move on.
But this one episode changed my paradigm. I pondered on the “Sum of Life”…
I decided to live for the moment. To do all that I am expected to …to plan as if I was going to live forever but to live as if I am to die tomorrow.
Yes friends, we need to let go of our fears and phobia...
Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises,
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges and hatred will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes and ambitions,
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Now, I write to remember. I write, lest I forget.
I write to seal the wounds, to exorcise the demons of fear and anxiety….
Who knows? A day may come when I will stare at the face of my son…; wondering who he is…?