After our children left, we learnt to communicate all over again

Old couple after kids have gone

The year 1976 marked the beginning of our journey together – two strangers who in the course of three weeks became husband and wife.

Yes, it was a totally arranged marriage, leaving us to find each other by ourselves. Fortunately for us, even our names matched perfectly – Lakshmi and Madhusoodanan

What both of us brought to this marriage, besides our commonalities and differences, were the three Cs – caring, communication and commitment. Mutual respect and a great deal of affection for each other followed and this has been the bedrock of our relationship through all life’s ups and downs and continues to this day.

The empty nest

We went through all phases of marriage and life for almost 20 years before the day in 2004 when our son left for the US to continue with his MS. Our daughter followed him in 2005 to pursue her own PhD. Suddenly, the house was emptier and it was just the two of us. It was as if there was nothing to do together and we had to begin anew the process of learning to live together.

We once again began to enjoy doing simple things together – walking, the daily chores, the shopping. One of the first projects we had to undertake together was sorting out the papers and books the children had left behind – not to speak of the cassettes and CDs – We found we could do this together quite happily – all the time bickering over what each one considered important! Finally, the piles were put away.

Related reading: What we find to talk about after 30 years of marriage

Better communication through technology

This was also the time for learning improved communication technology – Google chat and Skype – the best means of communicating with children in far-off lands. Everything from our typing speeds and of course learning to use the various windows and symbols – was so new. We also learnt to LOL and TTYL – sometimes ROFL. But what became very apparent was the difference in our learning styles – while he would read every notification and popup that appeared during these chats and get perturbed, I just did what I always did – carry on by just getting rid of the intruder.

Shopping was one thing that my husband had always shied away from – if he could, he would hide behind office work or a meeting and let us go off on our own. Our daughter’s wedding arrangements revealed he could rise to the occasion. He drove me to wherever I wanted to go – sometimes just for a button or a ribbon. The best was his solitary expeditions to the bangle shop to get bangles to match every sari for the occasion. I had always believed that he could not tell black from blue or green from red, yet with the inputs from the shopkeeper, he managed to get dozens of bangles to match every Kanjeevaram.
sweet older couple

Adjusting to change

Retirement brought its own blues and bouts of loneliness. While I continued to work, my husband had to cope with a slipped disc and weak back, not to speak of the long expanses of time on hand. A friend gifted him a copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi and he felt he had found his path. Repeated reading of the book, trying to make me listen to what he thought were interesting passages and then learning to meditate the Yogoda way paved the path not just to self-realisation, but to several heated arguments.

I’m still to fathom this fascination, while he spends close to four hours a day in solitary confinement early morning and late night no matter what else is happening around. So I have necessarily to play the role of telephone operator, doorkeeper etc. Of course, even after close to 10 years, the ‘path’ is a bone of contention between us.

One of the continuous battles of our life was his high sense of discipline with food and my lack of it. Coming from a large family, I never learnt to cook small quantities. While he never learnt to budge from his disciplined way of eating. No matter how good the food, how much he liked it, he could say a firm no to an extra helping. And I could never learn to cook a little less than needed. What if you wanted a little more at the table? What if a sudden visitor came along? And so we continued with a quarrel a day, leftovers in the fridge and my growing weight.

Related reading: My relationship with my husband got better after my kids left….

Unwanted visitors

We had some other visitors too – though unwanted. The first was ‘diabetes’. It made us sit up with a jolt and realise how slowly and steadily time had flown by and age was catching up. Visits to doctors and tests, learning to cope and live with diabetes, changes in lifestyles and eating habits led us to a lot of discussions on various aspects. For the first time in my life, I learnt to think of food as carbs, proteins and fats instead of rice, dal and ghee!

Another one of these unwanted visitors was the pancreatic surgery that my husband had to go through. Lasting ten hours, it was a relief to see him being wheeled into the ICU and talk to him again.

Proof of closeness

We always knew that we were close and necessary to each other – almost inseparable. How apparent this was to even a medical professional came to light when I went to the hospital the morning after the surgery. The nurses reported that my husband’s blood pressure had shot up and he was restless and sleepless the whole night. The doctor looked at the charts and medication and then took me aside.

He said that I should also spend the night in the ICU – he asked the hospital to put up a makeshift bed in a corner of the room and told me to put up with the inconvenience of a narrow, bent bed. Luckily, his prescription worked and both my husband and I had a good night’s sleep with his parameters coming back to normal. If any confirmation were needed, this was it!

She doesn’t feel like making out but her husband is always ready

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Readers Comments On “After our children left, we learnt to communicate all over again”

  1. Beautifully written. It’s amazing how this relationship remains sacrosanct over every blood relation, friends and even our own children. One should consider oneself lucky if we have someone to grow old with.

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