It was the summer of 1965. A marriage back then was not a pompous affair but merely a ritual to bring home a girl and most often for the assistance and convenience of one’s parents.
Theirs was NO different. Both my parents tied the knot without resistance, without enthusiasm.
For Dad it was an order from his strict influential parents he couldn’t escape from and for Mom it was time for the stepdaughter to get married as soon as she turned 18. Time trod its own pace.
Days into nights, summers into winters and autumn into – no spring!
In their year-old stale marriage came many a time when Mom felt like running away, not from him but from life itself. The feeling passed quickly for the matric passed mother of mine never saw herself as a quitter.
Dad was disconnected. Not just with her but with everyone. Even himself.
He wasn’t even aware that people around called him ‘names’, people who included his own parents and siblings.
INSANITY has its own virtues.
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Everyone around that person could be miserable but they themselves live unaware in a world of their own. Happy/unhappy doesn’t matter.
The doctor’s prescription read chronic schizophrenia. That day in the psychiatrist’s chamber their life changed forever. From being detached with this man ever since their wedding day, she took his hand in hers and pledged her sole and soul companionship to her man through sickness and health, the promise which she upheld till her last breath.
Between endless visits to hospitals I and my brother were born. Our family of four lived a modest life with minimum resources but abundant love and support from our beloved parents. Our shared grief glued us together as one unit. Mom stood like a shield between her cherished children and the harsh reality of schizophrenia.
She counselled dad, treated him, fed him, cleaned him, dressed him, represented him in social gatherings. She also carried him from mental hospitals, left lifeless after those painful shock treatments given to treat patients back then on her frail shoulders. Daddy’s decent survival was completely dependent on mom’s care taking.
Then one day she was diagnosed with cancer and despite her own excruciating pain her only concern was how would Daddy live without her.
In my 40-plus years of life I have never met a woman who would pray for her husband’s passing before her own but then our mom was no ordinary woman.
She didn’t fear dying herself.
She never feared living, even when it looked dreadful.
After spending a lifetime of shared pain she breathed her last by his bedside.
Daddy was left alone in his unspoken pain and misunderstood disease.
From that time to this day he never cried for her loss but he never smiled again either. Till his last breath he stared in a vacuum. An emptiness only a lone spouse feels in the twilight years. His was an agony which slips from my words as much as I want to bead it in my writing.
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Mom’s last words, “Take care of your daddy” still resound in my ears.
He was taken care of surely but not without mom’s spirit help.
She never left us it seemed ‘cos when ever it felt that dad’s slipping away and we didn’t know what to do something, somehow worked in his favour.
A few weeks ago when he breathed his last, the mortal remains were immersed in the holy waters of Pushkar.
I held up a palm full of water to my misty eyes and saw their spirits mingling dissolving into each other. Now nothing can ever separate them from them and them from us, I silently bid them goodbye.
Their story needed to be shared, because in a world full of ideas about the word ‘love’, it is essential for us to understand it beyond definitions beyond boundaries of life. Even death.
They never had a love story but no love story can be as great as theirs!