By Aarti Sharma
– February 2022 –
What is love? Our experiences and circumstances in life can, to a large extent, shape the definition of love.
One definition that has stayed with me is: love is giving with all your heart, without expectations. And isn’t this so true when it comes to what parents exhibit for their children? Selfless acts of love!
During the pandemic, clouds of death hovered over many countries; India – where my parents live – was flooded with tears of grief as many families lost loved ones. That was when I was sitting in Canada, as a relatively new immigrant, praying to God each day to help me see my parents.
The money in my bank account was sitting idle, shouting to be spent on tickets to India. But the border restrictions were holding me back. When the restrictions eased, just before Omicron made its appearance, I booked tickets to visit my parents, this time for a three-month-long vacation.
Each time I visit India, I surprise my parents and I always see tears rushing down their cheeks. This time, I had to hold back tears. The moment I saw them, after three years, I realized they had gotten old. Their skin was so wrinkled and they both looked so thin. When I hugged my mom, the skin on her hands was loose. I knew my parents were getting old, but to actually see them old is heartbreaking.
My heart aches to see my parents like this. I did not sleep well that night as many unpleasant thoughts were crossing my mind. By dawn, I decided to make this trip memorable for all of us. Instead of sleeping in individual rooms with our gadgets, we started sleeping in the living room. All of us together. My parents, my 8-year-old son, my 11-year-old niece, and me. A slumber party each day. Mattresses on the floor, all of us sleeping close to each other, sharing stuff – big and small.
It is heartwarming to see your parents cuddling their grandkids and telling stories of their childhood. Contrary to what I assumed, my Gen Z kid was exhilarated to be with his 67-year-old grandparents and relished their anecdotes of an era with no TV, internet, and social media.
This bond between individuals 60 years apart was also empowering, with the seniors being trained on taking selfies and playing bubble shooter games. Both age groups had something fresh for each other. I guess all relationships have a different way of traversing the path of love.
A realization had dawned on me. I discerned that the needs of parents change at every stage, and I learned that at a certain age, more than anything else, they need someone to talk to. So, I made sure I sat with them every day for hours. Sometimes oiling my mom’s grey hair, and sometimes moisturizing her dry hands; each time, she poured her heart out, sometimes telling a story for the 100th time and sometimes unveiling some tucked away episodes of her life.
One day, I went to the kitchen where my mother was making parathas – wheat flatbread loaded with clarified butter. To my surprise, she had tears running down her cheeks. I was shocked, and on enquiring why, she said, “Eat lots of food made by me. I don’t know if I will be there to feed you the next time you come to India.”
I realized we were all living with the same fear. The fear of separation. We all know that some events are inevitable in this journey of life – if only there was a way never to be away from your loved ones…We both hugged each other tightly and then savored the charred paratha that had scorched during our long hug.
My father, on the other hand, expresses his sweet love with bitter medicines. For each small health problem, he has a medicine to offer. I tease him by the name “Doctor without a degree.” When I was a kid, he always stocked cough syrup for my sensitive throat. And like olden times, when I was coughing in the middle of the night during this visit, I heard his tired yet devoted 67-year-old feet walking towards me with the cough syrup.
Such beautiful moments are love personified, and I am celebrating this Valentine’s Day sharing moments with my parents, and each day after that during my stay. These touching and warm episodes are my souvenirs from this trip.