Changing Grief

“Although I am physically alone, I am the man she lived with for forty-eight years and she is very much a part of the person I have become in that time.”
Robert Kirven (author of “A Book About Dying”)

I’ve now been a single parent for close to a year. We go out as a family of two rather than the happy three that we were in the years gone by. In the beginning it was intensely emotionally draining, every place we went to, my thoughts raced back to the time when we were together, our world intact.

I would helplessly look at the other families and couples milling around and feel that piercing stabs in the heart. There were times I wanted to just get out of there and stay home. The world seemed too full while mine had been lost forever. But I reasoned that my son was going to have only one childhood and I owed it to both of them to bring a smile to his face. He had suffered enough and I wasn’t going to make my pain dwarf his growing up years.

And so we continued to go out, just the two of us on weekends and holidays. We went to couple of holidays with friends and family. Though my own grief was too raw to let any enjoyment in, it was heartwarming to see our little boy enjoy. On many other weekends, it was rough, just the two of us at home. I would play board games with him and fight tears thinking what our life had come to.

I busied myself taking care of him full time on holidays and weekends. Every morning I would get up early with him and get him ready for school. Doing these chores gave me peace at a time when everything else seemed very dark. At work sometimes when it felt unbearable, I would close my eyes and remind myself that I had to take care of my son. That would somehow give me enough strength to get through the day.

It really hurt to come back home each day and face the loneliness. And yet when my son would give me a warm hug, it seemed that I had broken through the pain. I doubt I would have made it this far without him. I don’t think I had any other reason to continue living.

These days when we go out, I still feel the familiar stabs but I notice that they don’t hurt as much. I’ve started becoming numb to the pain. I’ve started getting used to the empty seat next to me, to the silence that surrounds me wherever I go. They say grief becomes different with time and it’s true. It has just become different not necessarily better.

I’ve started becoming accustomed to talking in my head. I don’t know if this means that I have started to let go of my past. I guess I have wailed,let out my frustration and anger at this situation and found that there’s no one out there who can magically put this right. Myself is all I got on this solitary path.

It still hurts a lot to be alone and I know nothing or no one can fill that void. But I don’t feel the desperate need of company anymore. I’ve started to become comfortable with my loneliness. I find that my focus and concentration are a lot better and I’m beginning to find pleasure in books and reading again.

My future scares me, the safety net that I had in her presence is gone. I try not to dwell on it too much. When I start having thoughts whether I’ll find happiness ever again, I surrender to it and it goes away. I didn’t see my current life unfolding and the same holds true for the future.

There’s much more to learn on this journey. Grief is a teacher and I’ve learned some hard lessons. I’m searching for some normalcy in life, I have seen too much darkness in too less a time. I’m yearning for some easy lessons now.

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Lonely parenting

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Being a single parent is hard. Not only because there is no one to share the chores but because there’s no one to tell you if you are getting it right. If you forget something, there’s no one who calls and reminds you. When you are trying to be both mom and a dad it’s tough.

There’s so much I’ve learned in the last few months about parenting. In fact it’s one thing that I still feel good about, it’s the one thing that I derive some pleasure from. I’ve withdrawn from almost every other interest I had because it just doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

Eve when she was in the hospital, she was the one calling the shots- keeping tabs on things and taking care of us even from the hospital bed. As always I was updating her on how I’m managing and asking for her advice. She was always my go to person in good times and bad times.

Being on my own, I often get scared if I’m taking care of my son properly, am I missing something?  should I be doing something more? Unfortunately I can’t ask her these questions. I have to rely on my own self to get by.

I guess I would be doing a lot better had I not have had to deal with my grief. But then adversity comes in packages like this – single parent and a loss to deal with at the same time making everything monumentally difficult.

Like everything else she was so good at being a mom that I more or less remained in the background as far as daily activities of our son were concerned. She had incredible energy and passion for life and she ensured she filled his life with the same.

I’m a much different person and could never match the pace at which she led her life. But I’ve been learning on the job, making notes, creating lists, keeping things organized and somehow getting by in the midst of my own sorrow and loneliness.

Sometimes I feel guilty I’m unable to give the amount of time my little boy needs. I have a full time job and I’m unable to spend more than an hour or two with him on the weekdays. If I had the financial means, I would have simply quit and taken care of him full time.

I feel extremely bitter he is having to go through this at such a tender age. He doesn’t say it often but I know how much he misses his Mom. She meant the world to him. Both of them used to have so much fun together – playing, going to movies and living it up. Whenever work tired or frustrated me, I was always content in the knowledge that the two of them were having a good time.

From here on, how life shapes up for us, I  do not know. I know no matter how difficult it is, I need to keep going for my son. He’s already lost too much and I don’t want it to overshadow the only childhood that he will ever have.

I also do not want this catastrophe to define our life though I know it will never be the same without her. It’s a journey trying to find some meaning amongst the ruins of a life we both created together.

I get random moments of positivity and hope only to be followed by crashing lows. Daily life seems to oscillate between the two extremes all the time. I struggle most with loneliness and it’s the type of intense loneliness that no amount of people can fill. The only way seems to be to embrace it and not defy it.

And so it is that I continue on this journey – bruised and battered but still alive and hopeful to someday reach a stage of acceptance and peace. It seems too distant and often what we are searching outside is to be found within. Sometimes there is no destination but only the promise of travel.

“There is nothing that moves a loving father’s soul quite like his child’s cry.”
― Joni Eareckson Tada

Searching for a purpose

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There are days like these when grief and loneliness make you feel so low that all you want to do is to stay put. I wish to to be in solitude on the shore listening to the waves crashing against the rocks.

I need to listen to the emptiness within me. The sound of waves – rhythmic and soothing. The waves embrace the rocks and then melt back into sea. But I’m far from a seashore. I wonder if being there could help alleviate my pain. I guess I just want to be far away from familiar surroundings.

Going away somewhere might not help because the problem is I’ll carry myself there and with it will follow my grief. I seem to particularly struggle on weekends as I can’t do any of the things we used to do anymore. How do I fill my time and loneliness is a question that greets me everyday.

As the days and weeks add up gradually, the enormity of the loss dawns on me. From immediate things like parenting and finding things to do over the holidays and weekends to the emotional struggle, it all feels too overwhelming many times. The paradigm shift to a solo life from what was a happy and content family life, hurts a lot.

From doing things together to doing things alone, this is what this journey involves. When she was around, I never had to think about these things. In fact, I never had the time, so engrossed we were in living our life together. There were plans, finances and a million other things to worry about.

Much of those things remain, what is different is there’s no one to share them with. In that sense, shared responsibility has transformed into a list of tasks that need to be done. And outside of that is a gaping hole. After experiencing several low weekends, I have decided that I need to do something concrete.

It may not be my life’s purpose but something that allows me some peace. At this point, I don’t know what that is but I’m going to make an effort to find out. I have such a strong inclination to ask her, she would always have a ‘things you can do’ list ready for me. I have to make that list myself now.

Life’s catastrophic losses force you to question your identity, your purpose. As a couple, your identity and ambitions become intertwined. There is a strong ‘we’ in every decision, every plan you make. As a singleton, much against your choice, life suddenly asks very difficult questions. These questions don’t culminate into anything, rather one question leads to another.

Parenting remains my priority but I also know I need to think outside of it to survive this loss. I know I can never go far from her and neither do I want to. Her presence in my life’s journey will remain always, it’s like the air I breathe. I also know nothing can ever explain this loss or justify it including any amount of karma, spirituality and the ‘fairness’ of a supreme being.

I didn’t ask to be on this path, it was forced upon me against my will. But now I’m on it and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m a reluctant traveler but I intend to carry her in my heart and keep moving to wherever this path takes me.

” Life, by its very nature, abhors isolation. That is why my loss hurt so much. I felt so isolated from the world. There was no comfort left in a world that didn’t lose what I had lost. It pushed me further away from the world around me. And it was there I found the difference between solitude and aloneness.” – Benjamin Allen

A Life Reset

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My day starts with getting my son ready for school, I drop him to the school bus every day and wave till its out of sight. There are other parents – mostly mom’s, few dad’s and the odd couple. It always makes me think that I’m the only one who’s a single parent. It’s a reality I can’t run away from.

I have couple of hours to myself in the mornings and these are hard because once my son has gone off to school, I can literally hear the silence. The loneliness comes back to haunt me, I spend the time reading books, blogs or writing. It helps to bring some comfort to the situation.

I feel guilty that on weekdays I’m unable to spend much time with my little boy. I really want to be there for him when he comes back from school and to help with his homework. But I also have a day job and by the time I come back home, I hardly have time to catch a bite and put him to bed. I recently got him a book titled “365 animal tales”, there’s one for each day of the year.

We have a deal that I have to read him three stories every night before tucking him in. I don’t know what’s with that number but you don’t want to argue with such a sweet little boy. Yesterday, I got very late due to bad traffic and we couldn’t do the stories. So today my task is do six!. Thankfully it’s a Friday which helps.

I ask him open questions about how he’s feeling and we discuss things. It’s an evolving process but I believe it’s important to develop the trust and comfort so that he will never hesitate to bring his problems to me. I ask him if he’s feeling happy or sad and that it’s Ok to be sad sometimes. I know how much he misses his mom but I’m glad he mentions her often in a happy way. I still think I’ve a long way to go in fully understanding how he feels and what he thinks.

At six, his view of the world around him is still developing. As he grows up and becomes more aware of the absence, it’s going to hurt and I know that void will be there lifelong and I cannot fill it. However, what I can do is to be there for him and help him deal with it. She had so many dreams for him, I can’t begin to describe the pain I feel when I think about all the times that she will miss out on as he grows up. She lived for it. It gets me every time.

We had dreams of watching him grow up together, plan his future together and do so many things as a family. That dream is pretty much a pile of dust now. I will try and do all those things for her but I know it’s never going to be the same again. Our family of three is reduced to just two now but we carry her in our hearts and always will.

Many times it gets really hard and I feel like reaching out to her for help. I miss her all the time and I don’t think that will ever change. Her absence from our lives has created an unimaginable void that no one can fill. It trails me like a shadow everywhere I go. It’s still hard for me to accept she’s gone. I see her every where, I know it’s an illusion but one I want to believe in. I want to be able to say someday that she was never really gone, I never really let her go.

I can’t say I’ve started rebuilding my life, at this point I don’t know what that means. I’m just trying to survive and doing what needs to be done. I’m not thinking too far ahead because I’m still dazed with what has happened to me. When I look back over the last couple of months, I have trouble understanding why we have had to go through so much pain and suffering.

People talk about finding a new normal, I don’t know about that. I guess I’m far from it right now. It’s a journey with many starts and stops and as I walk this path, I hope to discover some peace somewhere along the way.

“You didn’t get past something like that, you go through it — and for that reason alone, I understood more about her than she ever would have guessed.”
― Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

More of the same

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When you lose someone just like that, you are not prepared. In fact nothing can prepare you for something like this. Dealing with losing your soul mate is not something which is taught in school or in books. So, each day you go through this painful process, the feelings never subside but slowly time passes.

Some days I’m doing ‘better’ – getting through my responsibilities as a parent and employee. On other days, it’s just plain hurtful, I find I can hardly summon the strength to get up. But on either of these days, I do  not have a choice. I have too many responsibilities to have the luxury of sitting at home and doing nothing.

When she was around, I would have my nothing days – whole days spent doing nothing in particular. Just talking or watching TV together. When work used to become too monotonous, I would take a fri off. We would pick Nishu from school and we would have lunch somewhere nice and then just be at home enjoying our time together as a family.

Well, by the looks of it those days seem to be long gone and I’m also not the same person anymore, weighed down by the loss and the constant aloofness which has reentered my life. The innocence of having nothing wrong happen to people you love is also gone replaced by a foreboding.

Maybe I should try different things to break this constant theme of sadness, not that it will ever go away but just to feel a bit human. It used to be vacations earlier, now even that is painful as I found out last time around. I don’t have much ideas on how to fill my time. I hardly get time most days, but contrary to what people think it doesn’t help lessen the grief in any way. It’s always there just like the sky above – omnipresent and expansive.

I’m trying to focus on parenting and trying to understand what goes on in a six years mind when faced with living without his beloved mom every day. I’m learning that children have a mind of their own, they feel much of the same emotions as we do but unlike us they do not yet know the words to express. The worst advice that I keep getting is to let it be as ‘he’s too young to understand’. Sure, that’s an easy way out because it means doing nothing. How can anyone know unless they have lost a parent. I haven’t but I’m making a conscious effort to do the right things to support my child’s grief.

At close to 4 months, it’s still unbearable and does hurt a lot and almost all the time. The human soul certainly seems to have a great capacity to bear sorrow. I used to think I won’t be able to make it even a day without her, I’ve lived but then this is no life. We don’t get to make choices in life. I’m trying to play with the cards I’ve been dealt with. They say life has to go on, it does but for the person left behind its a burden to carry.

It’s really hard for people on the outside to feel what you feel. One of the reasons for these blogs was to tell it as it is. If you ask me how I’m doing, might say ‘ok’ but then it’s not what I really feel which is why this blog helps. Just the other day, someone told me that we should remember but also move forward. I agree but to reach that stage takes undetermined time and pain. If the answer to this problem was that easy, no one would grieve.

The loss of purpose, identity, loneliness and having no one to talk to presents a formidable challenge in any effort to move forward. You do move forward but the slightest regress takes you many steps back. And it doesn’t take much to bring you apart – it could be a memory, a chocolate cake, a favorite coffee, movies, music, pictures, voices, clothes and even the ‘marital status’ on the forms. There’s no escaping these and there’s really no other way than to live through the pain till it numbs you and doesn’t hurt like it used to.

The problem with well intentioned advice is that it often comes from people who do not have to go through this on a daily basis, so when you say you should move forward, I get it but you have no idea of what it takes to get there. In the end, the best person to help you is yourself because after all its your journey not theirs. People can help you navigate but it’s only you who has the steering wheel.

“Fate. Destiny. God. It´s all a crock. People want their lives to make sense want to sit back like cosmic detectives and examine what´s happened to them so far identifying the key turning points that shaped them and retro-actively imbuing these moments with a mystic aura like the celestial forces of the universe are a team of writers on the serialized television show of your life charged with concoting outrageously convoluted plotlines designed to achieve resolution by the end of the season. No one wants to believe that it´s all completely random that the direction of our lives is nothing more than a complex series of accidents little nuclear mushroom clouds and we´re just living in the fallout.”
― Jonathan Trooper

A child’s view

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I went out to a business dinner today. It was good to be amongst people and feel normal for a while. But the problem is having other people does not reduce my loneliness in any way. There is only one person I want to be with and she can’t be there ever. It’s precisely this type of thinking that makes it unending.

I have written a lot about how I feel and the various circumstances I have had to face. Today I want to write about grief from a six year old perspective or at least what I see and interpret. Even before all this happened, I wanted to be a sensitive father. My little boy’s feelings are important to me, I don’t want to brush them under the carpet just because everyone else thinks he is too young to understand.

Children are amazingly perceptive, they gauze things very quickly. When the unthinkable happened, no one gave me any advice because no one had been in this situation. The only thing I heard over and over again is that he’s too young and will forget with time. It doesn’t make sense to me. Firstly as I said, kids are highly perceptive of their surroundings and their parents. Second, I don’t want him to forget his mom. It would be such a travesty.

I know that he is going to miss his mom who loved him so much that she gave up her life fighting to be with us. I want him to remember the times he spent with her. I also know there is nothing I can do to fill that void, it will always be there. What I can do is to listen to him, understand his feelings and help him cope. If I assume he doesn’t have any feelings because he’s too young to understand, how am I  going to help him?

I’ve been honest with him. Having to tell him  has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. How do you tell a six year old that the person he most adores is not coming back? I thought about it and couldn’t think of a way where it could make the task any easier. So I tried to tell him honestly that mom had gone to be with God and will be living there. I hated to bring God into the conversation but I had no choice because I cannot explain him the facts yet, because of his age. Someday I will and he has every right to know what happened and how it happened.

I also tried to tell him that mom can see us even though we can’t and she loves us as we do. I told him that she has taught me how to take care of you and do all the things that she used to do. He was satisfied with this explanation though what effect it has had on his little mind, only time would tell. Initially for a long time, he kept asking if she’s going to be back when he grows up. It was the most heart breaking question I have ever faced and again I didn’t want to lie. I told him the truth and I know he’s not happy about it.

I have realized that with children, the fantastic thing is that they believe if they trust you and it is everything to them. I’m simply amazed that while I struggle so much he’s been his happy cheerful self. But I know that he misses her immensely, my efforts are in helping him open up if he wants to and letting him know I’m there for him always no matter the time of the day or night. When I play with him or read him a story, I would casually bring up mom and ask him gently. He would then tell me what he had been thinking.

While it was extremely difficult to realize that I can’t give him that one thing that he needs the most, winning his trust also made me happy. At least now we have got to a stage where he can confide in me. There’s lot more work to be done but we’re getting there. Now a days, he often reminds me to do things the way mom did or he says ‘learn from mom’ or ‘ask her’. It hurts but that’s the way I want it to be – open and direct no matter how hard it is for me.

Just imagine how difficult it would be for him if I just act if nothing has happened and want him to do the same. I don’t understand why people suggest taking this approach when clearly it is wrong and can cause long term damage to a child’s personality. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it has to be avoided.

I want him to be comfortable with discussing things with me. I know he would have been with her. While that comes naturally for a mom, for me it means making the effort and spending lots of time with him trying to understand his emotions and helping him understand mine. I know both of us need each other, without her we need each other to survive. As I keep telling him “We’re a team”.

Our new relationship is still evolving. Earlier I was more or less a weekend dad, while she did everything for him. She simply loved being a mom and I could see the excitement in her eyes as she would plan things for him. It breaks my heart every time I think how much of his growing up years she’s going to miss. I never thought it would come to this but it has and there’s nothing I can do about it.

But I have to keep the promise I’ve given her of ensuring that I fulfill all the dreams that she had for him. It is one clear purpose in my life whenever I question myself about what is there now to live for. None of it is going to be easy. It’s a daunting task whichever way I look at it. I have a lot to learn as a single parent and I intend to use every resource available to get there.

Lot of people have also told me it can’t be done, men cannot raise kids. I could care less for the naysayers, I know it can be done and I have her love and support to get through it. It’s a challenge that I have embraced. I have already faced the most difficult situations anyone can come across. What do I have to lose anyway?

In the imminent fog of my own grief and despair, my little boy has shown me the path ahead. He’s the light I need to follow. I have much to learn from him. His approach to life has inspired me, it’s amazing how much children can teach us when mostly we think it’s the other way round. But they have much deeper understanding than we have as adults. We only need to keep our minds and hearts open to them.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” 
― Angela Schwindt

My parenting list

There are days when you don’t feel anything, you don’t care about anything, you just drift aimlessly with the hours. When I have such days, I don’t know if it’s for the better or worse. It’s just another day in this grief stricken world of mine. Today I gave some concrete thought to the kind of parent I want to be.

Being a single parent my ask is obviously much more difficult. I was never a person with much drive or ambition in life – a fact she wasn’t too happy about. I was mostly happy coasting along enjoying our little piece of heaven. Now that it’s gone forever, I realize I do have a definite purpose. I have to provide a happy childhood to my son. If my life was what it was, then this would have been a breeze, I would have probably not even thought about it. With her around it was a given.

However, without her it’s a daunting proposition, a mountain to climb. It’s one thing to visualize a goal but quite another to actually work towards it. To do that I need some clear ideas about things I want to accomplish. Being a list maniac, here’s what I think I should be doing,

Show affection – I believe displaying affection is important – hugs, kisses, pats, high fives all go a long way in showing a child you care and love him.

Read him a story every day – This is fast becoming my favorite part of the day. We have finished couple of storybooks already. We read together and I brace for the countless questions.

Play with him every day – I have to do a better job at this. It requires lots of patience for to make it enjoyable for him, you need to become a six year old kid too.

Take him to the movies – This is something she started and I’m continuing. Watching movies together is fun. Next up Transformers. Only thing now I need to stay awake the whole time so that I can have at least some answers when peppered with a million questions.

Read animal encyclopedia together – This is something I tried and both of us enjoyed it. I didn’t even know half the things there.

Talk to him about his mom everyday – From the start I was clear on one thing that I am going to help him cope, listen to him and not marginalize his emotions because he is too young. I want him to remember the times he spent with her and how precious those were. We talk about her, see her pictures and miss her so much. It’s a difficult path to tread but I know it’s the right one.

Go cycling together – This is on my to do list. I need to buy him a new one and fill some air in the deflated tires of mine.

Find out things together – I have a new task of googling for answers to his curiosity filled questions. I sometimes wonder what was I doing in school. I don’t seem to know even simple things.

Going on vacation – This is something she made an integral part of our lives. We have to continue with her in our hearts. The last one was emotionally a disaster. I wasn’t ready and it made it worse. I will try again.

Giving more time than money – I do have a significant challenge with a full time job and long commute times. I have to figure out a way to do this in the long term.

Accepting my shortcomings – I have no lofty goals of being a perfect parent and there is no such thing anyway. My hope is that I will be honest to a fault and own up when I falter.

Learn new things from him and for him – I don’t have a clue yet. But there will always be things under this.

Be more outgoing for him – As it is, I’m going to need lots of help doing all this. I have to turn a corner on this someday before rest of my hairs turn grey. I’m a work in progress.

Patience – lots and lots of it. Nothing more to add here.

Be honest with myself – There will be times I’m not going to be able to do many of this because I’m also a grieving husband besides being a father. I have to keep trying but also know my own limits.

Have an open mind – I’m going to read, research, share and learn from other parents. I’ll be open to ideas and ask for advice.

Be organized – With my own state of mind and number of responsibilities I juggle in a day, this is important. Lists, reminders, tools all to be liberally used.

I know this is an ambitious list and some of it seems impossible considering how I feel most of the time. But then that is the challenge. My motivation is to do this for her, it’s the least I can do trying to fill in the big shoes of someone who did everything above and much more and never needed to make any lists.

Father’s day

Today is Father’s day, and for the first time it has an overwhelming significance for me. I haven’t given much thought to it before because being the person she was, her presence was so reassuring that I never gave fatherhood much importance. Not that I skipped responsibility but I always thought that even if I mess up, I have her and I knew she could fix anything. I always looked to her for guidance.

Parenting was something we did together even though our approach to it was very different. She was instinctive, flexible and knew intuitively what was right. My approach was more of explore, discuss and try to do the right things. Needless to say, she was the more natural parent. I as usual stumbled before finding my way.

Today it’s just me and being a parent has taken on meanings I never thought about before. Failure is no longer an option, I can’t mess up and ask her to fix it anymore. From a dad I’ve been elevated to a double parent and it’s daunting whichever way I look at it. I remember how proud she was of me anytime I made an effort. I guess it made her extremely happy to see me do little things with Nishu – read him a story, take him for a haircut or just play with him.

Though she never told me explicitly how she wanted him to grow up, I guess I have a fairly good idea. Just like she could read my mind, I could read hers too. We knew each other too well. Childhood is about having fun and this fact was never lost on both of us. It’s important to study but it’s alright to falter, academics is not the be all and end all of life as I have ironically found out. As parents it’s our responsibility to expose our children to a variety of activities and then watch for what makes them happy, where their talents lie. Little loving nudges, little guidance and an assurance that we are there to support if they fall is what I strongly believe in.

Now that I have all the responsibility, my thoughts on parenting have remained what they were. If anything has changed it is the delicate task of protecting my child’s emotions. I have to be realistic and accept that not having his mom is going to break his heart as he grows up. While I can’t do anything about it, I’m there to help him cope. I’m there to tell him all the wonderful stories about how extraordinary his mom was. I’m there to hold him and cry with him when both of us will miss her like hell. Above all, I’m there to tell him that even though his mom is not with us, we are defined by her and our love for her will be there forever. It will continue to guide us both.
I’m a person who cares about emotions, it’s just the way I’m wired. I don’t believe in the usual dogmas that children do not grieve because they are too young to understand. I don’t think anything can be farther from the truth. We need to give attention to a child’s emotions, watch their feelings and try our best to support them instead of brushing it under the carpet because it’s damn hard and awkward to deal with it. So far I’ve tried to do it in all honesty. By any yardstick, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has made me walk on burning embers but I’m glad I’ve made the effort.

I believe in having open discussions, my relationship with my son should be such that he can talk to me about anything and everything. I’m there to listen to him always. If he ever has a problem, he should know I’m there to help. That’s what parents do. To do this I need to step down and see the world from his landscape. I need to know all the stuff that makes his world tick – his favorite games, cartoon characters, movies, books, sports. In time this theory of mine will get tested but this is really what I want to do.

It also means giving your children time and lots of it. This is where I’m going to face significant challenges. But then who said anything about this was easy. Having gone through some of the toughest situations that life can present, the word ‘tough’  seems to have lost its due significance. I don’t know how I’m going to find time to do everything that I want to do but I know I will. It’s one of the rare things in life I’m confident about.

After everything that I’ve had to go through, I don’t have many dreams left. Most have vanished just like my old life. But being a parent is something that has kept me going. It is probably the only thing that I have worth living for.

I leave you with this video, it beautifully summarizes everything I’ve tried to say here.

http://youtu.be/ktkh64wUw4o

On Mother’s day

It’s been a rough few weeks culminating in a weekend spent partly working. While I’ve been extremely busy, it has been a very directionless time.

It’s like you are in a hurry and trying to reach somewhere but when you pause and ask yourself where you are headed, all you get is silence. It’s been like doing what needs to be done without much thought. It’s not that earlier I had much targets to chase in life but I had the happiness of daily life and that was enough for me.

Today, I don’t really know what normal is or feels like. I have many hard yards to do till I come anywhere close to it. I do have a definite purpose in life now and that is my son and her dreams for him and us. Everything I do has this in its backdrop. It has kept me from losing my sanity.

I started looking at newspapers again and see that today is Mother’s day. I remember she hated these ‘days’ saying why there has to be a day when this is something you love every moment. I know how much she loved being a mom, just like everything else in life she did it with a passion.

She used her instinct at lot of things and mostly it was right. If I don’t know anything, my approach has been to find out, read. It sometimes gives me the illusion that I have control over things. She was the best mom you could be, spending all the time with Nishu, she knew everything about cartoons and characters he liked.

Last few years we always went out to watch the biggest kid movies. In fact the last movie we watched together was “Superman”. She played so many games with him, took him out for movies during his vacations. Both of us were not strict parents but she wouldn’t tolerate certain things – being rude, not saying please or thank you or being violent.

Being the extremely enthusiastic person she was, she introduced Nishu to all kinds of activities – dance classes, karate, skating, swimming and many others. Her philosophy was to introduce him to as many things as possible and let him find his flair . It was her dream that he should do only things for which he had a passion.

Kids can be hard to manage sometimes because they have boundless energy but that is something she had too. So she would get kids together and spend hours entertaining and playing games with them. Birthdays have been special memories because she loved organizing them. Even the last year when she wasn’t feeling well as she had been home only a day from the hospital. She still made sure we had a birthday party at home which wasn’t much different than earlier years.

She simply loved shopping for Nishu’s clothes and trying new outfits on him. The brightest colors and trends was what she spent hours on exasperating me in the process.

I don’t think she ever needed to read anything on parenting. Her style was to try new things, share new ideas with people and be enthusiastic about the whole thing. She would tell me all the things she was planning for him and sometimes I had a few ideas but mostly I let her decide because I knew how good she was with it.

I’m glad that Nishu has taken after his mom’s personality. He is a bright, happy and cheerful kid. Nothing seems to faze him. I guess it’s a result of the time he has spent with her, it’s in his genes. Of course this hasn’t been easy on him. In time there are going to be many occasions when he is going to miss her terribly and there is nothing I can do about it.

But the biggest regret that I will carry to my grave is the fact that she won’t be around to watch him grow up. It’s what she fought so hard for. I know there is no getting around that immense void. It is something that has destroyed my beliefs forever . What kind of God takes away such a loving mother from a child.
I will do everything in my power to give a shape to her dreams but I know for a fact that I can never hope to be anywhere close to the person she was for both of us. And that is something, that will always be missing in our world. But then she will always be his mother. Nothing can change that too.

“There is no way out, only a way forward”

Being a single parent

There are several hard facts to face in this bizarre existence that I have got now. One of the hardest is that I’m a single parent now.It’s something that is a driving force behind my efforts to survive as also the saddest conclusion that life has brought me to.Of course I have the support of family and friends and I’m grateful for that,it doesn’t change the fact that I’m the only surviving parent now.Ok, I need to change paragraphs here,I can’t even believe I’m writing this.

Between the two of us, she was the more responsible parent always. Like only mothers can do, she instinctively knew what the right thing to do was.I was like most dads, taking care of work responsibilities and paying the bills mostly.This is not to say that I did not take active part, I did and like most other things that we have done together, I’ve been always proud that we have done things on our own.We have made mistakes,learnt together but always accomplished our goals.When Nishu was born in the US, it was just the 2 of us.We knew only two families in the city.But we managed it on our own,everything right from the day we found out to the day he was born.She found out which were the best hospitals,doctors,pediatricians while I read “What to expect when you are expecting” and many such books cover to cover. We took pre birth classes and hospital tours to make sure we understood the process.

I can never forget the moment of birth. There were only 3 of us other than the would be mom in the hospital room. The Dr, a wonderful nurse called Michelle(I can’t thank her enough) and myself.We had checked into the hospital the night before. Nishu was born around afternoon US eastern time. It was an extremely nervous moment for me,fortunately I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the chair next to her and woke up only hours before.And when the magical moment came,everything went like clockwork.It was just perfect.Soon we held him in our arms,we cried and hugged-We were proud parents.

And after his birth,we continued to learn and manage things on our own.I remember going to the local 24/7 grocery store at midnight to buy a pacifier,the old lady at the checkout gave me a hug and exclaimed “New dad”!.For the first 3 months or so it was my job to change diapers while she recovered and both of us continued to learn being parents everyday.It was not easy but by far the best phase of our lives.We were thrilled to be doing what we were.And so we learnt how to fix car seats,what to watch out for,what to ask the pediatrician,about vaccinations,infant clothes,sleeping patterns,feeding and a myriad of new things that overwhelm new parents.

It was always how we did things-together. That was the key word,as a team, I felt nothing was impossible,we could accomplish anything.We were young,she was everything I was not and me with all my faults and deficiencies complemented each other perfectly. If made for each other is the cliche to go with.As I got busier after moving back to India and the long hours at work coupled with other logistical issues like commute times and traffic made it difficult,she effortlessly took over the dominant parent’s role-Looking after his schooling,classes,taking him to movies,shopping, in essence all the beautiful things only Moms can do and true to her nature she passed on all the qualities-being happy,cheerful and a confidence to take on anything.

In the last few months,as a result of her being sick and the long hospitalizations,I have spent a lot of time taking care of Nishu. With her constant help and encouragement,I relearnt being a parent-taking care of his needs and ensuring he feels cared for and happy.To the pleasant surprise of us both, he has stayed extremely strong,taking this momentous disruption into his stride and being the cheerful,happy little boy that he is.He continues even though I had to have the most painful and difficult conversation that you can ever have. He is too young to understand the gravity of all this and I have tried to be extremely sensitive with him while on this topic.I want him to know and remember his Mom as he grows up.He is going to miss her terribly as time goes by, just like I do.It will intensify as he grows up and begins to understand things.It’s something there is no getting around to.But I know she looks over him and I am there for him always.I see so much of her in him and it makes me happy and sad at the same time. But the thought that keeps me going is the fact that I need to live up to the dreams she had for him. I cannot mess up,it’s the promise of a lifetime that I have made to her.

To be honest,I haven’t got it exactly figured out as to how I am going to do all this but I know I will get there.What causes me immense pain and sadness is the fact that she won’t be around to witness so many milestones and special occasions that are going to come up in his life.It is what she fought so hard for.I need to learn and relearn parenting. It’s a totally different ballgame now with only me around.I no longer have the comfort of asking her if I’m doing something right and it makes me very nervous.But I try and I know its the journey of a lifetime.

“Grief causes you to leave yourself. You step outside your narrow little pelt. And you can’t feel grief unless you’ve had love before it – grief is the final outcome of love, because it’s love lost. […] It’s the cycle of love completed: to love, to lose, to feel grief, to leave, and then to love again. Grief is the awareness that you will have to be alone, and there is nothing beyond that because being alone is the ultimate final destiny of each individual living creature. That’s what death is, the great loneliness.”