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It was almost midnight. I was thirsty. My two year old was fast asleep. I went out to quench my thirst. But, as soon as I opened the door, all I saw was a dark empty house. The emptiness, actually gave me goosebumps. No, the house was not haunted. It's the house where I grew up, I played around, drew on the walls, hopped and jumped, laughed and cried, fought and yelled. It was my maa, baba's house. But, today all of a sudden, it felt so empty,so deserted. Not because the night wore a cloak of dark ghastly silence, but cause of the fact that, it made me realise something. Something that I had known for long, but felt for the first time that night. Emptiness!!
Maa and baba were sound asleep. Good for them. But I couldn't sleep for the whole night. I felt sad, I felt guilty, I felt helpless.
I remembered the day, when I left that house for my higher studies. I cried a lot, but after few months got used to the hostel life. Soon, I had a life of my own, college, then job, then getting married to the love of my life and then becoming a mother. Amidst all this, I actually forgot that the day I left the house, my parents were left alone with the emptiness of this house. Life must have been so tough for them. Their only solace must have been, when I called or I came home or they came to meet me. Once I got married and had a baby, my life transformed. I got more occupied with myself and my family, but they happily adjusted to all the new changes. Accepted my new life without any questions. Infact, their grandson, was the new ray of hope for them. They found a new life, the day he was born.
Whenever all of us are together, they are happy. Every morning, they eagerly wait for their grandson to wake up and run to them. They love to play around, laugh around with him, watch him doing the sweet nothings. Myself and maa, we can talk for hours about anything and everything. Till date, baba goes to the market to handpick the things, we love. Everyday seems like a festival once we are together.
But, this good time is always shortlived, once we leave for our lives, our jobs, then only thing left with them is the memories or the phone calls or eagerly waiting for their next visit or preparing for our next visit. Life again becomes more about procurement of the daily requirements, waiting for the phone calls to listen to their grandson's voice, watching tv or talking to each other or friends. But how long will a phone call last for? How long can you watch tv or talk to each other? At some point of time they will be forcibly thrown into the arms of this empty house, this empty feeling. Then what? It must be so tough on their part to bear this emptiness day after day, month after month, year after year.
The occasional visits do help in removing the emptiness temporarily. But, at the end of the day they are actually left alone with this emptiness. Its not only with my parents, but also with my in laws. Since we stay in a different city, they too are left alone. Infact this is the truth with most of the aging parents, whose children live away from them due to their jobs. Unknowingly, we leave them at the mercy of an empty house.
I have been away from my home for almost two decades. And in all these years, I have known for a fact, that they were alone, but never felt the emptiness within. But now, after having a baby, the mother in me is scared, when I think that one day our son will grow up, go away to college and then for work, then our life will be no different then our parents. We will also be left alone with this scary morbid emptiness gnawing at us.
I went to my parents room, heard their happy snores. Somehow felt a bit relaxed. Realisation, did help me, overcome my guilt to a little extent. Came back to my room, hugged my munchkin. Tried to catch a glimpse of him. But, still couldn't sleep.
Having a baby does change everything. It did change my outlook. It did revive the daughter in me, who was lost playing the other roles that life had assigned to her. He made me feel, what the past two decades experience failed. He gave me the realisation of being a parent, thinking from the point of view of a parent, empathise with a parent.
There were times, when I had disconnected their phone calls, or cancelled my trip home due to work or family bindings, and expected them to understand my situation, there were times, when I failed to understand why maa would call me ten times a day despite of knowing how busy I was. There were times, when I urged them to understand that I had other priorities. But now I understand, that I was wrong. Because, I don't want our son to do the same with us.
Sorry, isn't the word here. Apologies wouldn't be suffice. All I can do henceforth is give them as much time and attention, as they need, be there for them whenever they need us. Having a baby changed everything for me, and I shouldn't forget that having me in their life also did change everything for them. But, they accepted all the change, with a smile. And so will I. Not only for my baby but also for my parents.
P.S. Give time and attention to your aging parents. They changed everything for us, and we should too.