What No One Tells You About Losing Your Parents

Modern Family

What No One Tells You About Losing Your Parents

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Life gives you parents, and sometimes it takes them away faster than you say, “I get you too.”

The biggest lie you will ever be told is that time heals you. In the case of losing the two main co-founders of your life, that never rings true. Every minute is one minute further away from the last time you saw them, heard their voice, hear them say your name, hugged them, shared a laugh or told them you loved them (if you got to it at all).

Abbu passed away a decade ago when I was 16. So three years ago when my sisters told me through veils of tears, “Karima, mummy’s gone”, my body’s first response was to stay glued to that spot in the hospital and never leave. To decay there and expedite this life thing and just meet her again. The second was to get up and trace every brick and tile my mother touched and every sight she saw, to make it my holy pilgrimage. I cried and profusely apologised to her cold, unmoving body, a chance I had missed when I lost my father.

My third response shook me the most. It was my new calm. I knew I’d be okay. I had gone through this once. Among the things the blur of people who identified as our relatives said, the constant was the reassurance that my sisters and I will be fine. That we’d seen enough in our young lives and things will only be brighter now. I believed them. And bright they became.

I moved out of the house where all I saw was ghosts of my memories with my parents. I found a job I liked. I found a career I wanted to pursue. And someone who managed to reach out to me through my darkness and showed me love and true compassion, found me.

It was now when my theory that I was going to be okay began to crack. I am enveloped with a new kind of self-hate where I wish I had grown up faster so I could show my parents who I’ve become. Or better, I wish they were alive to see me and my sisters ace so hard at life. Because what we are now, is exactly them.

I’m in a loving relationship at the age my parents were married. They had a home together. I do too. My mother loved going to the supermarket and buying things for the house. So do I. My mother had developed clothing hacks – fold clothes and keep them under the mattress for an ironed look, if the clothes are still wet and you need to wear them immediately, use a blow dryer on them or an iron. I do this now, and willingly. I like managing my house, I think it’s a lot of fun. I feel stupid and naive that I evaded this so fiercely growing up.

If my parents were alive, I imagine I would finally get to see them without the burden of our responsibilities.

My father was a moody chef. He’d cook once in a while and he’d do it with the confidence of Sanjeev Kapoor and loved showing off his creations. My boyfriend is the same. My father had a crackling sense of humor and was quick witted, just like my boyfriend.

And the feeling that my parents would’ve loved seeing me live my life, chokes me in my throat and makes me feel like I cannot breathe. If only I could’ve grown up sooner.

As children we don’t care for much, all we want is to eat, nap, play, and skip school to watch TV. Parents are our guardians chosen by god, so they must give us everything we want. And now!

As teenagers, we’re troubled and high on hormones. Parents are people who would never get us. Because they were born into adult bodies and had us immediately after.

As young adults, the pass(age) between 19 and 24 where we’re just figuring out who we are and making our core beliefs, parents are our guardians on standby. Not in our face but close enough to catch us should we fall or want to rest.

From the moment we’re born to the moment we cross our young adult phase, it has dawned on me, that our parents wait. I imagine they wait for us on a ship where only adults are around. Where they can be themselves in front of us, and we ourselves in front of them. Because the children, teenagers and young adults need to be on the ground. Trusting, safe, with earth under their feet to keep them steady. Adults can be on water now, because it is calm, vast and never ending. It is also unsteady, and the ship may lose its balance, but it has adults on it so they will manage.

And as I see myself grow with every new white hair and new experience, I see myself running to jump on that ship, but it has left the shore. Leaving me behind with all my previous selves who are broken in their own ways because they met death too soon and in the only love they knew.

If my parents were alive, I imagine I would finally get to see them without the burden of our responsibilities. They would worry about my sisters and my health maybe, but not that we were “still growing up”. I would get to see them not make sacrifices for our sake. I’d have loved to see what they did with their time not wasted on chasing after me for my homework or my career. They both loved travel and I would’ve loved for them to have seen the world. Some trips sponsored by yours truly.

I would’ve finally understood them. We would finally be on the same page. My mother would look at me as her child, and as her confidant. I’d still be my Abbu’s aloo ka paratha but we could now take a road trip and take turns driving. We would fight over who would get the bill, because I would run away with their wallets and my sisters would take care of the bill. I would’ve loved to be on the same side as them.

But I missed that boat.