Of Mom, and a story about dutiful worlds

Centuries ago (okay, around fourteen years ago), after my father’s death, my mother was convinced that my sole task in life should now be keeping her happy. She wanted company. All the time. She would allow me toilet and meal breaks and meal-cooking breaks, and I could take off time when she was resting, but if I dared say I had to go out for work, I’d be subjected to a lecture on duty towards her, and on my greed to want to work.

This was back when no neurologist we consulted had bothered to tell us about dementia or even cognitive decline, though my mother had complained to them about memory loss. We had no idea that she was having problems staying oriented and in understanding things, let alone changing her way of thinking. We have no idea that she probably wanted familiar faces around her all the time because of those (unstated) problems.

Possibily because she grew up in a rather well-to-do family, my mother had always believed that anyone who worked for money was greedy. That people who worked in jobs did so only for money, which was a filthy thing to do. She had a phrase she often used to express the “greed” of persons who worked hard in paying jobs: निन्यानबे का फेर (ninyaanbe ka pher, OR, the trap of ninety-nine).

It’s an interesting concept. Basically, someone who has 99 rupees will want to earn one more rupee to make it a round 100, and that wanting a bit more to round it off neatly will keep the person on the grind. A bit like Tolstoy’s How much land does a man need.

After my father’s death, my mother began commenting on my being in the निन्यानबे का फेर trap very frequently.

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An instance of caregiver isolation

I thought I’d share an example to illustrate a situation where caregivers are unable to speak up honestly about their problems and get support.

We often hear of how we must love the patient, and if the patient is a parent, how we must love the parent as the parent loved us, and how we must do things for the parent as the parent did things for us. Yet there are assumptions here that no one questions, and situations where care is challenging because of problems caregivers cannot talk about.

But first, about families.

I know families where parents were abusive towards spouse and children. They drank, they beat the wife and kids, they would not let the children study. Broken homes, broken bones, broken hearts of small children. The children somehow managed to make their way through their lives in spite of the negativity in the home, in spite of the beating and drunken torture, the neglect, whatever.

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