Saturday, April 09, 2016

When Roles Get Reversed

It’s just another rainy day. I witness the heavy downpour from the balcony – smell of wet mud, raindrops lashing the leaves, whistling winds, the ominous roar of thunder followed by lightning displays. This nature dwelling was short lived, though, when I hear someone crying out to me from the adjacent room. I rush to see two annoyed faces and I realize they have just finished squabbling over something as usual. This time it is over the television. One says, ‘Too much lightning outside. Tell him to turn off the TV’. The other one disputes, ‘No, no. I want to watch. My favourite show is on’.  Taking the matter into my own hands, I proceed to take possession of the remote from the boy’s hand, turn off the TV (much to his bewilderment), disconnect it from the socket and gently but firmly tell him that it is dangerous to switch on electrical appliances when there’s lightning. The girl throws a victorious look at the boy, the boy sulks but thankfully, the disagreement ends then and there. 

If you think I am a parent talking about her toddlers, think again. I am someone in my 30’s, living with my ageing parents who are experiencing mid-life concerns when it comes to their health. Parents who have started behaving like children – fighting over the TV, whining over mundane things, refusing to understand what’s good and bad for them and of course, repeatedly going into that much dreaded sulking mode. The pro being they instantly brighten up when you shower them with love and affection. 

There comes a phase in everyone’s life when you are no longer a recipient but a provider to your parents and their needs. I am in that phase now (albeit a bit early) where roles have gotten reversed. I remember as a kid I would eagerly wait for dad to get back from the supermarket to see if he had bought some goodies for me and my sister to munch on. Now I see my dad looking at me in the same way when I return from grocery shopping, asking me eagerly if I have got his favourite savouries from the store. I remember, as a kid, my mom would coax me to take medicines when I was unwell. Now I run behind her with iron & vitamin D tabs because if I don’t, she skips having them altogether. I remember, as a kid, mom and dad would peep into the sitting room and switch off the TV if we were found sleeping in front of it. Now every night, like a ritual, I turn off the TV in their bedroom and make sure all lights are switched off. Back then, there were no problems my parents could not solve. At this juncture of my life, I am more of a counsellor to their problems – a listening ear. 

It is not exactly clear when, where and how this role reversal took place but it all happened so gradually that I hardly took any notice of it. It is only when you step back and reminisce do you become fully aware that your life has changed a lot over the past few years. This is applicable to almost everything in our life, more so with our parents. As they age, they become more stubborn, you have to speak a bit louder for their hearing is not as acute as before, remind them of events as their memory is fading, lend a helping hand when they are walking down stairs or getting up from a chair, make nerve wracking decisions which you had let your parents blissfully make till now, fuss over their eating habits and feel your heart crumbling into tiny pieces even if they get a tiny scratch from a fall. 

Soon enough, you realize with a bittersweet feeling that you have become a parent to your parent… and the role reversal has indeed begun.