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'Growing' pains

I guess my parents see their geriatric specialist more often than their own children.

“You need to tie your sari a little higher on the waist,” the doctor advised my mother. My mother hadn’t fully recovered from her knee replacement surgery and walked gingerly with her eyes glued to her feet. Wearing a sari had become a laborious task for her. It was hard seeing my usually immaculately-dressed mother struggling with this routine.

Earlier in the day, my mother was having mixed feelings about going to the doctor. “This too will pass,” she repeated her favourite mantra when she discussed what was bothering her at the moment. She was having a hard time keeping awake during the daytime and nodded off every now and then. As the doctor scanned my mother's medical reports, he recommended testing her for sleep apnea.

I was relieved that my father wasn’t around then. Strangely enough, he hadn’t insisted on accompanying us to the doctor. Neither did he call my mother once during our two-hour jaunt. “I’ve had enough of doctors and hospitals!” he had declared. He had just recovered from a bad case of the shingles.

Ageing is never easy. When one doesn’t have children or siblings around to help with the doctor visits, it gets harder. I would guess that my parents see their geriatric specialist more often than their own children. The last time I accompanied my mother to consult the 40-something doctor, he had greeted her like an affectionate relative and examined her with great care.

When my mother had asked him hesitantly if the medication could be changed, he had looked at me from the corner of his eye and quipped, “So these guys are giving you a hard time?” My mother nodded sheepishly. That was a moment of reckoning for me as to how much this doctor meant to my parents.

My parents’ friends and siblings, too, are not in any better shape even if they live in the vicinity or the same city. With children living overseas or even outside the state, ageing folks rely on the goodwill of neighbours and friends. Some of my uncles and aunts who have moved to retirement homes claim that it was the best decision of their lives while others like my parents feel its too late for them to move out of their home.

“Not at our age!” they add. Change is frightening at any stage and even more so for our senior citizens. When my mother complains of aches and pains as a result of growing old, I try to console her that age is only a number. She looks at me as if I were a dim-witted child and retorts, “Try saying that to my knee!”

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