Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Empty Nest Syndrome

Sleep was the blessing she had been waiting for so many hours now. She felt the eye lids getting heavier and she imagined herself asleep so many times. The morphine was lulling her body like a cold wind in a warm afternoon. Still, the pain rose and fell like the waves in the sea, crashing on her in full force and crushing her frail body for a moment that felt like eternity.

She listened to the silence outside. It was so thick that she could feel its suffocating presence in her throat. She wished that she would hear the soft footsteps her daughter who would gently tiptoe in to her room and check on her. She wished she could smell the gentle perfume of her hair when she sat beside her to stroke her head. Sayuri was the best pain relief she ever had since she was diagnosed with the malignancy that was spreading its tentacles and engulfing her body.

The crunching sound of car tires on the gravel road broke the silence. If her husband was at home, he would have come home at this time with the odd packet of rice for dinner. The unmistakable smell of liquor would fill the air. He struggled to battle the loneliness with alcohol and both of them knew that the bottle was taking over his life. She tried to get him to stop his escape from reality but gave up when she felt that she wasn’t strong enough. What else do I live for, when my daughter is gone and my wife is suffering the last days of life, he had asked a friend who attempted to pull him back.

She was always proud of her only child, the sweetest soft spoken girl in the neighborhood. Sayuri was pretty as a white rose bathing in the pink light of the early morning sun. The very sweetness that lightened up their little nest robbed her daughter away to a distant country. They knew they had to let go at one point but she didn’t know that it was letting go of her life as she knew it, until Sayuri left with her husband to his nest thousands of miles away.

The two of them struggled to find a reason to look forward to getting up the next day morning. A piece of life that was not replaceable by anything else was missing. A cold vacuum filled their home as well as their hearts. While they struggled to get a grip of their solitary life, they were struck again when she was told that the lump in her breast was malignant.

By the time they carved out the root, it had spread out in to her body. He was there by her side through the pain of the surgery and as the radiation burnt the very bossom that fed her child. But nothing could fill the emptiness inside, which was left when her child left three years back taking a large piece of her heart along. She yearned for her daughter to comfort her when her chest burnt with pain and sadness. But whenever Sayuri spoke over the phone she kept saying that she was all right. However much she missed the daughter, she didn’t want her to suffer because of her.

Her husband was intoxicated most of the time, seeking salvage from reality in the bottle. He was loosing his senses and one morning she heard him arguing with the neighbor who had refused to cut down an overgrown mango tree. He was shouting that he wanted to make way for his wife’s funeral procession. She cringed at the thought of loosing him, before her time was up, and having to die her painful death alone.

Eventually Sayuri flew back to her ailing mother leaving her two little ones with the husband. She feared that her mother did not have much time left. Things were not the same as she left them. Her mother has whithered away like a wilted flower, and her beauty has faded away. Her father had lost himself, and his memories were fading. He was in a bliss of oblivion. She had to go back soon, for the family who were waiting for her return. She was torn between her duty towards parents and her duty as a parent. 

Those were the best few days she had among the many days of agonizing pain. She felt the pain disappearing with the simple presence of her daughter and her energy kicking back in with the loving care. But she felt that her daughter is needed by the little ones much more than herself who was dying anyway.

Sayuri left earlier than she planned with her mother’s urges to go back to her family, leaving her dementing father in a home for the elders and the terminally ill mother with a paid carer.

............She wanted a sip of water as her lips felt dry and throat was sore. She wanted to call the maid but she couldn’t find her voice. She still felt happy inside as she smiled back at the empty wall and thought of her daughter back at her own home, cuddling her grandchildren.

P.S - This is the reality of the disintegrating extended families in Sri Lanka due to migration. Young parents are forced to abandon their ageing parents in order to acquire better lives for their children. I do not intend to pass a judgement as to whether it is morally right or wrong. This is just an attempt to explore the nature of a mothers love which puts forth the comfort of her child and grand children at the expense of her life.

1 comment:

  1. A very sad story - but you tell it very well. It happens all over the world..I read once about mothers from eastern Europe who leave their children behind with the grandparents to work farther west.