Sunday, December 07, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I have a cousin back home who recently graduated from medical school. She's quite a few years younger than I am and over the years we've kept in touch sporadically over MSN. I remember when she was a first year student, struggling with anatomy and biochemistry. We used to talk about what texts to read and how to cope with exams. She's an intern now, a house officer, just done with a three month rotation in OB-GYN. It's amazing how quickly time passes. From a fledgling first-year student to a house officer, it's been six years. Her self-confidence has increased remarkably. She now manages her parents' medications herself. They are both severe diabetics. Her father has heart disease, has had a coronary bypass in the past. Aliya takes care of them both, adjusting the doses of the medications, taking them for doctors' visits, gently shaming them into controlling their diet - her father has a particularly incorrigible sweet tooth. Aliya's brothers are both abroad. She lives alone with her parents.

It makes me think about my own parents. They are both getting older, moving imperceptibly into a frail age. Like Aliya's parents, they too have their own chronic illnesses that they live with. There must be hundreds of families like ours, scattered throughout the country, dependent on their children, this natural role reversal that mimics the gifts of childhood. Unlike a lot of them, our parents are lucky in that they have someone to take care of them. What about those families where nobody has stayed back? Financial circumstances sometimes make these decisions incumbent. Children have to leave home to be able to support the family. The nest is emptied. What then of the parents?

It's hard to make a decision, to balance exigencies against a vacuum of imminent loneliness. I know why people leave. Just from observation I know how dramatically the life of a family improves with remunerations sent from abroad. I also know how sometimes you have to go away to be able to restoratively come back. But, really, how far can you go when heart is tied to heart?


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