Visitors


I sat in the doctor’s office and flicked through the pages of the book that I brought along. The rising panic at being examined intimately and the annoyance of having to sit takes away the pleasure of uninterrupted reading. The door opened and a heavily pregnant woman of Indian origin walked in, followed by her saree clad mother. From the youthful look of her, the woman was perhaps pregnant with her first child and I simply assumed her mother had flown all the way from India to provide her with care, support, love and nourishment at this hour of her need. Mine did 9 years ago. The memories made me smile. Yet there was something in the body language in the elderly woman that made my heart yearn to touch her shoulder in reassurance. An uncertainly, a certain diffidence in her every action that proclaimed ‘I am so out of my comfort zone’! The daughter guided her mother every step of the way, telling her where to sit and wait while she filled out her paperwork, the mother held on to the daughter’s coat and water bottle so she could have her hands free. Once the paperwork was done, she made sure the daughter’s back did not hurt, touched it and said something to her in a language I did not understand. I was called then, and as I followed the nurse into the doctor’s office, I tried to catch their eyes to smile, but they were busy among themselves.

These days, as this country gets richer with the advent of different cultures from all parts of the world, many seniors are making the long trip to come here to visit family. The sight of elderly couples in traditional outfits walking a few steps behind their immigrant family, with a look of wonder and bewilderment is quite familiar, especially in the cities and other touristy places. Since my loved ones live far away, I often watch these visitors with pleasure mingled with envy, and more often than not, give a big smile if I happen to catch their eye. And more often than not, my smile is either acknowledged a tad late and returned with a surprised smile, or I just get a surprised stare – I don’t know you, why are you smiling at me? And more often than not, I notice the diffidence in their body language. A feeling of uncertainty about being in a foreign land with a very different language and culture manifests itself in their steps, expression. That, and also a sense of amazement at the novelty of the place, at how different it is from their homeland. And when I see the uncertainty, I want to reach out and give them a hug. I, of course, am not crazy enough to do it but I want to 🙂 !

So I seek out the ones who look most vulnerable and in need of help at airports when I travel from India to the United States. I unashamedly eavesdrop – I am a Bengali after all, and when I feel there is enough confusion between an elderly couple at what the next step should be in this complicated process of immigration and security check, I take it upon myself to guide them through it. And trust me, the feeling of relief at having a guide who speaks their language is almost palpable.

Many visit to be with their loved ones for a few months and many, while doing so, try their best to be as helpful to their sons or daughters as they can. They sometimes come in an hour of need and try to alleviate the stress of child-birth or new job or any other crisis by being here and helping in any capacity. When I first came to this land of do-it-yourself from a land of abundant domestic help, my family back home just about cried at my condition. ‘The poor girl has to do everything by herself. She has no help!’ they lamented. At the beginning I wallowed in self-pity and lapped up the commiseration till it started getting old. Then I tried to convince them I am not doing anything out of the ordinary, majority in this country do everything without much help. The argument to that was, ‘they are used to it, you are not.’

My parents, when they come, take over certain chores to give me a break. My mother takes over the kitchen, and my father takes over the responsibility of the dog and the children. He often regrets the fact that he can not drive and hence, can not go to the grocery store and spare me that chore as well. Oh, and he switches the laundry, empties the dishwasher AND cleans their own bathroom. One incident stands out in my mind. It was a hot summer afternoon and I was mowing the lawn. My father came out with a bottle of water and waved at me. I was thirsty so I took a break and gulped down some water. He asked me if he could do part of the lawn while I rested. I refused to have him help me, I said, ‘Go inside, stay cool!’ He, however, sat out at the garden bench with my water bottle in his hand with a distressed expression on his face the entire time I mowed the lawn. Once I was done, he was equally impressed with my lawn mowing abilities and disturbed that I married a man who made me mow our lawn! He said a few times, he felt very helpless sitting there while I toiled in that heat. And when Sean came home from work, after an initial hello, he launched into how I mowed the entire lawn, how hot it was, how impressed he was at my strength and what not. Later, in the privacy of our bedroom Sean chuckled, ‘Your father certainly had an accusatory tone when he told me about your lawn mowing prowess! Did you feel there was a hidden message to me cloaked in your praise about ME making you mow the lawn?’
And I said, ‘Buddy, you better believe it. His princess married a pauper who MAKES her mow the lawn. His heart is breaking!’

😀

I am a super hero.


I, for once, will put my humility aside, turn a blind eye to all my incapabilities and declare that I am a super hero. There are many of us out there, you know. The ‘super heroness’, however, is relative. There are super duper heroes, there are super duper trouper heroes. I humbly (there is that humility again, which, by the way, I am trying to get rid of) bow in front of them. I am not a super duper hero yet, I am still a super hero. Yes, I still save the day but there is a difference between me and those of the higher ranks. The super duper heroes and the ranks above, save the day brilliantly, and after saving the day they look fantastic, they are energized and raring to go. After I save the day, I look like a wreck, my bed never looks more inviting, all I want to do is crawl into a hole and never come out….till the next morning.

Like most super heroes, I have a side kick. He does all he can to make my life run smoothly. He follows directions beautifully and teaches the two little humans, who live with us, ‘When your mommy says to do something, I jump!’ I don’t think that is helpful as that just irritates the heck out of the little ones, but my side kick believes, one day, they will get the message. The side kick is a wonderful chap who always tells me I am a superhero. But I am skeptical of his opinions because he is biased and he looks at me with these mushy gushy love tinted eyes.

‘Mom, you are a super hero!’ This comment came from one of my harshest critics, my fourteen year old daughter. I just pulled into the parking lot of the facility where my two children train for their swim team. As I unclicked my seatbelt, I heard my daughter’s bewildered voice,’Mom, look, I am covered with red rashes!’ Panic attack!! I put the car in gear and drove to the doctor’s office. I ignore the stern faces and lecture of the receptionist and the nurse ‘we really would like it if you call us first’. I plead to see the physician. They relent, Sahana gets checked, prescribed. I pick up the medicine, bring them home, get them settled. And hear, ‘I don’t feel so good!’ – the much dreaded words. Her temperature shoots up to 102.2! Second round of panic attack, yet calm outside, I administer icepack, ibuprofen, kiss and ‘you will feel better soon, darling!’ Call the doctor’s office, call the side kick, ‘Get home already!’

A couple of hours and a couple of ibuprofen later, the daughter stands next to me while I cook up some dinner. She looks at me cooking and just puts it out there,

‘Mom, you are a super hero!’

‘Haha, why do you say that?’ I ask lightheartedly.

‘Because you are!! You do all this, you take care of us, you drive us around, you write blogs, you act in plays, you go to work. When you make a commitment, you follow through and you do all of this well!’

While I served them dinner, I thought about all I do, despite my procrastination, despite my laziness. I actually don’t give myself enough credit for holding it all together. Not many of us do really. In our rush to live the day, we don’t stop to think how much we are actually getting done, what we are doing right. I, personally, have a tendency of harping on my shortcomings – how much I didn’t get done, how I let the kids down, which ones were bad mommy moments, what could I have done better! There is always room for improvement, sure. But it is equally important for all of us to give ourselves a pat on our backs, once in a while and believe when someone says, ‘Thank you, you are doing a lot for us!’

So I will believe I am a superhero because my daughter thinks so. Self doubt, insecurities, guilt give way to positivism, acknowledgment. I wrote this blog because I know self doubt will creep in, negativity will rear its ugly head. But I will have this moment, written in this blog to drive those ugly ones away. Those words said by my daughter…..maybe because the meds made her feel better and momentary gratitude flushed through her feverish brain.

Uggggh, did I detect self doubt….again??