Reflecting on fathers….

When I was growing up, I do not remember having had a day to remember my father. There were no Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. Or in one sense not many “remembrances days”. Especially in the dominant culture we are part of and even in other cultures, there are a few remembrance days, to remind yourselves of what has happened in the past and how this past should influence your present and future. Time to remember, reflect, and reorient your lives based on these past experiences. Remembering great leaders of the past, reminding yourselves of their lives etc also are part of many traditions.

But about your father and mother, one was not expected to have a day to remember them! You were to remember them every day. As long as you are with them, there is no way but to remember them. But even when you are away, because of what you are is due to them, (after God of course) you would remember them every day. Even after they are gone I do not think there is a day when I do not remember them. Having lost both parents in the last two years, I realise that I remember them more often than when they were in this world. Not because there are pictures of them in our room, but you start seeing them and their influences in your life each day.  In the way you look, the way you behave and the way you live daily lives. I am privileged to have had parents who have left such a lasting impact on my life and continue to do so even though they are not in this world.

But I was reminded today, that there are many who do not have that privilege. 

I was taking rounds in the morning and as I reached the bed side of a young lady admitted with “dissociative disorder” (or in olden terms – hysteria) and was listening to the story from her husband, I was disturbed. Her husband told me, the doctor under whom she was on treatment told whenever she starts breathing fast or behaves abnormally just give her a good beating and she would be fine. I called the husband aside and was trying to talk to him about his behaviour. He said I have a shop to take care of, and the moment I reach the shop I get a call that she is unconscious, what else can I do to get her normal. I can’t keep taking her to hospital. Married with children at home, I left that bed wondering, what their children will remember of their father, a few decades hence. What would the influence of this father be, on their children?

Couple of other patients whom we were seeing were young men, in their late teens or early 20s. Both admitted after trying to attempt suicide. One stable, and not willing even for eye contact. His father was lying down in the nearby bed, an elderly man.  Possibly because of the shame of having attempted to take his life, and not wanting to open up to us with his father nearby, the young man refused to respond to any of my questions. One would never know, (men are not supposed to open up their messy lives!) what were the deep inner issues that led this young man to attempt suicide. Was it expectations from his father, or his expectations of the father that led him to try ending his life?

The second patient also was similar, but much more serious and on a ventilator, sedated and so unable to communicate. The father with whom I talked, had no idea why his son had done this. On a Father’s Day, the son was fighting for his life after attempting to take his life, the father had no clue of what was going through his son’s life…Was it the fathers fault or the son’s or were both responsible?  One would never know, what was going on in the messy back room of their internal lives…

How would these sons remember their fathers a few decades from now…..?

In the next bed was a young father of 2 children (6 and 3 may be) who was just recovering from having attempted suicide. Having been on ventilator for 5 days, at 12.00 midnight I got a call from ICU. He had become violent and had jumped out of bed, pulled out his endo tracheal tube, IV lines etc. Overnight, self-extubated, he was stable. I asked him, why do you get angry and violent like this? He had multiple episodes of such behaviour over 5 days as and when his sedation was reduced. This was the first time we could communicate to him. He said in broken Hindi, I cannot control myself. We knew he was an alcoholic, and had observed that his mother would not come hear him. We had (in our mind) judged that he was an alcoholic who was destroying his and family’s life. But this answer led us to more questions. We talked a little more to him. He said I cannot control my anger and I do not remember much. We called his wife in. A very young looking innocent girl. She said, he gets angry, falls and then throws fits. This she observed couple of years after marriage. And because of this ‘uncontrollable illness’ he started drinking. She continued to tell us that he was not a drunkard or never used to drink initially. I was left feeling a bit ashamed of myself of having judged his behaviour without hearing the full story. Here was a father of 2 young boys, pushed into drinking and attempting to take his life, because of a possible “Temporal lobe epilepsy”. A shame of an illness that was destroying a father’s life. A father’s story that could have been different if he had access to treatment for his illness….

Fathers days mean different things to different people. But for me, it is a day to thank God for the privilege of having had a father who still continues to challenge my life…. And a reminder that one day someone may look back at my life too….!

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