Have you ever met that certain someone who thinks they’ve got it all figured out… for you? I do not know if it’s a subcontinental thing, but I was born and raised among a set of people who thought they knew exactly if what I was doing was right or wrong.
When you are young and have a streak of rebellion, it’s easy to mute these voices in the head. But as you age, you cannot un-hear some of these voices. Like I cannot un-hear the voice that recently suggested that my mother was driven to dementia by me and my brother because we didn’t listen to her enough.
This was the voice of my mother’s best friend who has had access to our private lives. She has known the challenges. She has also been aware of the privileges. And yet, when a vulnerable family member reached out to her to seek solace and make sense of my mother’s condition, the answer — she thought — was in our non-conformity.
To set the context, my brother is a scholar and a maths professor who chose academic glory over marriage. In my case, I ticked one box — marriage — but when it came to another — having children — I have wavered. According to my mother’s best friend, my mother had been disappointed to a point where she was ‘depressed’ and began forgetting things.
My brother and I remember things differently. We were raised to add feathers to our caps. When we were in school, mum wanted us to study and assured everything else would be taken care of. Later, when we began working, we were assured again that everything else will be managed if only we focused on work.
Now that he and I are well past 30, we keep applying the same principles to our lives, hoping that everything else will be managed itself. It isn’t. And so we end up managing the world and its expectations of us too. In this rigour of finding our place in the world, what we keep in our minds and hearts is what our mother told us — to be individuals first and family man or woman later.
Today, the same mother has forgotten what she once taught us. Heck, she has also forgotten us. What remains with us are memories of the time we spent with her, and thoughts she shared with her loved ones before her mind descended into a void.
Trying to discover the latter means having people weave in their own interpretations of what could have driven mum to the psychological limbo that she is in now. The science of Alzheimer’s be damned. The very fact that it is a neurological condition with mental health implications be damned. The emotions be damned.
A reasonable man will have you believe that to ignore and move on is the wisest thing to do. But when you are cited as a reason for a setback you are facing, how do you come to terms with that contention? Especially when that setback involves a loved one. Perhaps the answer is to talk back to that voice that deems us guilty — not in words, but in the mind.