With my birthday just a week away, people have been asking me what my plans are for my birthday. Isn’t it strange that the one who is responsible for our birth, we do not celebrate her. Isn’t it to her credit, that we are who we are today. All the bone crunching pain she went through on that day, years back. Should we not be bringing her gifts and marking it as her special day? And why restrict the birthday celebrations to only the birth giver, there is her better half too.

Many of us are at that stage in our lives where our parents have aged rapidly and as I type this, like melting wax-they seem to melt away a little bit more.

A lot of us had to fly the nest early on, for better education and job opportunities. Post school, meeting our parents became an annual fifteen day reunion of sorts or for the lucky few, a little more. There were those of us who could never find our way back to our hometown. But that journey of visiting our parents every year since college days uptil now, seems as though nothing has changed, but it has.

I remember during college times, I would travel from Delhi to Kolkata and find my parents intact. Yes, that’s the word I would use. They looked the same. Strong and in control.

For the last 3-4 years though, a feeling of dread has crept in. Haven’t we all noticed and pushed back that unsettling thought.

We kid ourselves, we assure ourselves that since they aren’t suffering from diabetes or heart attacks, we have nothing to fear. Bad things happen to other people. Not to us. We feel comforted by the non-threatening diseases they struggle with, daily.

We lull ourselves into a coma of illusions. High blood pressure, piles, arthritis, tooth decay are acceptable to us because people above 55 are ‘supposed’ to be a host to these age-related ailments.

But once the rot sets in, post 50- the decline is so rapid that every year we meet them, they look a decade older. Each fraction of a second is like rust eating away at their hairline, waistline & finally timeline. Our parents are wasting away in front of us.

My mother takes leaves from work, to greet me at home when I arrive in Kolkata. It is like a ritual. For last few years, when I hug her, I cringe. She is becoming a bag of bones. Hyperthyroidism, the doctors tell us.

And every parent hides their ailments as though it is a family scandal. They have been playing down their health issues for years. Unless, there’s a slip of tongue-you don’t even get to know, your mother has been pushing off an operation just because you have an exam coming up or a promotion appraisal is due and she does not want to disturb you.

We need to become like suspicious husbands, trying to sniff out those faint, innocuous health remarks parents let slip. I, for one, realized what a negligent daughter I’ve been. I used to get irritated with my father and snap at him for making me repeat a couple of times what I was saying, over phone. Recently I got to know, he is losing his hearing capacity. Makes my stomach turn, at my self-centred ways.

So the faster we stop being in denial, the better. We need to consciously take out more time, to give to them.

Try visualizing an old mansion. It looks sturdy from outside but a peek inside can reveal the fungus and cobwebs expanding their vile territory and corroding away the vitality of a perfectly flourishing abode. The fungus like ailments and cobweby diseases have been preying on the mansion like bodies of our parents.
And before you know it, crumbling teeth and brittle nails start falling off one by one from our dear ones the same way as that decrepit mansion with its bricks falling off one by one.

You are not even aware of the silent decay of old age which marches in with its troop of diseases and retirement blues. Ravages of time, we cannot fight.
Mentally too, our parents are now weak and scared of mortality. If I turned 60 today, I would never show my kids how scared I am. Who isn’t scared of the End? But our parents have mastered the fine art of acting and playing down their fears and infirmities.
Our parents are more than half way through their journey of life. Hurry, catch them. They are precious. And celebrate them on the day you were born.