Premaratne Wijesinghe

Life with a nonagenarian – 1

Rajendra Wijesinghe

They ask me “What have you done for last ten years?”

I was looking after my Dad. I am his only child. He lost his wife more than 30 years ago. (Read the Part 1 here >>>)

Sinhala Tamil English Translations and Content Writing

I encountered the lack of concern of the immediate family members towards this aged group when I worked in a care center for elderly in US. All those things happened after I left my banking job and migrated to US looking for greener pastures.

In overseas, around 70% of the aging in adult homes are not visited by relatives or friends. Out of them, the worst is the people of Asian origin.  Most of the children never turn up after locating their father or mother at the elderly care center where I worked as a waiter.

I have seen many fathers and mothers, who are anxiously waiting in the lobby on the day dedicated to the elderly (either Fathers’ Day or Mothers’ Day) are with tears as the day passes since their loved ones do not visit them. The days are horrible for most of them.

I have seen many elderly persons who spend their whole day waiting for a call near the public phone at the reception, which never rings for them. Some always look for mail which are never posted to them.

Some inform the reception that they are outing with their loved ones and just pass time at the bus halt or a park and return with false gay moods. Only a few enjoy the weekends with their loved ones.

Back in Sri Lanka, the scenario is worse than the worst. Some children neglect elderly parents, ill-treat them and even torture them. Meanwhile some aged people never put the blame on their sons and daughters, obviously due to their love and affection. They merely don’t want to see their loved ones blamed for their fate.

What have you done for last ten years? I am yet to find answers. I have grown from mid 40s to mid 50s with an old man who is day by day nearing to death.

You might say I was lost. I migrated and then took ill. My father started to suffer from dementia. I returned and dedicated my entire life for him for the last ten years. I have now nursed him more than he did to me, I think. But this is not sheer give and take. He is my dad and my life. I am the same for him.

With the time, he has ‘ungrown’ from a man to a child and a baby. Now he wants me in full at his service like a breastfeeding mother and he is extremely jealous to see the other people take me away from him. He waves our domestic out when he sees she is talking too long to me.

Recently, he was furious when a friend of mine spent some time with me for business.

He came near him walking with the help of the walker.

“Can you fetch a sharp knife for me,” he said in angry, clear voice to our domestic.

“What for, Mahaththaya?” She asked. “Why do you need a knife?”

“Moota kotanna (To kill this guy),” was his answer.

He was a very well-mannered gentleman in the past. But he has now almost forgotten who he was. Faint memories of the remote past time to time comes to perplex him. Otherwise, he is very peaceful in the present moment. He lives for today.

He is beyond books written on ageing. He is a case study, if you please. I have written many notes on him. I have photographed him many a time. This is my temporary office shifted to his bed room. I can have one eye on him and the other eye on my work there.

But he is angry with me since I am more concerned on the computer screen than on him. This is how he responds, encroaching my area on his bed leaving no room for me to lie beside him when I am tired.

My Thaththa is just five years to century but for me he is an infant less than five years old.

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