A few things woke me up to this fact in the recent days that I am the Grown-Up now. Whenever I have had conversations with my sisters, it usually was about frivolous nothings and everythings. But now it is becoming more about our parents. We discuss their health, if they are eating right, if they are working too hard and everything else in between.
When did this role reverse?
My dad and mom did everything for me when I was a child. Infact they continued to do most of everything for me up until I started working. They watched out for me. Sometimes my dad would call me at college in India from the Middle East to tell me that the weather was turning bad and that I should cover up or that the water is drying up and that I should watch what I drink. Sometimes I got so homesick that my mom would stomp her feet and fly me home just so that she can cook me three decent meals a day.
Now when I look at them closely, I see the years taking it's due in fine wrinkles, gray hair and a gentle stoop to their backs. Where is that dad who would run a mile holding onto my cycle, go? Where is that mom who would sit up night after night learning my lessons ahead of me, disappear?
'Hey, er, will you get french fries here at this mall'?
I remember asking this very same question while twisting on my dad's firm grip of my hand. But this time it is them asking of me.
'Can we do Subway tonight?'
Oh, the number of times I have asked for KFC or McDonald dinners but this night we are being asked.
'Can you read what's on this label'?
Today, my mom or dad turns to me. My parents read to me as far back as I can remember. Even today when I can't read something in my native language, I still ask my dad or mom this very same thing 'Can you read this for me'?
When did I take their place?
When my dad spoke to me about our household assets, I joked about my larger share as their assumed favorite child. Little did I know that boots were being hung up and work gloves were being put away.
As I was finding my feet in the world and impatiently marking my footprints, my parents were slowing down and thanking God for watching me thus far. When I was being prodded to find the right life partner, they were fervently hoping to find that someone too, to leave their previous child with. When I made mistakes and their frustration showed, it was not disappointment but fear. Fear that noone will be there to catch me when I fall as they did.
When my mom turns to me to ask me for advice, I thought she was testing me. Little did I know that now she is turning to me to introduce her to my world, to a world that is no longer the one she owned.
When my dad asks me, 'How can I buy some internet'? or 'Is the World Wide Web the same thing as Internet'?, I laughed until my sides ached. He laughed too but I am sure he was secretly hoping that I tell him soon. He was trying to find a way to stay connected to me and mine.
When my parents stand between me yelling at lil O and tell me to back off, I look to them in amazement. Did they not spank me for the same thing? Did they not yell at me or ground me for this? And as I look at them, I truly see them. I see how they look through eyes brimming with love at my children and see a little me and wishing that they could do it all over again. I see them realize that their days are perhaps numbered and they rather not see tears. Just as they dreaded to see mine.
Are we in charge now?
Do I have to shoo away the bogeyman and monsters in the closet by myself?
Do I need to figure out the life's lemons and chocolates myself?
Do I tread waters myself with noone holding my hand?
I look around me and see that from the forefront, our parents have taken a back seat. Does that mean I am driving now and they are asking me, 'Are we there yet'?
Just before my mother left to India, she kept reminding me of something that she wanted. She kept reminding me several times that day. Finally I snapped and said, 'I know. I will get it. Don't ask me again, mom.'
She wasn't hurt. She smiled and said, 'I know you will, I am just telling you each time I think of it.'
But a lump formed in my throat. Because I remember when I was growing up, I would pester my dad for something and would pester my mom to remind or convince my dad for it. I would do this relentlessly. For days. And every single time, it would appear, one fine day when I least expect it. And my dad would always watch to see my expression of delight and squeals of joy. Not once would he snap.
When did our roles reverse? I don't know how they did this for so long.
I cannot bear this mantle that they seek to transfer to my care.
I am not ready Daddy. I just am not. There are so many things I still need from you. So many things I still do not know how to do Mom. So many jars that I still cannot open. So many buttons that I still cannot sew. So many ways of the world that I do not understand. So many dishes to make. So many things still undone. So much still unsaid.
When I see age and time drawing upto them and marking fine lines or digging its claws into their health, I want to curl into fetal position and cling to them to rock me into denying sleep.
I am not ready to be the Grown-Up of my world.