It’s a bright and sunny day. A car comes to a screeching halt outside their apartment. They look out to see what the fuss is about. They watch me get out. Head to toe in brands I once only dreamed of owning. But now I have the money. I am the Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi after all. I can afford the little things that bring me joy. Their anger fades knowing I’m okay. My father is still a little upset but he’ll come around. That’s how parents are, aren’t they?! They’re happy I got what I wanted because they know if I’d waited for them to give it to me, the timing wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. It was right to run away from them when I did…
I can’t tell you the number of times I laid on that bed I shared with my mom and my sister, dreaming about this over and over again. You see, I lack what my mother has in abundance – Patience – and what my father always tells me to keep within – Hope. So my solution was a world where I ran away. I’m old enough. I can do this. They’ll know it was the right thing to do. We children can be really stupid sometimes, you know?
My parents had an arranged marriage. They did what they were expected to do as human beings that live in my society. They created a home. Dad earned. Mom cooked. They had two daughters. Their life was pretty much every other life there ever was. Except, my dad didn’t work 9 to 5. He owned his dream company. “I was fascinated that I could talk to a machine and it would respond.” So he made it respond in different manners to keep users like you and me safe from the evils on the internet. Mom created a home for us to live in. She got us ready for school. Made us our favourite lunch on Sunday. Ensured we stayed away from junk food (I didn’t).
A lot happened in their lives before they got married and a lot happened after. Their personal problems turned my family dysfunctional and I grew up with an inability to trust and anxiety that hurt. I blamed them, of course. When I rebelled, when I made bad choices, when my life took a turn for the worst – I waited with the words, “This is all your fault.”
We don’t really yell at our Dad in this house like we yell at our Mom. There’s the fear of hurting him. So it was my relationship with my mother that became too complicated as I grew up. I wasn’t surprised.
I’ve always been the closest to him. Daddy’s little girl. He fed into my fantasies of expensive things like an American education, branded things, big houses. They owed me that much. They ruined my life by making me so complicated. It’s the least they can do. I mentioned how kids are stupid, right?!
So I got the American education. For six months. Six months in a world where I had to do for myself what my mother does for us everyday of her life and I came running back into her arms. The distance I’d created at 15 vanished the moment I knew I was home and she would be with me. But I was still angry.
Parents often forget the effect a fight or an argument between themselves can have on their children. You think we don’t hear you screaming shit in the middle of the night? We do. And then you go pretend everything’s fine in the morning and maybe it is, but we can’t tell the difference. And so we begin wondering and fearing. Your ten day split may be a speed bump in your marriage. To us, it’s ten days where a parent chose to live away from us. I wasn’t enough to make him stay. I wasn’t important enough to stop and second guess his decision to leave. He left.
You may forget the drama. But we don’t. I’ll never stop wondering if I’m going to wake up and be dumped. Because when a parent can leave, so can a stranger you met at work. I never stop second guessing my decisions. My insecurity began when I was 8-years-old. Today, it’s something I’ve accepted because I’ve lost the war against it.
I saw friends with functional families have so much hope and I didn’t. I didn’t know how to care. I don’t know how to turn on emotions. I also don’t know how to turn them off.
And it has created so much chaos. When I thought I’d lost everything I loved, I yelled at my father. I screamed. I spewed hateful words. It didn’t hit me that – I wasn’t the only one who lost something. So had he. And if he could fix it, if he thought there was a way he could give my dream back to me, he would have.
Today, when I’m writing this, I remember my father mention how he woke up one morning with tears because he’d dreamt a Tsunami where he couldn’t save me. The tears my mother cried when she thought she hadn’t given us enough time. But that depressed girl didn’t remember this version of them. She didn’t remember two parents who had given up so much to keep their two girls safe. I didn’t pause to think. I didn’t know how to. And I repeated to myself, It’s all your fault.
I’ve graduated now. I’m going after everything I’ve ever dreamt about, for the second time. He’s given me my dream again. But I can never take back the words I said. I can apologize but I can’t change the hurt it caused. Someone told me recently, “You have to let go off of the guilt. Children act without thought sometimes. Your parents know.” But I can’t.
Because, back in an apartment with a view I’d missed so much, I remembered a conversation from 6 years ago. With a man I’d loved. He wanted to know why I kept repeating, “Promise you won’t leave me?” And so I explained. He did, too.
“So your parents made a mistake. They had a fight. Adults fight. They were trying to figure out life like you will, too. Parents don’t have to know everything. They’re not superhuman. You have to forgive them for whatever you think their fault was. You can’t blame your entire life on them. Your choices were, as you always say, a choice. You made them. You can stop making them. Look at them, Poornima, and see them for what they are – human beings”
And I cried. Like a baby. Because after 23 years of life, I’d understood what an asshole I’d been. Why do we always look at our parents as some sort of hero? Why do we never truly see how they’re just like you and me?
I’ll say it today – My parents aren’t the greatest of parents. They don’t always know how to express their love. They’ve made plenty of mistakes. But they’re some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known. They gave up so much to ensure we had food on our plates and a comfortable lifestyle. When they struggled, we still lived like princesses. When they were out there fighting one battle after another, we complained like spoilt children.
No. They’re not the greatest. But I wouldn’t wish for anyone else. Because for everything I’ve done, no two people will continue to love me with as much intensity as they do. No parent will still sit me down and ask me what I want so they can ensure I have it the way they do.
And someday, I’ll muster the courage to go stand in front of them and truly apologize for all that I’ve put them through since I was a teenager. But today, I’ll stick to my Thank You.
Thank You for never giving up on me. Thank You for allowing me to choose, even if you didn’t always approve. Thank You for working so hard to give me everything I ever wanted. I know these two words will never be enough, but…
Never running away from you,