Recently an elderly lady was admitted to the hospital with an overdose of sleeping pills. She was ailing from heart failure and diabetes, but seemingly well-controlled. Asked why she did this, her answer was: "My only son, 60, is living somewhere in Hawaii now, married to a Polynesian girl. I haven't talked to him for a while and he hasn't visited me for the past five years. I have nothing to look forward to ..." Her voice trailed off and tears welled in her eyes.
I got the son's phone number with great difficulty and told him his mother was seriously ill. His response was "Sorry to hear about mom's condition, but I won't be able to come." He made no further inquiries.
That started me thinking. Are we really taking good care of our mothers? After all, they carried us in their wombs for nine months and then nurtured us through the first two decades of our lives to help make us who we are today.
My memories went back some 60 years, when I was a little child in a small village in India. I was the sixth of seven children, so mother's hands were full with cooking, cleaning, attending to our personal needs, getting us ready for school, as well as taking care of a husband who had to leave very early in the morning for work and returned late in the evening. There was no domestic assistance and all the meals had to be made from scratch.
We children were as naughty as could be, often breaking things, not finishing homework, or listening to music on the radio when we should have been reading. Yet, I never saw my mother angry, not even for one moment.
Only later in life when I became a father and had my own kids did I realize what it took to bring them up with discipline, love and patience at the same time. Nowadays, most young mothers are working one or two jobs, often they are single parents and have to cope with a lot of stress. The changing mores of our society have put a lot of burden on the mothers and kids alike.
One thing I vividly remember is mother's anxiety, particularly when there was not enough money. We had to get by on father's small salary, plus whatever income came from the sale of coconuts from the two lots we owned. Yet, somehow she attended to our needs. She would wait till she had fed her hungry children first and then ate the leftovers. The same with clothes and other things. In spite of the perilous financial situation, she made sure we got all the necessities in life — school supplies, clothes, etc. — but none to waste. This she did before she bought anything for herself. That value system has served me very well in life.
"Today," as written by Nathan Duncan, author of Prodigal Sons and Material Girls — How not to be Your Child's ATM, "every young person is growing up with underdeveloped values and overdeveloped expectations."
Religion was very important in our house and we had to go to the local temple every morning and pray before breakfast was served. "Without faith in God, nothing is possible," was mother's argument.
Although a busy housewife, mother always stayed in our lives and applauded each new accomplishment of ours in the school with pride. You should have seen her face the day I secured admission to medical school with a full scholarship.
Mother played a tremendous role in bringing us up as responsible citizens. And when I left for college, she said: "Once you finish your studies, you have to get a job and have your own place. Then I will visit you often." She would have been appalled to see the "boomerang children'' of today who come back to the nest after graduating from college, for whatever reasons.
Mother, you sacrificed a lot to see us happy, to ensure our dreams are realized. Although you are gone now, my siblings and I have always stayed in your life as much as possible. When you became too old to live by yourself, you moved in with one of us. When you were admitted to a hospital in India with a heart attack, I caught the next plane to be at your bed side.
On Mother's Day this Sunday, I am most thankful to you for inculcating in me a strong faith in God, a correct value system in life, a deep sense of connection to the society I live in and a strong commitment to my profession. Although you have been gone for 25 years, I'll cherish your memories for the rest of my life.
Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan is a Brooksville cardiologist. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.