Old Friends and Older People

Sunday, February 28, 2021

 I think I've finally cracked the code about people rekindling their friendships from school in their middle age— to find known people from their life and to have them join you in the journey when you become the care-taker instead of your parents taking care of you. 

This past weekend, my family dealt with an unprecedented disaster, in the form of a fire at home. Actual fire among other damages that has further added to the weakening of the structure deliberately caused by a person we are forced to co-exist with in the form of living as neighbours and taking an additional pile of shit from their family. It's a topic for another day and there's more to be written about and I love to digress, which I'll hold out for another day. 

Where were we? Friends. Old friends, then, come in handy cause they were the first ones to see you when you stepped out of your comfort zone of being with the family and stepping to school, they saw you struggle with mathematics and heard for hours about how you find the guy in pink t-shirt cute. They saw you develop a personality and shed that to take another, all through the years and you'd be lucky if they know your family, just as well as you do. 

Among them is someone close to me, one of my first readers other than my family, who continued to visit this page, even when we were pursuing completely different journeys and had transformed into two wholly different people. We kept in touch through the years, annual birthday calls and if we were lucky, maybe even met once a year. But as we got to different stages in life (job for her and another university for me), it got harder to keep up.

In the last six months, I've steadily aged. I recall when my mom turned 30. I remember overhearing conversations and I remember being an audience to concerns. I remember when her mother, my grandmother passed away and I remember the trauma she went through. She aged between those years and she transformed as a person. 

Unknowingly, I've been down that road for a few months now. It didn't strike that the big, bad world of aging caught up. I'm now responsible for the well-being of my parents, and not just in theory but in action. This was a big concern when I was watching my grandfather in the hospital, lose his will to live each day and yet, it didn't occur that this experience will be brutal and transforming. When he did pass away, this gnawing thought of carrying down of the responsibility was looming in my head but the application hadn't hit in a way as strong as this. 

Two days back when I discovered the fire and woke up my parents in the dead of the night, it was terrifying. What was worse is that the day preceding that episode, I was at ease. I was singing through the day, prancing around the house, and being uppity about everything else that I forced for it to fall in place, including my state of being. I guess you can trick yourself into believing that you have got to pick up and chase a goal, any goal and that immediately transforms pity to strategy. I was down that road until of course the very real issues of mortality and responsibility came knocking down my life as reminders. 

"Hello, darkness my old friend."

At 7 am, things escalated further and an hour later the cops got involved. I lost my police station "virginity" (if that's a thing) and saw the insides of a police station, dealt with the hostile staff and basically lived a ridiculous experience which was straight out of an unreal fictional web-series that would be trending for it's "representation" of the authorities in poor light. 


All throughout, my response to that sudden bit of trauma and my reflex to balance and ease the situation was divided in two ways— a) curate a life in a way that nobody knows the intensity of the shit you're going through. That you're being blamed for a situation that may actually lead to a fatality in the house and your parents being threatened with an FIR is your family's fault instead of those who wrecked damage and b) protect your family at any cost. Think through the amount of TV you've consumed and the films you've read and remember the legal routes and the arguments to make and just protect your family. 

Yet again, it felt like I was living through a dystopian novel, as a side character who has to deal with the worst shit from the outerworld, in the absence of a lead character handling it all, thus being elevated to being the lead character in a novel you don't quite want to be in the first place. 

What may sound convoluted to you is my reality. My life is a bag of complexities and problems that nobody I know in my age group is going through/will go through/has to ever go through. People have spouses, partners, extended family, and strong friendships. I have my scholarship to fall back on and roleplay all these characters to make up for their absence. I have to give myself company in this solitude of being that person who's holding the fort, who has to be responsible for the meals of the family in the absence of the gas stove working and even when we are facing inaccurate and false allegations against my parent. All of it. 

Somehow, none of this is ever interrupted by a windfall gain, a random man I like calling to tell me how he likes me back, my friends physically being here in any capacity, and having some form of security. With my grandfather, I lost that layer of a blanket, the safety net that I had looking out for my parents and me. Now, it's down to me to help them and help myself. I lived through the first of many such episodes waiting to happen and that I didn't cry is an achievement in itself. Didn't cry yet. 

When I called my school friend this evening, the same person who's been one of my first readers here and in life, who's seen me since I was 4 and we were in each mess together till we graduated from school, she heard the first word from my voice and gathered something was off. 

At some point over two long drawn phone calls with her, she and I found more than the similar ground to bond over. A renewed "interest" even. "I'm terrified each time the phone rings, there's some bad news."

It got a bittersweet smile out of me. It's something my trauma about losing my loved ones is made of and something I've written about in great detail here. She and I have lived through difficult moments of being in emotional duress and being in the roles of caregivers with our respective families unknownst to the other. We only ever realized in this call today that even though our journeys post-school may have been vastly different and the personalities we acquired over and above the existing lining carried out from the school may have been shaped differently, we are the same people with largely the same paranoia and wired to respond in an absolutely similar manner to unfair situations and be the first to stand for our respective family members, not just for the heck of counting heads but also as primary caretakers of the situation, regardless of however much it distresses us. 

We can outgrow silly school things and change our course of lives, but maybe we can't change who we were and how we knew each other inside out and how that wired us back in the day. 

The older I get and the more sense of weight that gets added to my shoulders, the more I find myself going back to being the same person I was when I was 15— always wary of people and largely distrusting everyone and everything, with little regard for niceties, and finding it easier by the day to settle deep in my skin of the personality— a fucking fighter till I die. 

Come at me, bitch. 

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