I shaved my father yesterday.
He had gone unshaven for weeks, and had been complaining lately that he had started resembling a certain Osama bin Laden (yes, though he is almost completely bedridden owing to the diminution of motor functions, his head is that clear still). And we agreed that none of us liked the idea of calling in a barber very much.
His skin has been very soft and sensitive since the radiotherapy session. We had been told it shouldn’t even be rubbed vigorously with a towel for the first ten days. So I attempted the task with some trepidation, and only because he said he was confident enough about my ability to wield a razor. I dare say I didn’t do too bad a job, though I kept a bit of it undone for another day, and he said he’d given me full marks – certainly he didn’t wince once, and there was not a single nick. It took a bit of time, but it was curiously satisfying for both of us.
So maybe I could have been a barber too. Funny how many things a man can do if he puts his mind to it. Since my daughter was a child, she would never allow anyone but her daddy to prise tiny shards of wood and things like that from under her nails or lance boils or dress her wounds ever so gently. Nursing, also, then? Who knows?
The older one grows in this land and age, the more one feels that time – time with undivided attention and caring – is what we are most stingy with when it comes to loved ones. We try to make up for it by shopping lavishly for them instead. And now we are actually raising children who have been taught to believe that that is indeed what loving means. I keep reading essays about how ‘happy’ they are because their parents bought them this or that gizmo. Most of them have never been played with, never been read or sung to, and hugged rarely if ever since they grew out of infancy: I’ve checked. What a sad world we have made, really. The doctor, while discussing my father’s condition, sniggered that a lot of folks find satisfaction in spending little fortunes trying to hold back their old parents in this world for a few extra weeks or months through fancy but essentially futile medical procedures. I could add that they do the same again on lavish post-funeral do’s…I remember as I write a little girl neighbour telling my daughter more than a decade ago not to miss her great-grandmother’s shraddh feast, because there would be two kinds of ice cream.