Life had been bustling as usual with the daily grind of work, errands, and responsibilities. My spouse and I barely had a moment to catch our breath, let alone plan anything leisurely just for ourselves for a while. Since we have no family nearby, we spend our time with our fur babies, Gary and Maple, and look forward to community events for some exciting escape. Nevertheless, we find thrill in the ordinary, our everyday tasks have evolved into rituals, and we discover happiness and love amid quietness.
However, things evolve. That’s just the beauty of life. One evening, during a regular phone chat, my didi (older sister) told me that our parents planned to visit in the summer of 2023. By default, my parents will spend more time in Dallas, Texas, because my niece and nephew do not get to spend enough time with their maternal grandparents. Still, they will also visit us for a few weeks—two weeks and a few days, to be precise—in Gainesville, Florida. I have not seen my parents in over a year. The news, therefore, came as a delightful surprise, accompanied by excitement and a tiny bit of anxiety. Since 2006, I left home to pursue a different path and higher education; we have moved around in time and space to the evolving aspect of life. My habits have changed since then. Can I remain my parents’ little Tinni after all these years? I pondered. I became acutely conscious of my daily living due to my dread of the unknown, and I recognized that no matter what, my parents would understand me because they have done so throughout my childhood and adulthood.
I kept track of the days that had passed since the call and got ready for their arrival to start a two-week memorable adventure. Cleaning the apartment and creating a list of places I want to take them is all part of the nesting process. We embarked on a whirlwind cleaning spree, dusting off corners of our home that had long been ignored. The anticipation of their arrival transformed chores into joyful tasks. We rearranged furniture, put fresh sheets on the guest bed, and even got additional scented candles to be celebratory.
I wanted to share my life with them and make my home feel like their home away from home.
Finally, the day had come, and they had arrived thirty-five minutes earlier than expected. We were informed that the plane had already arrived when we stopped from Gainesville to Orlando airport. The airport, a maze where parking needs planning and a few anxiety medicines, was still 45 minutes away. My spouse and I were both focused on the road because my parents did not have a cell phone, and our hearts were racing with anticipation. The moment we spotted them among the sea of travelers, it was as if time had rewound, and we were children again, running into their open arms. Hugs and smiles were exchanged, and the air was filled with the warmth of their presence.
My parents, at Depot Park with my spouse.
August 8, 2023
My parents had always been a source of wisdom and guidance. As I grew up, they were my pillars of strength, offering advice and unconditional love. In their younger years, they were full of vitality, tackling life’s challenges with enthusiasm. I observed the changes as I hugged my parents—a gesture that might not be common in middle-class Indian households, or perhaps it was just mine. I noticed the silvering of my father’s beard and the gentle appearance of wrinkles on my mother’s face. These subtle transformations marked the passage of time, and though they served as a visual reminder of aging, they also highlighted the grace and beauty that comes with experience. Like the turning of leaves in autumn, the signs of aging began to show. The purpose of our parents’ visit was not simply to be together; it was also a chance for us to get to know one another better, learn about one another’s stages of life, and engage in gossip and empathetic conversation.
We faced life's challenges the day after my parents arrived, and the lesson I took away from the experience is indescribable.
The following day, at about 5:45 a.m., our 10-year-old pup Gary collapsed on the floor during a fit of cough. After monitoring him throughout the day, we took him to the emergency clinic, where he spent a night. Gary has seen the doctor several times because of his CHF and has not been feeling well. Although the night before the incident, he was doing fine. The cardiologist drained the fluid from around Gary's heart, and the next day, when he was released, the veterinarian strongly suggested that he might have cancer and that the next step would be a CT scan and regular chemotherapy with a 50/50 chance of survival.
Gary had entered our life as a boisterous one-year-old, a bundle of boundless energy and curiosity. From the moment we met, he had woven himself into the fabric of my existence. His playful antics, unwavering loyalty, and the sheer joy he brought into my life were beyond words. As the years passed, Gary and I grew older together. We embarked on countless adventures, from hikes in the wilderness to lazy afternoons in the park. His presence was a constant source of comfort and joy. We weathered life's storms together, finding solace in each other's company. Gary knows me well, and his eyes never mislead me about how much he loves me, even though he is my husband's "shadow."
The doctor suggested euthanasia to stop his suffering and relieve us from paying an extraordinary amount.
Something in Gary’s eyes stopped us from making a life-altering decision. We decided to monitor his health, feed him his favorite meals, and smother him with love and comfort. We struggled. We cried and prepared ourselves for the unknown—it could come overnight or in a few days. His once-strong frame grew frail, and his steps became slow and deliberate. He no longer leaped onto the couch or in bed with youthful exuberance. Instead, he spent more time napping and less time playing. It was as if time had gently pressed its hand upon his shoulders. My parents witnessed our life with Gary and Maple from a proximity.
Gary, a few days after his return from the emergency unit.
I wanted to be a teenager once more and have no obligations for a day, an hour, or a minute, but alas, time passed, and no matter how badly I wanted it, life does not give us a chance to turn back the hands of time. My dreams were consumed by nostalgia as I thought about my childhood, Gary's younger years, my parents' youth, and the moment I decided to marry my husband after meeting him in a distant country. These memories merged into one memory bubble and appeared in my dreams. My colleagues at work have organized a lovely morning for me and my family. While surrounded by joy and affection, I sipped tea and thought about the future for a few hours. That weekend, I witnessed my niece and nephew's growth before us as my sister and her family came to see us from Dallas.
Maple with my father.
Gary had made it through the week.
As the next week drew close, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of sadness. The hours had passed by like minutes, and we realized once again how time has a way of slipping through our fingers. Yet, our hearts were full. We had created new memories to cherish and added another chapter to the story of our lives.
We went to the lakes, drove around the town, went to the mall, went to the grocery stores, went to the doctor for a health checkup, made meals, and drank a lot of tea during the day. I also took my parents to my university, where I usually work most hours. Tea drinking was a big part of my upbringing. I have a strong emotional connection to the fragrance of tea and serving tea to guests.
We set up a follow-up appointment with Gary's doctor after he made it through another week. The vet was still unsure what might have caused his fall, so he suggested more tests and treatment alternatives rather than giving us encouraging news. We chose to comfort him, considering the various uncertain recommendations from multiple doctors and all of the therapeutic options.
Us, after an evening, walk through our neighborhood in the sweltering heat.
The day of my parents’ departure came all too soon. Standing at the airport once again, this time saying goodbye, was bittersweet. We hugged again; this time, I focused less on my father’s grey beard or my mother’s fine lines and instead planned for another visit soon in the future. The visit from my parents had transformed an ordinary weekend into an extraordinary one. Aging is a relentless force, unfazed by time or circumstance. It's a process that begins the moment we are born, a continuous journey of growth and change. As the years pass, our bodies transform, our perspectives evolve, and our priorities shift. The vibrant colors of youth slowly fade into the softer hues of experience, revealing the depth of wisdom that comes with age.
My parents’ visit reminded me of the importance of family, the joy of shared moments, and the beauty of making the most of our time together, regardless of life circumstances. As we drove back home from the airport, I was left with a profound sense of how much I had left behind. Leaving is an integral part of the human experience. We leave behind homes, jobs, and relationships as we journey through life. But the most profound departure is the one we must face—the end of our earthly existence. It is a departure shrouded in mystery and often accompanied by fear and uncertainty. Yet, it is also a departure that holds the promise of what lies beyond.
For some, it might be the fear of heaven or hell; for me, it’s another opportunity to relive my childhood, spending time with feisty one-year-old Gary, meeting my husband all over again, and starting another dreamscape.
Today, on August 26th, 2023, Gary is still enjoying gentle walks and eating his favorite meals.