Father, Friend Or Both?

This is a true story narrated by a doting father – Anonymously as per his wish and request.

It was 3rd Wednesday of March 1999. B, my youngest was appearing for her 10th boards. Saturday was the last paper and we all had already drawn a long list of ‘to do’ from noon of Saturday. After all, the last daughter of the family will soon be entering junior college.

At 5 pm, a routine CBC report done that morning for my wife, revealed Acute Leukemia! And life was never the same.

Biggest predicament I faced was how to keep it from the entire family so as to ensure that the little princess finishes her last exam without any stress. The doctors were not willing to start the chemotherapy without counselling the patient about the disease. We hospitalised her in a non-cancer ward and started investigations. Waited with bated breath for Thursday & Friday. Saturday morning when B left for school, the entire family was told, patient was counselled and treatment began. I took extra care to break the news to V (eldest) & H (second one). When B came out of school jumping, ready for a meal out and movie in the evening, we three (me, V & H) broke the news to her with a false bravado on our faces, telling her Mom would be fine and life need not change except our holiday would be postponed.

Aware of the poor prognosis, as informed by the doctor, I started planning ahead on how will I manage my 3 princesses (15, 17 & 19).

The end came after 11 months, during which I had ensured that girls were involved even in the smallest decision that I took running the house. After all, I had to nurture them to become ‘ladies’ in their own right. One point worth mentioning here is that during last 20 days of her life when my wife was in coma (at home), I had short meetings with all three to discuss, “If any one of you feel that we are not doing enough for her by not shifting her to hospital, please say so. If the consensus is to take her to hospital, I am ready. But as you know Dr S has very clearly said there is no recourse”. I did not want them having any doubt left later in life that enough was not done. These discussions took place every 3-4 days as some ‘well wishing’ visitor would comment, “Why is she kept at home?”

How all this helped? I cannot say specifically but it did ‘mature’ them in a short time.

After the final rituals, I decided it was time to play my cards and set some rules. I took them to Barista for coffee and said, “We all have been through a lot but we have to promise ourselves and each other that despite all odds we will start our life anew and reach our goals that we had set prior to last March”. “We four will live like friends but I will continue to be the father. I promise you I will not be a dictator.”

That day we decided the following:

–      We will have dinner together (I am a self employed professional & for a year, reduced my working hours to be at home by 6, before any of the girls arrived).

–      If we ever have a difference of opinion, we shall sit down across a table and either I will convince them that I am right or they will convince me that I am in wrong.

–      I pronounced that I will start exotic cooking (Indian cooking is so difficult) and weekends will be ‘self cook’ days and each one will assist me by rotation (how else could I ensure that they learnt cooking). Weekends thus turned like camping picnics.

–      We decided that we will go to theatre (movies, plays, music) twice a month and eat out twice a month and they will get to decide, by rotation, where we’ll go. I will always comply!

–      As far as possible, we will avoid having any personal programme on the weekend.

–      I told them “You cherish things more if they are given in small doses. Hence, each of you will be given liberty to stay out based on age and advancements would be 1 hour per year of age”.

–      Since V (eldest) was entering media and knowing the younger generation’s penchant for wines, etc. I said “None of you will think of taking any alcoholic beverage before 21 and then too your first drink will be with me”. I have been castigated enough, by my elders, for saying this but my princesses feel, retrospectively, this was the most valuable thing I said that day. None of their friends have been talked to like this and continue to drink without family’s knowledge. On their 21st birthday, if they so wished, I would pore some wine for them. Two wished, one did not! I also promised them that day that I will never embarrass them by drinking, irresponsibly and they should promise the same.

We had our share of turmoil, some tough times but as rules were already laid down, things got sorted out without any complications. We sailed through next 10 years like friends, clinging to each other. I had to mend dashed dreams, nurse unachieved ambitions, cry with one on getting into a good college, against all odds, etc. Whatever the ups and downs we kept the communication lines open; tended to each other’s bruises as well as egos and kept going…

Today 13 years later, the project has come to an end. All 3 are in Management, senior corporate positions. Mature beyond age, rearing to go. Two have proved to be good mothers as well.

When I look back, I some how managed a right mix of being friend and father – just like a well-mixed cocktail. The lesson I teach them and my son-in-laws – be a friend but don’t let them forget who is the parent. Pamper but not blindly!

Finally, each to their own circumstances/environment!

ANONYMOUS

  • “We four will live like friends but I will continue to be the father. I promise you I will not be a dictator.” – Your daughters are in good hands. And their children will be too. 🙂 Wonderful story. Please spread the positivity, and the wisdom contained in this write-up. It will help many a family undergoing similar circumstances. 🙂 This will remain with me for a long time to come.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Sakshi for the wishes. Such wishes only made me achieve this

  • I was touched to read your account of how you lost your wife and how you, in collaboration with your three daughters, strove to ensure that your ship ran smoothly. It takes courage to pick oneself up after a family loss, and continue to live life again.
    God bless all of you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Cynthia for the blessings. God given strength only made me achieve this

  • Very touching. It is tough to raise kids with spouse, and to raise 3 young girls at an age when their world is changing, must have been some task. I must say your openness and communication is very unique and mature for an Indian family. Respect

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Prasad. Respect is big word. After all I did what was required.

  • Hats off to you Anonymous father. You have managed everyone in the family very well and congratulations to you on the success of your daughters!!
    “On their 21st birthday, if they so wished, I would pore some wine for them. Two wished, one did not! I also promised them that day that I will never embarrass them by drinking, irresponsibly and they should promise the same.” Allowing kids to be responsible is not by restricting them but by allowing them access to it while teaching them to be responsible.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Then it took lot of courage to say that but today retrospectively, one of the most important points I thought was important.

  • Such a beautiful story, I loved the way you have narrated it. Your daughters and you are blessed to have each other by their side. Loved the entire note especially the last lines ” a friend but don’t let them forget who is the parent. Pamper but not blindly!”

    Thanks for sharing this with us, and God Bless.

  • Hats off to you sir for bringing up your girls so beautifully. I can imagine it must have been hard without your life partner and most importantly, a mother. You are an inspiration to all of us!

  • Sir,
    I am calling you that because that is the utmost mark of respect I can think of. Your late wife, may her soul rest in peace, must be extremely proud of you, wherever she is. I am sure she is happy and content about how you have raised your daughters. I hope every man on this earth strive to be as great a parent as you are.

    Hats off!

    Gauri.

  • It touched my heart deeply. Despite such great loss to you too, you tried to fill in for your wife. It is exemplary. So many parents, even with each other’s support, are not able to achieve the kind of upbringing you provided to your children. It reflects the kind of importance you gave to raising kids. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • You are a really brave, loving and caring father. In spite of your personal loss you took the responsibility of being a friend to your daughters. Your life is an example of courage, determination and the will to face the challenge !! Hats off to you. People must take a lesson from your life.

  • Dr SNRao

    Sir,
    You have made your wife proud! You have truly managerial skill.With all 3 daughters into corporate management ,we can see where the skill came from.Your life has been very touching,and the way it has been written….Great!!! Kudos to you.

  • “I also promised them that day that I will never embarrass them by drinking, irresponsibly and they should promise the same” after reading this sentence @ my office desk I had to rush to the WC as I couldnt stop myself from weaping… May be my past life also added some sparks to it…
    Blessed are your girls to have such brave father to support them and lead them through the tides of life..
    We will have dinner together : This is where the family comes together and stays together.

  • Anonymous

    Karen
    We all face daunting circumstances that sap all our strength but we need to gather ALL inner strength and do what is expected of us. Your mother expects you to be brave and not break down. Please do not disappoint her.

  • Anonymous

    Jessi
    From the time I realized that my wife may not pull through, I took this on as a project. I wanted to lay down the rules as well as keep up the camaraderie. I did the best I could and left it the almighty.
    Sorry for replying late. I am busy planning marriage of my youngest. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Dr Rao.
    I think the girls inspired me to give my best.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Ms Menon
    I would put brave last. I think the love and caring and the feeling that they should not miss anything gave the bravado.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Reema
    Very sorry for the late reply. Am tied up with planning my youngest’s marriage – the works! trousseau, catering, cards etc.
    Thanks for the kind words. I am sure most parents in my position would do the same.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Gauri. Yes, I am sure she is content as I am today seeing all three of them strong and independent.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Ghata. Yes it was hard but never without a smile on all our faces.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Falak.

  • SriEA

    Dear Sir

    I was randomly reading posts when i found this post..

    I am typing with tears in my eyes and i am trying in vain to rub my eyes with my dupatta!

    Hats off to you! Really..from the bottom of my heart…what you have done is exemplary…we all hear umpteen cases where the kids get ignored and the father marries another person…

    I lost my FIL to cancer 2 years back and i know the pain..as he stayed with us during his final days as MIL refused to take care of him…how a person goes from being healthy to sick in a matter of months is baffling-to say the least! My FIL died within 3 months of being diagnosed…

    Once again, my best wishes to you and your daughters!