By NAVEED GILANI
Many years ago I had written a small piece called ‘my bald spot’ after my youngest, Danny, discovered a bald spot on my head. That was the beginning of my entry into the proverbial ‘middle age’. Now, I am pushing the upper limit of this period of my life and just about stepping into the official ‘old age’. Meanwhile, the bald spot has spread all over with whatever hair left behind dearer than ever before.
Oh! How these past years have been more than wonderful, Joie de vivre, as they say in French. It has been a crescendo of life’s delights; full of pleasures that I had never forethought. Like aged wine the flavors and textures of life would never have been experienced had it not been for this irredeemable march of the years. Though, I must add, to enhance these pleasures we ought to age quite differently than wine – openly, brightly, and warmly rather than cellaring in dark and cool place. This ageing process of mine, I leave to discuss for another time.
Over the past weekend, I was visiting my parents in Karachi. My dad is 94, and my mom is around 86. Ma’shah’Allah (As Allah has willed)! They live with my youngest brother, Naji and my sister, Arfa lives next door. They take great care of Abbu and Ammi, managing to humor the capricious mood of the elderly. Naji’s instinctive wit comes in handy. Sitting there across from my dad I realized that here is a pleasure that I never thought about, being physically present with your parents when most of my friends have only memories of theirs. I always look forward to these visits as for the last three years I am no longer living in the same city. They, particularly Abbu, are very possessive of the time that I spend with them when I am in town. I am fine with that. I limit my visits to my friends and always plan them during the time that they are taking their afternoon naps or watching their favorite TV shows. Babloo, my younger brother also keeps visiting, he and I alternating our visits.
Why am I writing about this? To celebrate this rather rare break that I and my siblings have of the company of my parents. Remember, I mentioned that I am, according to some standards a senior citizen myself and according to others almost there. Actuarial science would never have predicted this opportunity for us as they, at their age, surely are outliers. The both of them often complain about the various health issues that are part of the advanced ageing. But hey, that is just a small price for the precious memories that we are adding to our archives. I regret that Abbu and I are not able to have a full hearted discussion on the politics of the world or the state of the economy or the various challenges that we face in our daily work life because of his hearing impairment. Each word has to be shouted with full throat, notwithstanding the use of the South African vuvuzela that Naji got from somewhere. Abbu doesn’t like our truncated sentences when we speak to him and he complains but he has adjusted to the realities of the handicap. So has Ammi, who is slightly visually impaired but can still enjoy watching her favorite TV shows.
Recently, my father-in-law, Col. (Retd.) William L. Weihl, passed away rather suddenly. He was 81, a very good man, husband, father, grandfather and a great grandfather. The large attendance at his funeral by his West Point class of ’56 attested to the huge respect he commanded among his fellow comrades. They all celebrated his life by reminiscing stories of him when they were together from the military academy through the Korean and Vietnam wars to Pentagon which was his last posting. Kim, my wife, remembers, more than ever before, all the fun times she had being with him when she was growing up and then when she visited them or they her when she flew off the nest. A smiling picture of Bill adorns her bedside table.
For me, Col. Weihl’s departure has provoked a close look at my own journey which started on April 11, 1955. I got very lucky in what Warren Buffett calls the “Ovarian Lottery”. I had nothing to do with it but Allah slipped me the right ticket. I thank Allah! Childhood and early adulthood was a breeze and I got every wish fulfilled, from roller skates to bicycle to a motorcycle I nicknamed the ‘red devil’.
My pre-balding years were spent happily in laying the foundation, under guidance and hawkish gaze of my parents. Good education was the order. Stepping out of college came the sudden entry into the rapids of career progression where, for a few years, I lost the distinction between family and career. Kept on paddling, sometimes like mad and other times just rode the waves. Did not notice the onset of balding. Along the way career progressed superbly, made cherishable memories with the family, children got excellent education, and we acquired material gains. Let me also concede that despite the disapproval associated to the chase of material gains it does help a great deal in the pursuit of self-actualization. Somewhere during those years, Danny pointed out the bald spot.
So, here I am; balder than before, duly menopaused, children have spread their wings and soared away, waiting for the grandchildren to arrive, career already peaked and enjoying the boons of tail winds from work done past. And the icing on the cake is the blessing of doting parents, loving wife and children, caring brothers and sister, nieces, nephews, uncles, cousins, a flock of true friends, and on and on. Truly Truly Thankful.
Yesterday, I saw this beautiful movie called “Kapoor and Sons (since 1921)”. Enjoyed it thoroughly. The roller coaster of life was aptly captured. I thought of our own, “Gilani and Children (since 1922)”. And then thought of the baton passing to; “Gilani and Sons (since 1955). How wonderful?
And then; my mind will be at ease and my soul will be at rest.