“What have you ever done for me? Apart from my son I’m completely alone in this house!”
Feeling lonely, Mahesh lashed out in anger for he couldn’t bear their closeness anymore.
After his father-in-law was detected with cancer, Payal and he decided that her parents should come live with them. Payal was their only child, so it seemed like a logical arrangement. About a year ago, they moved in. He could see the happiness in his wife’s attitude. There was a time when she would snap at their son for minor issues. Now she was more tolerant and accepting. She found time to relax and do her work.
His in-laws were accommodating and always mindful of his presence at home. Being a fantastic cook, his mother-in-law took over the kitchen while his father-in-law read voraciously, and managed some of the household activities. Mahesh no longer had to worry about leaking taps or fused light bulbs.
His son was thrilled to have his grandparents around to play with him, listen to his stories, and help him with his homework.
Life was good. Everything was going well. Mahesh would return after a long day to find a happy home with smiling faces. His son would run to tell him what he did that day, at school or how he built his Lego set with grandpa. Returning home was a pleasure. He was relieved that his home was well taken care of. More importantly, his wife and son were no longer alone, especially when he travelled.
One evening Mahesh had to inform them that he was travelling overseas for a month. He wondered how to break the news. Payal dreaded when he travelled as invariably their son would get cranky and between her work and managing him, life was a challenge. It had led to many fights and heartache. At dinner, he tentatively broke the news expecting total chaos. But they looked indifferent and in fact started making plans without him.
He felt unnerved. He was glad that he was uselessly worrying but simultaneously, he was upset. They hadn’t even blinked when he told them and simply continued to eat as if nothing happened.
Since then Mahesh often found himself losing his cool over little things. He became snappy and irritable. He ignored it for a while thinking it was work pressure. In fact, they all did. Every time he returned he felt like all eyes were on him. At the slightest hint that he was upset ensured everyone kept away from him. They would watch television, or his son would go play with his grandparents and his wife would make dinner or do her work.
He felt alienated as if he wasn’t a part of the family anymore. He began to work late hours.
Today, returning from office, he saw them sitting together sipping tea. He became angry. He had called Payal to say that he would return early and yet they hadn’t waited for him. He worked so hard for them, he willingly supported her when she quit to look after her son. He made all the arrangements for her parents to come live with them and yet they seemed so unconcerned about him. Didn’t they need him anymore?
But there was more to his anger. Just seeing them like that brought back an avalanche of memories. He remembered when he would return from work and sit with his parents to have tea and talk. He was so happy and relaxed. Unfortunately, during one of his travels, his father passed away. He hadn’t gotten the chance to say goodbye. He still regrets that the day he left, he didn’t see his father because he was in the washroom. Mahesh hadn’t even waited for him to come out before leaving.
After his father’s death, his mother refused to move in with him because all her family, relatives and friends lived close to their ancestral home. Staying there made her feel close to her husband. He missed them. And seeing his wife and son’s happy faces, he missed them even more.
That night in bed, he lashed out at Payal when she said that she had forgotten to pay the electricity bill.
“What do you do the entire day? Your workload has reduced even further with your parents here, more than half your work is done by them now. Yet you forget to do something as basic as paying the bill? Do I have to do everything? Whenever I return, your parents go into their room and you’re at your laptop. The only person happy to see me is my son! You have your parents now but who do I have?”
Payal was taken aback. Thoughts rushed through her mind, she had so many things to say yet she couldn’t. He had suggested her parents live with them. He wanted his son to grow up with grandparents. He knew she worked from home. Then how could he be so rude? She lived with her in-laws before they relocated but she had never reacted this way if he spent time with them. They why did he?
Was he jealous?!
Payal sat down stunned. She turned to see Mahesh curled up on the bed beside her and began crying. Crying not only for herself but more for him. Tears she wished he would have shed when his father passed away and his mother refused to come live with him. Tears for his inability to deal with his grief and bring closure. She wanted to put her arms around him to comfort him and say that her parents loved him very much. They were genuinely happy to be here with them.
She wanted to reach out to him but couldn’t. Somewhere the anger she felt for his rudeness stopped her. Was she afraid to give him the impression that he could continue treating her this way and she would give in? Or was she actually happy that he was hurting because he had hurt her?
(What have you ever done for me? Apart from my son, I’m completely alone in this house! was first published on Women’s Web on April 29, 2018 / Image source: Unsplash)