PART III : THE CONCLUSION
Yes, it’s almost 12 years now, Dr. Aloke lives with Alzheimer’s disease , as diagnosed , weeks after that incident ,when he went missing. Maya and Saanjh, were too young to understand, and things were happening so fast, that, for both the children and adults, it was hard to perceive. Their maternal aunt and uncle, as well as, Govind, suggested taking him to a neurologist. Govind arranged for an appointment with a friend of her father, a renowned neurologist in town. There were brain imaging studies done , followed by genetic testing. Cognitive tests conducted to evaluate memory and thinking, other physical tests done and family’s medical history taken. No one, as far as their grandmother and maternal uncle and aunt , could recollect, ever had Alzheimer’s, in their bloodline. Test results for the rare genes that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s was also negative. The doctor could not give any reason for Dr. Aloke’s , having the disease . It was an early onset of Alzheimer’s and he was too young for that. Just 40 years old and the doctor said, he was already showing symptoms of moderately severe cognitive decline.
Maya and little Saanjh looked lost, when the adults were discussing about the situation . It was like a long, dark shadow cast over their happiness and peace of mind. Their father was the only parent they had, their super hero, their strength, pride, their friend and guide. Sometimes, they found a reflection of their mother, in him, too.
But, he would soon forget that they were his children. He would forget his mother, Govind, everyone. Not only that , he would lose his own identity as well, all wiped out from his memory. The career, he has so lovingly shaped. He was a known name around, and people addressed him with so much respect. He earned all of that, through his hard work over years. All of this will cease to be a memory for him. As if they never happened.
It made sense now, why he was forgetting things before, misplacing items of regular use every now and then. It was not any work stress, as they all suspected, instead it was the early symptoms of the disease, that everyone overlooked. He was avoiding going to his chamber regularly, losing interest in his profession, that he loved the most and several other activities, that once gave him so much joy. To all the family members, this looked like depression. But no, they were the signs of a big storm coming.
It was like a mound of stones, of the size of a mountain, settling down over Maya’s body. It was hard for her to move . She could feel a loud cry getting suppressed in her chest. Her eyes filling up with tears. Sometimes life makes one so helpless. Her father would often tell them, “ never give up. Never lose hope. There is a solution to every problem. A seeker will ultimately get what he seeks” . But, the doctor said this problem has no solution. The disease has no cure. Though he gave Dr. Aloke, medications to slow down the progression of the disease, he said, their father had on an average, some 8- 10 years of life remaining.
Dr. Aloke made it more than that, he has lived 12 years with the disease, but, his condition is worsening now. He is slowly starting to have difficulty swallowing and eating, has sundowning and sleeping issues, he sometimes feels like he is surrounded by strangers who have trapped him and wants to escape, hallucinates every now and then , seeing imaginary people call him . He gets aggressive on being held back from going outdoors on his own. And this was a similar day when he was trying really hard to escape. Maya stood near her father’s bed , her eyes swelled up with a pool of tears, seeing him struggle and fight to free himself from the strong hands that pinned him down to one place. The nurse moved towards him, to give him the sleep medication. After receiving the medication, he peacefully slipped into a deep sleep for a while.
There was a sudden silence around. Everyone quiet, and breathing heavily . Govind sat down on a chair, in Dr. Aloke’s room, covering his face with his hands. Saanjh went back to her room. She looked crestfallen. It was hard for anybody to see a loved person suffer like that .
Aloke was now starting to have increased difficulty in communicating, there were certain changes being noticed in his movements, too. Doctor says, he might need a walker and extra help to walk around in a short time from now. It was unbearable for his mother to see her son dying slowly . She cried uncontrollably.
Maya ran to her room. She wanted to remain strong. If she breaks down, how would her grandmother be steady? All these years, she has worked so hard and taken care of her son and grand daughters so well. Didn’t she deserve any rest ? Maya felt really sad for her. Maya and Saanjh helped her when they were at home. But, for a greater part of the day, she was the only caregiver present at home, with Aloke. The last few years have been really hard, and at times unpredictable occurrences of certain behavioral changes in her son, made it harder for her to manage everything. So, they had to keep a nurse for twenty four hours, then.
Maya sat down quietly on the edge of her bed. The silence in the room, helped her calm down. She walked up to her closet and took out some fresh clothes. She was feeling tired and wanted to change quickly into her night dress after taking a shower. As she started walking towards the bathroom, she suddenly stopped on her way, and stood still in one place, for a few seconds. Then, she turned back and ran fast, into her father’s room, and opened his closet. She was intensely searching it’s drawers. Her grandma, seeing Maya run into her father’s room, got worried, and went after her. When she saw Maya looking for something in his closet, she stood there , by her side, and asked her if she needs any help to find something. Maya looked up towards her grandma, and said,”nani, you remember, dad’s dream? We all knew about that. The trust he wanted to make ? He wanted Govind uncle and a few other friends of his, to be the trustees, besides himself and you. He had all the papers in a navy blue file. He often carried all the documents to the chartered accountant’s office and would come back home and call you, to share all the details of the discussion. How could I forget about that? Dad wished, to make that trust, in order to extend healthcare services to the poor , as much as he wished Saanjh and I, would become doctors someday. Nani, dad’s dream gave me enough motivation, to perform well in exams. But, how could I forget this dream of his, which is larger than life, and he was already working on making it a reality.”
Her grandma’s face beamed with joy. She almost forgot about the trust, in all these years. Life was robbing her of time, energy and hope. Maya could tell from her grandma’s smile, that she was regaining her lost confidence. Her helplessness became her major trait, these days, that anybody would notice with one glance at her. But, at this moment, Maya could see her eyes twinkling with hope. A hope to make her son live through his dreams. Even after his life ends, he would continue to live, in the minds of all who will be connected with the trust. Maya hugged her, smiling.
Her grandmother said, her voice trembling, “All these years I have often taken out his books and papers. Placed them on a mat on our terrace and let the sun rays soak into the pages, to kill any worm growing on it due to lack of use. I do the same with your and Saanjh’s old books too. All his papers must be in good condition. I have not allowed a dust particle to settle on them”. She smiled as he spoke to Maya. Maya looked at her with admiration. She felt blessed to have her grandma in her life. What would they do without her ? She kissed her forehead, and hugged her again. She held her hands and said, “Thank you for everything nani”.
After some scanning through a lot of files in her father’s closet, Maya finally found the trust papers. Though the trust was not registered, the basic requirements were almost met. But, the trust deed had to be amended , for that she must meet the chartered accountant . She could not see any property papers attached, she thought may be her dad was yet to decide on that matter. She discussed everything related to the trust with her grandma. After hearing what Maya had to say, her grandma told her , “Why not use our ancestral house in Bosepukur ? It is a big house. No one lives there now. With some reconstruction and renovation, we would be ready to start providing the healthcare services there. What do you think ?”
As usual, her grandma solved half the problem. Maya smiled back at her saying, “ Wasn’t it the house that you never wanted to leave? That kept you from staying with us? ”
Her grandma smiled as she replied, her voice trembled with emotion, “Using it for some noble purpose would raise it’s value a million times. And on looking at the house, I would see my son smiling back at me. I would feel him breathe as his dreams would spread its wings there. Nothing matters more to me than my children, you know that.”
There were tears of joy in both, Maya and her grandma’s eyes. They both hugged each other. All this while Maya would live, the peace and content , that her little self was blessed with, by visiting her memories, every now and then. Sometimes she would extend her hands to grasp a handful of laughter and giggles from her childhood, that she so missed now. But soon she realized, they were all just— illusions, reality was something very different. But, now, life seemed beautiful again, she could see all the positive emotions scattered everywhere. Maya knew there were a lot of legal obligations that she would have to fulfill. A round of discussions to be done with Govind uncle and her father’s friends, whom her father wanted, to involve in the trust. She also knew a lot of her colleagues and friends, who might want to help. She always had Saanjh by her side, and as soon as she tells her everything , she knows what her reaction would be. They would both work together, on achieving the goals of this trust. This dream might take a long time to materialize, but, where there is a will there is a way. And now she has found a way to keep her father alive, always. Maya held her grandma by her shoulders and walked to her father’s bed. They looked at the peaceful face of Aloke, fast asleep, like a baby who has nothing to worry about. They stood, looking at him , praying to God that the peace remains ……