A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

In the times of covid..

Posted by Pepper on February 25, 2021

Two weeks ago, my mom went to the salon to get her hair colored. I think I need to backtrack a little here. To start with, my parents have been highly covid conscious. I mean, not like they had a choice. With my mom’s history of cancer and my dad’s kidney ailment, they were both high risk. They followed the recommended protocol, stopped stepping out of the house, dealt with the hardships that came with the loss of their house help. They weren’t fit enough to take on the daily task of sweeping and mopping among the million things that they were having to do. My sister who lives with them had an excruciatingly busy schedule and was struggling in her own ways between managing her work and my parents needs of wanting to do things at a certain time. In short, they really struggled, but they did what they should have done to avoid all exposure and got through that period.

And after months when things seemed to be relatively stable in Mumbai, they brought back their house help. It was a well calculated move and we all agreed they needed the support and were falling sick without it. But how was I supposed to manage my anxiety? I would look up the number of cases in Mumbai every other day. If I was on a video call with my parents and saw the helper in the same room as them, I would yell at the top of my voice and ask them to go and get their masks. For the most part, everybody kept their masks on, but the occasional slip would stress me out.

I was living on the edge. And then one day my mom told me she was sick of seeing herself in the mirror and hated her hair. She wanted to go to the salon to get it cut and colored. I lost my head and yelled at her, asked her if she was nuts. Reminded her that she was high risk and had to be thankful that she was in fact leading a normal, medically uncomplicated life. Why on earth would she think of taking the risk?

She seemed to accept my opinion for a while. But time and again she would bring it up, only to hear me explode. I kept telling her being alive was more important than worrying about a grey head. She would tell me how important it was to feel good and some such crap. I told her to let my sister cut and color her hair. Weren’t we all donning the role of a hair stylist anyway? Unfortunately, she wouldn’t trust the sister to do the job as per her liking. *Eye roll*

Months passed, we kept going back and forth. This subject would come up every few weeks and would result in a heated argument with me yelling at her. In the midst, I would also have to deal with other stress of my dad going to the bank because “it was very important”. Why can’t you just do things online now, I would ask? And he would say he doesn’t know how to do it online. Each time, I would start the mental countdown of 2 weeks and pray nobody has any symptoms. But since the work was supposedly important and unavoidable, I was more understanding of the situation.

But hair salon? Really? How can you think of such frivolous activities when you are high risk? My mom brought it up again one fine day and I got mad and asked her to do what she wants. She said she would use her discretion and make the call. And she did. One morning when there was nobody else in the salon, she went and got her hair cut and colored.

And while we aren’t on the same page on this and while I still deem these activities as unnecessary and unworthy of the risk they pose, I can see how much better it makes my mom feel to not have her hair so out of place. Of course, I love annoying her by telling her how shallow she is. As usual, I waited for 2 weeks to pass before I could breathe a sigh of relief. Like every child, my parents are most precious to me and I wish I could keep them in a safe bubble. They are my lifelines and I worry so much. I hope the world heals soon and we don’t have to stress so much about simple everyday living.

25 Responses to “In the times of covid..”

  1. Pepper,
    I know how stressful this is to you. But after a point, you need to let go (says a woman who holds on to people for dear life, don’t mind the hypocrisy).
    My father lives alone. He is very lonely and brought in all the servants. I did the same as you – popped veins everytime I spoke to him. And then it struck me, there’s not much I can do about his life. Either I take full responsibility and care for him, or I stop micromanaging from afar. The latter has helped me relax a bit. I do get worked up, but now I am reconciled that if crap happens, it happens, and I will deal with it when it does.

    • sigdijan said

      Thanks for writing this. It really does help put things on perspective and yes, you are right, there is no middle way for us, either we take full responsibility or let go.

    • Pepper said

      You’re absolutely right, I often find myself getting all caught up and tangled in their life and start micromanaging their movements and choices from across continents. I think the terror I feel in my heart about them catching this dread virus is somethign else because of their existing conditions. But I really have to step back for all our sake. Knowing this doesnt help me though when I hear them doing things they shouldnt be doing. I should try harder.

      Also, I WISH I could take full responsibility for them. I have been so angsty and resentful of the fact that that choice is simple not available to me.

  2. Visha said

    I am reminded of those days of being mad at my parents at the fag end of my pregnancy with Boo. They tested my nerves like anything with stepping out during covid scare and I think I dumped all my post partum rage on them 😩

  3. Keith said

    Pepper, this is well done and true to our current situation. We crave to find more normalcy, yet must be cautious. Keith

  4. While me and my sister had the luxury of working from home, my parents, who are both high risk, have been going out every day since June! My mum’s a teacher and my dad runs his own agency. We were able to restrict his movements to home with a makeshift office and online transaction s but what do we do with our Mother! She’s in the last leg of her career, nearing retirement and didn’t want to take voluntary retirement. And this stupid state government, made them come to work even when there are no students. It scares us like anything to think of how many people she’s interacting with on a daily basis! She’s a cancer survivor and an asthma patient.
    It was hell for me thinking of them when I had to go back to the city. But now that I’m living with them here, either I got used to it or being next to them brought down the scariness quotient a bit down.
    I’ve been in your shoes and just wanted to share the experience and hence the long essay. Sorry, that you had to go through it all but trust me, going out every once in a while, adds to their immunity and mental health.

    • Hey.. just a small correction. My parents live in a small town and so things got back to being almost normal a while ago and so with appropriate precautions they’re doing fine. I too have bouts of anxiety when they visit the hospital for any reason or want to attend any event. I’m saying, I understand your anxiety but let them breathe a bit. Staying IN for too long is depressing to the elderly.

    • Pepper said

      My sister works as a teacher too and she has been WFH all along.. I had no idea some teachers had to be back in school. How unreasonable is it that they dont give you option to stay home even when the students are remote 😦 So sorry about this stress.

      But I am glad you are letting go of the fright. And I agree with you one hundred percent when you say staying in for too long is depressing. I really think we need to do little thigns or our own sanity. Hopefully I will get better at managing my anxiety too. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Hearing these stories really helps.

  5. Srishty said

    Pepper, so sorry but I enjoyed reading this post in a fun manner, like it’s so funny to an outside observerπŸ™ˆ I’ll tell you something, my dad has went to the levels of saying – ‘tum logo ke press kie hue kapde pehen ke jeene se better hai bansilal ke press kie hue kpde pehen ke thoda life risk le lia jaae’πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. Bansilal is the ironing person for my parents place!

  6. peenaz11 said

    On Thu, 25 Feb 2021, 8:01 am A dash of Pepper…, wrote:
    > Pepper posted: ” Two weeks ago, my mom went to the salon to get her hair > colored. I think I need to backtrack a little here. To start with, my > parents have been highly covid conscious. I mean, not like they had a > choice. With my mom’s history of cancer and my dad’s kidne” >

  7. sigdijan said

    Well, you articulated all my fears here! Living away in Bangalore while my parents are in Rajasthan, the peak lockdown when the flights were suspended was one of my worst nightmares. Till this pandemic, I always drew comfort from the fact that I am, but a flight away from them unlike my sister who stays abroad.
    Being far away and with no prospect of flying to them, just like you, I also had many of the nail biting moments, and the counting of 14 days after their every visit to outside world. And then, the day my city hit the caseload of 185 cases(a huge number for a city populated by 5 lakh ppl), my mother went to the salon to get her eyebrows done. I was ballistic to put it mildly, and being a person quite careless about my own appearance, was unable to comprehend the need to do it. So, I hear you :).
    After much thinking and introspecting, I realised that they need certain things in certain ways and no amount of begging, pleading, reasoning is going to help either me or them. So, though I do worry and keep reminding them to follow all the precautions, I also try to let them be as they also need their own version of semblance of normality to survive these abnormal times.
    Hugs to you!

    • Pepper said

      I can imagine the terror you must have felt with flights being cut off… I am so glad you don’t have to worry about that at least.
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It makes me feel strangely lighter when I know we are all goign through this together. I understand how hard it is for most of our parents and for that matter, for all of us to live like this. I really hope the end is in sight.

  8. Hang in there Pepper. I hear you. Been there done(doing) that. Sometimes I feel we need to let them decide for themselves, not living within proximity and our own helplessness that we cannot be of any help to them, if needed, makes us stress and worry more. I am sure they know the situation there and are doing everything they can to stay safe and sane.

  9. Bhavani said

    Baby sitting elders and worrying to no end being far away has been the toughest job during this pandemic. I totally hear you. My MIL who is 75 plus just to took an Auto and went to the temple. Luckily the security there stopped her saying she cannot go inside because of her age. She was so upset πŸ™‚
    I am telling you these elders these days !!!
    Glad all is ok now. So relax and have a good weekend πŸ™‚

    • Pepper said

      You know, at such times, I’m so grateful to people like the security guard who refused her entry because of her age..i do think it becomes so much easier when we watch out for each other 😊

  10. Nithya said

    I felt like I just read about my parents. Same stuff and same anxiety 😦

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