Thursday, June 23, 2011


It's my real-life birthday today, I am turning 38 -- a nice number, divisible by 19. I am also 39 weeks preggers, so we're in the home stretch.

While I was doing the dishes around 1 am (since I can't sleep due to the heat, a huge tummy, and a terrible disagreement between my mattress and my back), I received an email from my dad (he's overseas, in my home country). He was congratulating me on my birthday, some awards I had received (he seems to check my faculty site often) and impeding baby news.

And I got very sad.
My husband (who also stayed up late, we're pretty bad that way) asked if it was because I had turned a year older. It's totally not that. I actually care very little for birthdays, my own in particular. In part probably because I am still in my 30s, so still (sort of) young. We'll see how I feel when I turn 40... Largely because I am generally happy with how things look in my life -- I am where I hoped I would be at this age, I have a great family and the job I always wanted, so nothing major to lament. Life is good. (Knocking on wood!)

Seeing my dad's email made me feel quite nostalgic.
You see, I don't really get to see my parents very much at all, and yes it is expensive to travel, for me or for them, but mostly I just don't want to. I am not a very good daughter. They were good parents, so it's not like I have a reason to avoid them. But the longer I stay away the more difficult it becomes to reconnect.

I call my parents on the phone, but rarely, especially my dad, who's hard to pin down. I think they have moved on from me too, pouring their love and attention on my younger sibling who is there. That's OK with me. I had a good childhood. I am grateful to my dad for the good genes he passed on: the talent for math, whatever little gift I have for writing, the perfect eyesight, and the hair which won't start getting grey for many years still.

I generally severed ties with my home country, I don't follow current affairs there. I have a tendency to burn bridges, that's the way I know how to move forward; lingering is hard. I grew up in a large city, a multimillion-people cosmopolitan area; I had a very urban upbringing and still have fairly urban tastes. I loved my city growing up, and especially loved the college years. I hadn't visited the city in more than 5 years, and I may never do it again. There were some awesome bands (I am partial to the garage rock sound) I enjoyed as a teenager and young adult. So, I turned on some music that I listened to when I was growing up (which I never do, it makes me too emotional) and finished the dishes. It was my small nod to my youth which is far both in space and in time. And to my parents who are very far away, and thankfully doing very well without me.

My boys and I will probably go out to eat to celebrate my birthday. There will be lots of chocolate involved.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday GMP! I hope you have a great year!

Science Professor Mum said...

Happy Birthday GMP! Good luck for the next exciting year of adventure. Enjoy the chocolate.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday. A nice piece of writting, which made me sadly think of my parents as well.

New prof in new India said...

Happy Birthday GMP and congratulations on achieving everything you wanted to achieve by this age.

"But the longer I stay away the more difficult it becomes to reconnect."

Just thought to share my experience: When I left India, my father was in a primary stage of his career and also struggling to run home and his life in the absence of my mother who had recently passed away. Apart form occasionally speaking to each other on phone, we did not correspond much.
Then came a phase when he began to have more time for his children, but children started to get busy. He felt really sad that we were growing up and did not need him around anymore-so, I made more of an effort to communicate with him. But, I never felt guilty of being away from him in his old age and nor did he ever say that he wanted me to return.
My return to India significantly changed our relation: he told me that all these years, he had secretly hoped that I would eventually return. Since I had no idea how to set up house and do various administrative things in India, I had to turn to him for help! He was absolutely thrilled to know that his daughter still needed him around and that he is still a central part of my life.
However, I am not married. So, I don't know how our relation will change if I marry and have my own family.
Some of my friends, who will never return to India, talk frequently to their parents via Skype- the parents feel thrilled to talk to their grandchildren and proudly mention it to their neighbours and other acquaintances!
I guess, irrespective of the distance, parents feel happy as long as their children are happy. If children keep up regular communication, that's like icing on the cake for most parents and they usually don't expect more than that (of course it would be great if we could do more for them, but life circumstances may not always allow that and parents do realize that!)

Alyssa said...

Happy birthday GMP!!

I sometimes get sad about how far away I am from my parents (and DH feels the same way). We never used to feel that way, but since Evan's arrival it's hit us a bit harder. I think it's mostly because we can't imagine what it would be like to have Evan move away and not be in our lives like he is now (though, maybe that's why the teenage years are so brutal, so parents don't mind their children leaving? Hahaha!)

Rainbow Scientist said...

Happy Birthday, GMP. My daughter turned 7 today, so a big day for me too. I enjoy reading your blog and also can connect with you. Have a great day!!!

Clarissa said...

Happy Birthday!!!

Spanish prof said...

Happy Birthday!
I think every experience is different. When I left my country, I knew I wasn't coming back, and my plan was to get my PhD in the US and get a teaching position there. However, I do stay very connected to my country. I follow current affairs, and I go back to Argentina every year. They only thing I've distanced myself from (don't laugh) is soccer!!! I used to be a soccer nuts, and now I found out yesterday that my beloved team is about to descend to an inferior league.

pika said...

Happy Birthday from me too!

With respect to parents and links to home country, I am very different, since I am in contact with my mother daily and follow affairs not only in my home country, but also in PhD country (read the news/listen to internet radio and thus keep in contact with PhD country language). I also travel back to home country twice a year. There is of course a reason in that my father is sick, but while I generally like it in my current country, sometimes it makes me very feel very lonely and very far away. So maybe your way is better, although I am not sure I could do it under present circumstances.

inBetween said...

Happy birthday!!!

nicoleandmaggie said...

Happy Birthday!

GMP said...

Thanks everyone!

Dr. Sneetch said...

Coming late to the party. Happy Birthday GMP. You are an inspiration to all of us. Thinking of you this week and next and hoping the delivery is smooth.

I get sad too about being far away. I write a password protected blog for my faraway family and post pictures on google piccasa (easiest to post). Now Google knows way more about me than I know about myself.

Cloud said...

Happy birthday! And best wishes for the end of the pregnancy... I found this the hardest time. And yeah, I could hardly sleep, either.

My husband is far away from his family and some really good friends. Before we had kids, we visited often. Now... well, we haven't been since our oldest was born more than 4 years ago. We stay in touch on Skype, but I know he gets homesick sometimes. It is hard.