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Published : Saturday, 26 November, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 512
Ajmal Sobhan

(Concluding part)
One day, Jamal's friends called and asked if he would like to spend some time with them. His routine for the day at the Food Bank was just then over. At the outset, he wasn't all that keen to go out with them as he suspected his friends might be wanting to drink. But he decided to go anyway, hoping to abstain from alcohol. He certainly enjoyed their company. He was also eager to get to meet his high school sweetheart whom he had broken up with several years earlier. As it turned out, Jamal was just not able to avoid temptation - he drank, he smoked, and he eventually ended up staying the night at his friend's home.  His mother came to pick him up. She shielded Jamal from his father's wrath by lying to him. Sadly, soon after this event, Jamal was back into drinking and doing drugs. This was within six months of his auto accident that had left him with a concussion.



Saddened by their son's relapse, his parents took different attitudes to their son's fall from grace. His mother continued to take care of Jamal as an addict and an alcoholic. On the other hand, his father just could not fathom the depth of their son's depravity, his lack of will power and tenacity. He could not believe that someone could destroy one's life by pursuing a path of substance abuse. His wife's refrain notwithstanding, Khan continued to castigate Jamal for his weakness and lack of moral character. Though Afreen was acutely aware that Jamal was entering a state of depression associated with poor cognition, his father, busy with work 'saving lives,' was oblivious of his own son's downward spiral. Afreen confronted him and said, "Do you realize that we are losing Jamal?  He is not well. He is depressed.  He is faltering and is developing a speech impediment. For once, can you forget about yourself and look at Jamal and show him some unvarnished love? Love is not about doing, it is about being. Love is about expecting nothing in return. Do you understand that? Are you going to help your son, or are you going to watch his self-destruction?"
Khan was eventually persuaded to recognize that the state of his son's illness was serious, that his own expectations for his son were selfish, and that his own attitude had been too self-centered for comfort. Soon after, Khan and Afreen admitted their son to a Rehab Institute.

Jamal stayed at the Rehab for less than a month, and was discharged on medications. At the Rehab, the parents were warned that Jamal might be suicidal. But under a watchful engagement, they said, Jamal would show improvement, and would therefore no longer need to be an in-patient at the Rehab. Khan and Afreen became worried by the knowledge that their son had harbored suicidal tendencies during his stay at the Rehab. They protested the planned discharge of Jamal from the Rehab, but their concerns were overruled.

Returning home, Jamal appeared to be on his best behavior. He complied with all instructions given by the Rehab as well as by his parents. He stayed mostly home, often surfing the internet, and occasionally going out for walks. His mother still worried about him. She felt that he was behaving rather unusually too well. She had a sense of nervousness with regard to him. Khan did not have the same worry, though. "You are getting paranoid," he chided his wife.  "He is fine now. Let him be as he is. Let him grow his own wings".

Around 2 am one night, they heard an unsettling "pop" noise. The sound emanated from Jamal' s room. They rushed to the room. The door was locked from inside. With Jamal not responding to their screams to open the room, Khan broke open the door and found that his son had shot himself. He had aimed at his head with his father's hand gun; the bullet had fractured his skull and had ricocheted off the wall. Jamal lay unconscious with severe bleeding from his scalp. The paramedics hauled him away to the ER. He underwent emergency surgery. Luckily, the bullet had not penetrated the brain. The concussion left Jamal even more vulnerable.

Though Jamal survived his attempted suicide, his condition remained unstable. After the physical damage was dealt with, he was admitted again to the Rehab Center. The Rehab Center had a good psychological/ psych-counseling wing as part of its overall armamentarium. Jamal stayed there for three months, undergoing intensive therapy together with medications for improving his cognitive skills. He made remarkable progress.  His cognitive skills became sharper over time. He told his Mom, "The local gym is offering yoga and meditation classes. I would like to try it out".
"Ok", said his Mom, "If that is what you want to do". He seemed to be happy doing this and appeared calmer than before.
He finally had the courage to ask his father, "Dad, would it be possible for us to go back to the old country and spend a bit of time there. His Dad thought about it and said "Sure, Jamal!".

Khan took a leave of absence from his work. He and his wife took Jamal back to Bangladesh, just as Jamal had desired. Their son now could reacquaint himself with the family roots, they thought. Also, relocating him for a while in a rural setting away from the hustle and bustle of city life in the US, would do him good, they figured. Jamal was eager. They visited a community center in Khan's village where there was a vocation center, and also a health clinic.  Jamal was very impressed with the work done there and asked his dad whether he could stay back as a volunteer. Afraid of their son's tender health, Khan said, "If you want to stay here, we will stay with you".

Not too far from the community center was the University Hospital and the Medical Center. Khan applied for a position there as a Neurologist, and was gladly accepted; his expertise was welcome there. Afreen also found work in Adult Education at the Community Center. A house was hard to find, but they found a small one with lots of help.

Jamal was deeply satisfied with his work with children, teaching them English and computer skills. His cognitive skills improved. He joined a local drug rehab center which offered a twelve-step recovery program. The three of them decided to stay for a year and continue their association with the Community Center and the hospital where Khan became part of the Faculty. They knew that it was a temporary solution, that they would eventually return to the States, and face reality, which would be a true test to their present resolve and commitment toward Jamal's rehab.

On returning to the States, Khan and Afreen chose to undergo counseling as their marriage had shown increasing signs of disintegration during these stressful times. At the conclusion of these counseling sessions, after listening to both sides, the counselor made it clear that Khan was indeed a man with a larger-than-life ego, always trying to control situations, no matter how trivial.  Counselor at the same time also made the observation that Afreen was too harsh on her son at a personal level. It was not easy, but through long periods of discussion and contemplation, Khan felt convinced that he indeed needed to change his attitude toward life - as a professional, as a husband to Afreen, and as a father to Jamal. He realized that all of his personal accomplishments in life as a reputed doctor would truly be meaningless, if he ever were to lose his family. Afreen, in her turn, strived continuously to control her reactive nature and tone.

The counselor asked both the husband and the wife, "Well, do you feel that there still is any life left in this marriage?"  
Khan's response was sincere and immediate. "Yes, there is".
Afreen, discomfited and unsure of herself, sat quietly for several minutes before saying, "I don't know yet. But, I am not ready to quit".  
"Look, you two are the only ones who can save this marriage for yourselves. No one else can!" advised the counselor.

After their counseling session, Khan fell into regret about his decision to settle abroad. He called a friend in Bangladesh whom he knew from school days. He expressed his emotions to him in an uninhibited fashion. He ended by saying, "Maybe, I should never have gone abroad. Maybe, I would have been a better husband and a father if I had stayed back", to which the friend replied, "Don't be ridiculous! It would have made no sense for you to have wasted your time here in the country when it was going through turbulent times. You made the right decision to leave, and did your best. Don't be guilt-ridden by what has transpired contrary to your expectations. Put some space between you and the situation at hand. You always tried to be in control of the situation. But, you never are in control. Afreen is an adult and so is Jamal. Learn from your mistakes and apply yourself, but don't grovel. Don't be a prisoner of your mind or your profession. Apportion more time to the family. You will be fine even if things are apparently not fine". Khan took his friend's counsel to heart. Distancing himself from his thoughts was not easy for Khan. A man of high discipline and work ethics, his profession demanded good outcomes for due diligence. That a bad outcome is possible despite it, was beyond his ability to fathom. But now, he found himself reconciling to that fact.

Jamal remained partially disabled. His cognitive skills continued to improve, though his body remained fragile. His addiction problem stayed with him - to be dealt with the help of experts. It was apparent that his future would be not what his father had envisioned for him; but it would be one that Jamal loved and cherished for himself. Khan and Afreen patched up their marriage as best as they could. They had invested a lot into their marriage over the years. In the social norms of their community, even entertaining an idea of separating or filing for divorce, is an anathema. They both felt in their own ways a responsibility to see Jamal get better and adjust. They understood the added trauma on Jamal, if they ever were to go their separate ways. Neither wanted that for sure. Was a strained relationship better than no relationship? Neither was sure about that. But in persevering to help Jamal, if they could both bury their ego to a certain degree, then there was a good chance that it would benefit not only Jamal, but it could also help the two to come closer to each other as committed partners. One can only surmise where this would all end up. But at this point in time, Khan and Afreen had decided to bite the bullet, and carry on, taking one day at a time. Jamal's future lay more in his own hands than his parents'. That being said, having two loving parents who could admit to each other their serious failings in raising a son, and to move forward ultimately does have a silver lining.

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