As I was reading this article I find myself revelling in my own sadness of losing my grandmother last year. It’d be one full year next month since her sudden passing.
The author wrote about Lola, a woman who has been at a servitude to three generations of his family through her life since 18 years old, without pay nor freedom. A life of a slave. To this I can’t relate to, with the life of my grandmother. But the fact that she took care of all of us at various points in our lives and also our cousins and extended family. To her everyone in the family is as important as the other one who came before them.
Reading the author description of the things Lola did for him when he was a kid. When I was young at about 9 I was having a really bad eczema throughout my body (it actually just stopped when I was about 21) It sucks but I lived with it. Whenever my mom would have her staying with us she’d taken to her responsibility to calm me and put on a traditional sea cucumber oil to affected areas and massage them. She’d read some prayers while patting me until I fell asleep. I used to dislike that for a while and I remembered feeling like wanting to push her away. I’d say I practically grew up avoiding physical contacts like too much hugging, kissing cheeks etc that in the contrary, my best friend had both her parents expressing love in front of everyone in the school bus every morning. And I used to feel gosh didn’t she felt uncomfortable showing that in front of our friends? I don’t think it’d be something that I’d do. Only when I’m an adult I felt like I’ve missed all the opportunities.
Among all of my 8 siblings, I was the only one that had to be sent the longest time to the kampung (village) to be taken care of by my grandmother and grandfather. All of us had spent some of our lives here some months together but I was the one that had to be left alone for a longer time. I even went for the kindergarten across the street of my grandma’s house. It was just me, them and the endless yard that spans towards a large Mango orchard behind the compound. Me and my cousins who would come by every month or so would play outside until dusk and grandma would yell at us to come inside fearing of ghosts that specifically kidnaps little kids who doesn’t listen to their grownups. Well at least that was what she said and I abode! At night she would always say her prayers to keep us asleep despite waking up frequently to some creaking noises in the old house. She’d be there in the kitchen first in the dark of morning to prepare breakfast and starting her chores all over again. Her cuisines, had been ours and extended family traditions. She created a sense of belonging and togetherness while we’re in the kitchen, where we’d shared the most time and be reminiscing about years later when we are adults. Her selflessness was something I have never seen in anyone else except my mom. This serves well in retrospect, of all the years observing her life, giving more than she received without asking for any returns. My mom, however, gave her allowances which she would take some and give back to us her children by slipping it into our palms each time we came by.
Then life happened. When you had to chase the good life everyone is going for, you know, have a good degree, take a good stable job, earn your money and proceeded to the next new experiences. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for not going to see her more often, just 2 hours drive away from where I live. 2 hours seemed too long, too tedious for me. After work, I’ll be definitely arrive at night and I always find that as an excuse to not go for that week. And then the next. Then the other. As always I can picture her happiness when I called to inform that I’ll be coming by and how she’d cook my favorite dishes in abundance, later packing some for me to bring back. Right now I don’t know if I’ve ever shown her enough appreciation of who she was to me. I’ve written before that I’ve avoided some of her calls simply because I just don’t feel like talking. I don’t really take any phone calls anyway but to let my phone ring and the repeated beeps on her side of the phone, waiting just to ask about my day, was so thoughtless. That was the question I kept on asking myself since the moment my cousin called to told me in tears that she was gone. I didn’t know to cry or to slam the fucking phone. All I think was, did she knew that I loved her? That I appreciated her and I was sorry for not spending more time with her? I think she knew but I doubt it. She wouldn’t be upset or anything but walking back to years ago when I wasn’t independent and had my own car and a place to live, I was mad at myself for underappreciating her. There was so much more that I could’ve done better.
Ramadhan will arrive next week and at the end of the month, the Eid celebration. We’ve had the last one without her. It wasn’t nearly sad as I imagined. In the Eid morning we cook and prepare the traditional Eid food like usual and my mom knew all the recipes at the back of her hand. It wasn’t something that we couldn’t do without her. I didn’t really told myself that she was gone forever. I still think that she is just, there, even if I can’t see her anymore. It’s her house, her bed, her kitchen. It was like she just left for a while. I couldn’t hug nor does the routine asking for forgiveness and take a picture together in the Eid morning. It didn’t struck me as hard. After all I’m used to only coming to see her sometimes 4-5 months apart. Sometimes the ignorance is numbing. It’s an ability to actually shelf out everything to the back of your mind where you’ll not easily found it again. I find myself reaching to it when I think of her, to feel the sadness and longing of not having her here.
This reduced sensitivity that I have is alarming. But I become to understand it the more I live. It brought me to my second thought after reading this amazing article; I should embalm her memories and what she meant to me in a form that I can see and touch. So that I could come back to it. Keeping physical memorias is something I just decided on…something I never done. I’ve never kept a family member’s picture around me, even when I missed them badly when I was in boarding school and first year of work. Some of my most depressed years. A loved one, to me is best kept in my mind. The conversations I’ve had, the life event involving them, the scenes where we parted ways or meet. I have all these things playing out in my head when I’m missing someone. But I am blessed to not losing any one more of my immediate family and friends, and I still have the time to physically be with them and to show that I do love and appreciate them. For my grandma, that time has long passed. I need to honor her memories for all the years she had lived so full of selfless love and her passing that has caused so much loss that couldn’t be replaced in mine and the lives of everyone else who knew her.