My eyelids are heavy and yet I just cannot sleep. While I tossed and turned in my own bed my thoughts wandered to my grandma who is currently confined to the hospital bed, having had a fall last week.
I just visited her this afternoon and while she did look better she was showing some signs of confusion, repeatedly forgetting that she was in the hospital. We are all thankful that she sustained only a slight fracture in her hip and therefore does not require surgery, which would have been perilous for someone at her age.
But it still saddens me to think of her in the cold hospital. Especially when she had ruefully said a couple of times after the fall, “If I had not fallen I would still be able to bathe myself and then comb my hair and powder my face before going out to the living room to watch the television.”
I could sense the longing in her voice – for her old routine and the simple pleasure of independence – and my heart ached.
This is the woman I had spent my earliest years with, the first victim of my earliest childhood pranks, the person I had called in desperation when I got into a huge disagreement with my parents at the age of 18 and felt like I had nowhere to turn for help. And when I had a break up four years ago, she was the one who cried!
To chronicle the sweet moments with her from my toddler years I would have to write a mini novel.
Earthly life is not forever and I know we all have to say goodbye to our loved ones sooner or later, but I guess I will never ever come to a stage where I am ready to let my grandma go. I pray that she will have many more good years ahead, perhaps till 100; after all her own mother lived till the nineties.
Maybe it is just my conscience bugging me, telling me that I had not spent enough time with her. I could have visited her more since she had been staying with my uncle whose house is near mine.
I had witnessed my grandma age over the decades, from a woman who was strong well into her late seventies, caring for my grandpa till he died, despite being on insulin for diabetes. Then she began to need the walking stick…and now she is temporarily immobile and confined to the hospital bed.
It got me thinking of the inevitable eventuality…and of life and the impermanence of it all. And how I would miss her when she eventually has to leave.
How can I not? She is such a big part of my life. She babysat me till I was five. And frequently stayed over with us through my childhood and teenage years. Having grandpa and grandma over was such a happy thing that I looked forward to. She had amazing cooking skills and whipped up traditional recipes from scratch. My brother and I used to watch her slave over the traditional charcoal stove that she used to make sticky glutinous rice cake for Chinese New Year, tirelessly stirring the hot sticky concoction before pouring into individual containers to cool.
She cared for my grandpa for decades, unconditionally and uncomplainingly. Theirs was an arranged marriage, and by his thirties my grandpa had gotten ill and lost his ability to work. My grandma took care of his every need and raised his six children, and they all went on to succeed in their fields. My dad often says, “Growing up in a kampong house with a muddy floor, I never imagined I would one day own the properties I do today.”
My grandma used to eat as richly as she used to cook. I loved her hand pounded sambal belacan and various hot and spicy Thai-influenced dishes. And nyonya kuihs. I have no idea where she learnt to make all those things that she sadly doesn’t have the physical strength to make anymore now. I must ask her when I see her tomorrow.
Then diabetes caught up with her and I watched her let go of her love for rich and sweet foods. And jovially embraced a bland and restricted diet.
She loved looking pretty in her youth and still loves commenting on my shoes, accessories and makeup (or more often than not, the lack of). Once I showed her a new handbag I bought from Mango – a bright turquoise shoulder bag in faux patent leather and she nodded in approval agreeing that it was gorgeous. Another time she browsed along with my sister and I when we were looking at luxury handbags online, giving her opinion.
She also cared for my late greatgrandparents till their very last breaths. My greatgrandpa suffered from cancer for almost a year before he passed away and my grandma was his primary caregiver.
I miss the sight of my grandma strolling out of her room with the aid of her walking stick, dressed in her button-down blouse and sarong. I said a prayer for her about an hour ago, then I heard from a cousin that she was able to sit up this evening.
That brought me some comfort. And having grandma in hospital now…is just another reminder of what true priorities in life should look like.