Saturday, November 21, 2020

Over a week ago when my grandfather got on the ventilatory support, and we thought we were losing him, I revisited a friend's beautiful ode to her mother. She had penned that two years after her mother's demise, it was heavy and heartbreaking, at the time. I re-read that in the dead of the night (as I do with most of my reading) and howled until I couldn't anymore. 

Somehow next day, I remember texting her out of the blue and sharing with her the details of my grief and his sickness and how reading the ode about her mother was hitting in a different way than the other time when I did. This was the first time I shared this with anyone, most of which I had skipped from my friends or anyone else who was enquiring. She was gentle and graceful and offered me the sanest bits to hold on to. I recall her telling me details of the prayer ceremony that followed and shared her ways of expressing herself, including how she held tight to the things her mother was fond of, from the colour of her nail paint to others. 

One of the most beautiful things she shared was her experience of leading her mom to the end of her life. She told me that when it's time for him to go, I should hold his hand and communicate to him, to be brave and that he will be loved forever. She gave me the analogy of going to the school for the first time and being dropped by a parent. Both the entities are scared and terrified of parting and yet they must. That's how I should take it and send him off with all my love. 

Somehow, each time that week I thought of this, I ended up crying. It was the only thing and the way I could cry other than listening to certain numbers. 

During the week, things looked up, perhaps the one time he came off the ventilator. Even if it was for 12 hours, it was a ray of hope, a sign that he wasn't ready to give up just yet and I held my belief that he will pull out of it. 

Except he didn't. 

He would tell me daily, over evening tea, how my grandmom entrusted my responsibility to him before parting and how it was on him to be responsible for me and take care of me. My grandmother passed away years ago, and I feel, I have grown leaps and bounds since, as things ought to be. Yet, there was this sense, this burden he carried about being there for me. 

This hasn't been my year, for anyone who knows me, and somehow, he didn't know or understand the magnitude of grief and trauma I have been carrying for a while. I spent the majority of the year cooped up alone and only met him once a day at best, only when forced out to meet him when he'd summon for me. He would say the same things, "Did you eat breakfast? You should not starve yourself for so long. How is Ph.D. coming? When is your freelance payment expected?"

Somedays I would be short and most others I would indulge him in a conversation on subjects other than my intermittent fasting, pending payments, and research. We would talk about news, politics, his postings, he would ask about my friends, we would discuss celebrity gossip and how he made things out of his life when he was at rock bottom, each time. 

Perhaps, it is on me to have conveyed in a way that I'm self-sufficient and I need no mollycoddling. I had stopped asking him for money for books, for clothes, or other indulgences he would gladly sponsor. I had even stopped taking the monthly pension treats, for the most part, I was too depressed to ask. I felt like a colossal disappointment each day and didn't feel like I earned it at all. 

I remembered all this and more, when I saw him for the first time in the ICU, a day before he passed away. Literally, 24 hours before it happened, I went inside the ICU and howled infront of him. I  begged him to get better and fight his kidney failure. He was conscious, oriented, and communicating via his eyes and shrugs. He was restless and expressed how he wanted me to remove his tubes and the injections and he wanted water. He wanted to be home and did not want to be in the ICU. He held my hand as tightly as possible and pinched me hard every 30 seconds. It didn't hurt, instead, it felt like a disservice on my part. How much he wanted to get out of where he was and how hard he pleaded for me to make it happen. I held his hand during the duration and cried throughout and managed to tell him that he has to be brave and continue to be my inspiration so we could enjoy the treat I owed him from my first international byline. He had been waiting for that and would follow up daily until he was home. 

None of that happened. 

Instead, 24 hours later, I held his hand and stared at the monitor when his heartbeat was dipping. I told him to be brave and to go to his new abode lovingly, that he will always live through me and the name I carry. It was time for us to part in this life and if we were lucky, we would meet again, in a world where there are no calories or sugar content and an uninterrupted television with a cable connection that we could stream. I thought of the things he wouldn't know, from the minute he shut his eyes and wondered if he'll ever know how much he meant to me, something I felt I never communicated enough, despite the world knowing all about it. That's the big problem with me, I can't ever let anyone know what they mean to me, not even after they're gone. Only, everyone else will hear me rave all about it. 

I bid him goodbye and hoped he is happy in his new home and that it was loving and comfortable and right up his alley. 

I am so proud to be his granddaughter and so lucky to have been named by him and raised by him and carry his blood in my veins. He was the most fantastic father-figure, a role model I grew up with and I am incredibly honoured to have been chosen to carry his legacy forward, till however long it lasts. 

I just hope and wish he knows this, where ever he is today. 

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