Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Close My Eyes

"You never call me. Actually, no one calls me. Even if they do, they wanna talk to your grandfather, not me.", My  grandmother complained with tears in her eyes. She was wearing this night gown that my mom had bought during our last visit, after searching a lot. People of her size (10-12 yr olds) prefer frocks and night dress (shirt and pant). She is so tiny that you feel like Goliath sitting next to her. I had gone to visit her and grandpa in Kerala after my wedding to show them the lucky girl, since they could not make it to the wedding in Chennai due to their delicate physical condition. These are my Mom's parents, aged around 90 years. My Dad's father passed away many years ago while grandma visits frequently. She's fit enough to travel, although not comfortably.

My grandparents have their separate room. They live in the family home, taken care of by one of their sons and his family. One of 10 children that this fragile being managed to give birth to. Their room has no fan since it causes discomfort to both of them. I have no memory of my grandmother being anything close to good health. She's always been weak and tired. Grandpa is quite different. Until a few years ago, my grandfather was exceptionally healthy and fit. He used to carry out a vast range of house hold chores. And house hold chores in Kerala is a whole different ball game. It includes milking and feeding the cows and clearing their stable, churning rubber and making compressed sheets after extracting the fluid from the trees and plucking fruits and vegetables from the surrounding trees whenever one of their children decides to visit them. He had a very healthy set of teeth and never wore a piece of footwear in his lifetime. The only physical issue he had was that his hearing was low. We had to speak a bit louder for him to listen, which was never really a problem. I think old age got to him at the end. He grew weaker and slower. His visits to the rubber dealer were replaced by the visits to the hospital. Now, he barely manages to go to the church across the street on Sundays. The church that was built on his major contribution of time and money. It pains to see these people of such magnificent strength and character, now reduced to mere humans struggling to get through the rest of their lives. Every activity, from waking up in the morning to breathing throughout the day takes so much struggle that you wish from deep inside, if there was anything you can do to release them from their suffering. All these thoughts run through my mind as soon as i enter the room and find both of them awake on their separate beds breathing heavily interrupted by groans of pain. But the moment they see us, and start talking, the mood changes.

I asked this tiny creature how she found my girl for which she replied that she's perfect for me, with the most genuine smile that you can imagine. Grandpa was a bit critical when he said, "She's nice. There are a few defects but thats natural. She's a fine girl". When i asked him what defects he saw, he said that he would disclose that to anyone but me. Over the years I've got to hear a very few words from my grandpa but they have had more meaning and wit to it than i can contemplate. My grandparents are a funny lot. Even at her age, we can afford to make fun of grandma, about her tiny outline and her huge asthma inhaler, and she would laugh along with us with a few coughs in between. A few more minutes with them and you realize that they have accepted their life the way it is. They complain of the pain and discomfort and silently pray for it to subside. I hear them, see their suffering, feel their fragile hands, and i close my eyes. I close my eyes to their suffering. I try to forget their pain and converse normally. To avoid complaints and dwell in jokes. They play along. Because they know that I cannot give them any physical comfort. Its our presence that they long for more. To talk to them, laugh with them, show some love and care, call them. I had decided to call them every month to start with. Been 2 months and i haven't called them yet. Grandma was hospitalized soon after our visit and then brought back home. Mom says its difficult for her to talk over phone now. I know what i should do, but i close my eyes. I close my eyes to the simplest of their heart's desires. I give my reasons for not doing it, but can't manage to convince myself. When i can do so much good, with so less effort. Sin is not always something we do, it can be something we don't.

Before leaving, my grandfather advised my wife, "Never do everything that your husband wants, understand his parent's needs and you will have a happy family". My mother recounts that he said the exact same words when he married her off to my Dad. (A love story that i have saved for later)

1 comment: