Last month, my grandmother passed away. Just writing that feels like a meaningless observation. Over the past month, she has been living with me in a more potent way than when she was alive. Although I’ve been working and meeting friends before I move out of this city (yes, I’m moving out, but there is no cause-effect relationship between the two), every morning I wake up to the reality that she isn’t around, and it is just my grandfather. I call him to greet him in the morning, let him know that I’m on my way to work, have finished lunch, and am going into dinner. I’m simply going through the motions, living by the schedule. Every morning isn’t just a day that I’m going into, but a recovery from the vivid dreams that I’ve had of her the previous night.
Every train ride, every rote and mundane part of the day finds me trying to define reality. For instance the other day, I was waiting for a friend whom I was meeting for dinner. It was a crowded huddle of various offices and even for a Monday night, there was plenty of bustle with young people trying to decide where to grab a beer, or go on a date, or catch-up with their friends. Everybody’s existence felt so meaningless and impersonal, and yet everybody was alive, thinking, having opinions, taking their bodies and movement for granted, their hearts and all their internal organs, as well as their emotions. All of these people, complete human beings, felt useless to my own purpose and existence. It was unlike me to think this way, but I curiously followed my thoughts, wondering where it may lead. To no surprise, I thought of her, how she had been willful like me, but embodied everything opposite of my reticence and inhibited expression of feelings. Her soul, so eternally special to me, taught me true love. We had great moments of conflict and frustration as she insisted on making my choices her way, and I insisted on hers. But in retrospect, I see all of those moments with undertones of deep love and care- two beings, her and I, among several other members of our family, dealing with the facts of our existences – that she was ill and old and utterly open with her feelings- insisting on being engaged with her loved ones as she once could be; and I was young and precocious at the same time, reckless and reserved, with all conflicting expectations still smashing together to form a coherent fabric of being and becoming, and ideas of a world very different from the one that she only learnt about through reading magazines and newspapers in her bed – struggling to be close, yet still apart given our lives and perspectives, but always persisting in our individual attempts to understand the other. I can’t tell apart love and attachment in this case. I always told her that I loved her, and she always reasoned that she said/did what she said/did out of a strong attachment to me.
Today, I was walking down the road to catch a train in the evening, and I noticed an internal monologue about how she was no more. I was convincing myself that it was a reality that I must come to terms with. But then another part of me retorted that while it was true that she would not be in my future, it was also true that she featured prominently in my past, and continued to be in my thoughts in the present. So, what really what the reality that I had to come to terms with when truth is tinged with this sort of multi-dimensionality?
And so, whenever it feels unreal, I sentence myself to relive those three days during the course of which she lived on in a final spurt of pure willpower- breathing and making the most of her failing body, and we decided to rid her of her pain and let her go.
I was talking to a friend earlier today, and said that I hoped to reach some sort of homeostasis, referring to it as a stage from which there was only an onward movement, in a while. She agreed, but suggested that homeostasis may be a process, and an ongoing unfurling of events as a result of a coping mechanism, a story we tell ourselves and live by, rather than just a Eureka-esque moment. That was both an easy as well as startling advice to accept. Easy because, perhaps, I have already achieved homeostasis, because I certainly feel like I’ve received closure. Startling because the suddenness of her demise will never quite ease in, because it has already been downed in a single, quick gulp.
I know she’s gone, I know she’s gone, but… I don’t feel what I know.
Here’s something I’d written close to a year ago, about her AND our battle with her illness.