Mom called to say that you are very sick.
In the five second pause, between mom saying that the doctor offered little hope and her bursting into tears, the memories of you roller-coastered around in my head.
Memories of us may not belong in the Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul. You were a busy man. Retired from the military where you were a flight engineer, you set up a cafeteria, travel agency, telephone booth… You built a home for your family and the business generated revenue and did not go under. The house had a big garden. Grandma had coconut trees, guava, custard apple, drumstick, spinach, a whole terrace wall of jasmine, lots of hibiscus, mehandi, curry leaves and this is where my memories begin.
The fact still remains though that I never felt attached to you. A chauvinist and misanthrope, we learnt to steer well clear of you early in our childhood. You were also a contradiction of sorts, you would favour some grandkid (s) over others, son over daughters, you know. However one can’t deny that you provided for your wife and children while they lived with you. You called my brother and I to the room on the first floor of the house and opened up your old trunk to show your medals. You told us how the war was, that you didn’t have to go to the battle field but stay in the yard and work on fighter planes. You loved those medals and went ballistic when grandma lost a few of them.
You loved your scooter (Bajaj Super FE) and would let me clean it. We loved that scooter – you and I. I knew how to repair the brakes, oil the wheels and get it to start on troublesome days and you let me.
I’m lost on details but you and your son decided to tear down the house and have these builders construct an apartment complex. I was there that demolition day; I watched how you caressed a last intact portion of wall with tears in your eyes. It was obvious that you wanted your son to have the best at whatever cost. Though a lot of people criticized you that day, I felt sorry for you.
Through the years that you were sick, we used to visit you and if we stayed more than five minutes, you would get mad and say hurtful things. We kept coming back because mom made us. I felt jealous and angry that you would have a daughter who loved you so unconditionally despite everything. You had someone to shed tears over your condition. Mom loves you inspite of… inspite of… you must have done something to deserve that love. If I have children who loved me half as much as my mom loves you, I would count myself very lucky indeed.
You asked me to forgive you and I asked if you would bless me instead. It was so hard to answer you. It is not hard to fathom why you are terrified to look at yourself. Now you are a mere shadow of your former self. Your eyes are like haunted pools of fear and confusion. It is hard to look into them. You are afraid to pray.
Grandfather, you may be scared, but we are not. We are praying for you – your grandchildren and children. We know that behind that terrifying veil, there is no pain. We believe in God and that when you meet him, life would not have ravaged you. Raising children, building a home, loosing things in life would all be behind you.
I’d like to think that you would be just a little boy to God, who would envelop you with his wide arms. He would guide you to streams of sparkling water like then ones you would bathe in as a child. You would look in and see your eyes glistening with merriment. There are no lines on your face, no scars that the world gave you. Maybe there would be juicy mangoes that you love there. You could eat them whole, the juices running down your hand and dripping down from your elbow.
Maybe God would pick you up and throw you into the air like your dad used to when you were a little boy and punctuate the air with your laugh that the world hasn’t heard in a long time. Don’t be scared grandpa, we are praying for you. We know that there is no darkness behind the veil, just God waiting to say “Michael, welcome home”