My grandmother passed away last week. She was 87 years old and had been long suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She had had a fall in May which had her bedridden post-surgery. In all honesty, all of us were a little relieved for her that her suffering was finally over. Over the past few years every time we’d talk, she’d mention how she just wanted this painful life to be over. For context, Parkinson’s disease is a nervous disorder that leaves the sufferer unable to do even basic tasks and it presently doesn’t have a cure. My grandmother was diagnosed around 12-13 years back and the disease slowly took over her body and life.
But this post isn’t about the disease. I’ve always had a weird equation with my grandmother. Before you start judging, we loved each other a lot but our equation varied a lot over the 3 decades of my life. A huge part of the problem was a communication barrier and distance. My grandmom lived in our ancestral home in our home village in Karnataka – over 2000km away. I am also not that fluent in our local language (which is Tulu) whereas my grandmother couldn’t converse in English – leading to conversations where we didn’t always understand each other.
Some of our differences also arose from the fact that I was brought up in a very different way by a mother who didn’t follow traditions and my grandmother was extremely traditional having lived in our home village all her life. When I was a kid, we’d spend all our school summer break in our home village with my grandmother and I hated it. We never got to go anywhere else. It was always burning hot and our village didn’t get 24 hours electricity at that time (25 years back). Our house had a huge orchard where my grandmother grew fruits to sell and because of that we often had a variety of insects, snakes, and a ton of lizards around – I have always been terrified of lizards (yes, more than the snakes). So I detested that house for the longest time and then my grandmother fell ill and then it just saddened me to go to the house and see her get weaker with every visit.
So when I received the news of her passing. I did feel relief for her but also a lot of pain for all the things I hadn’t said to her over the years and a lot of guilt for not having gone to meet her. I had always heard that unspoken words haunt you but never experienced it because I’ve never lost anyone close to me before. I don’t want these words to haunt me forever, so I’m writing them down in this post. Things that I had wished I had told my grandmum while she was with us –
- I marvel at your strength. When grandpa died 27 years back, you picked up all the skills needed to not only run the house without him but also run a business. Your strength always impressed me.
- I wish you weren’t so attached to that house and would have come to visit us when you could travel. (my grandmum refused to leave that house because my grandpa built it for her and their family)
- I wish I had learned to be more fluent in Tulu to be able to talk to you on the phone more often.
- I’m sorry that I didn’t come to meet you more often. I wish I had spent more time with you.
- I love you.
I also have to say that my dad and his siblings were amazing kids to my grandmom. My grandmom refused to move out of her house despite her worsening health. My dad and his siblings all live in different cities across India. But they came up with a routine 5-6 years back where they each would stay with her for 2-3 weeks and then the next sibling would come live with her – so that one of them was with her always. (Puts a lot of pressure on me to be a good kid to my parents.)
This is your Sunday reminder – if you’ve been putting off telling someone special how much they mean to you – do it now! Unspoken words hurt.
PS: I’ve spent the whole weekend in my room dealing with my anxiety – thought putting my feelings into a post would make me feel better.