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Monday, September 07, 2009

Thaathaa, Ethavathu Pesungo*...

After remembering him fondly from years ago, seeing my Thaathaa (grandpa) face-to-face was anti-climactic.

Fading faculties, while part of aging, can be quite disconcerting for the near and dear... especially for the ones who see him every day and crumble inside bit by bit.

Watching my aunt's dedicated service, bathing, cleaning, feeding and meeting his daily needs, I felt humbled. It seemed as if Thaathaa was tuned in to only my aunt's frequency and somehow she was the only one who was allowed to get close to him, as close as anybody could.

Considering how staunchly mum he has become, I knew I'd have to make extra effort to draw even a few words out from him, and I didn't know how to deal with it.

So, I did nothing initially. I went about pretending to be oblivious. It seemed easier to busy myself with minding the kids and feeling sorry for my hectic life. Plus, it just broke my heart a bit to note that nothing, not even the presence of the littlest, was strong enough to break his self-imposed vow of silence.

Every once in a while, my mom would go into the room and shed a few tears and I would silently join in hoping nobody noticed, wondering how to reconnect with him.

It took me a while to feel up to getting near him, let alone yell out the words at the top of my lungs near the single working ear.

I would see him walk over to the veranda and sit for a while, walk back to get his meager breakfast/meal, lie down in his room pretty tired from just a few moves, and tell myself that maybe tomorrow, tomorrow I'll feel upto getting him to chat with me somehow.

memories grandpaNo words needed exchanging when the great-grandson stared curiously at his great-grandpa.

If I made the effort to thrust Oggie or Ana in his vicinity, he would turn around and manage a quiet smile.

The day before we were leaving, my mom and I parked ourselves next to his bed, silently hoping he would understand how we felt about him, even if we didn't manage to show it... wondering if any of our efforts made any difference at his ripe old age where all he yearns is to leave the worldly cares behind.

I was elated when he asked me if I was still in Oregon! For him to still remember that I was in Oregon meant he still cared in a semi-detached way.

He asked how old Oggie was. If Ana was going to school.

And when I mustered up the strength to ask unabashedly, "Yen onnume pesa maattengarel?†" I could barely catch the inaudibly mouthed, "Enna irukku pesarathukku?‡"
Why are you not saying anything?
What is there to say?

And somehow, realizing we were leaving shortly, when he managed to rasp chokingly, "Ellarum nanna irukkanam. Vera enna venum enakku? 0", I could feel his detachment to his family, to this world.

(0Everybody should be well. What else do I want?)

But, when he added, "Kozhandaigala jagrathaya parthukko.1", I couldn't help nodding vigorously as I declared loudly, "O Kandippa!"2

And that is exactly what I intend to do, Thaathaa, God-willing.

1Take care of the kids carefully.
2Yes, Certainly!

*Ethavathu Pesungo = Please Say Something, Please Talk to us...

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At 8:44 PM, Anonymous sole said...

Sheela, you know a thatha post a few months ago is when I visited your space first!
It must have been so special to hear those few words from biggest regret to date is not being able to spend time with my thatha. He died when I was just 3 months old! 30 years after his death, even today people talk about him so fondly, wish he could have lived longer!

At 2:58 AM, Anonymous Poppy said...

I had tears in my eyes Sheela - that conversation is so familiar. Have you noticed how all the older people always have the same thought - ellarum nanna irrukanam. That's all they wish - that everybody should be fine, they just simply want to move on to the other realm.

Of all the things that we have to brea on this earth, the cross of not being able to say - 'all my work is done, take me away Lord' is the hardest to bear.

It kills me to see older people suffering, but what is it that they say about Karma et al.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

:sole: so sorry you didn't get your time with your thaathaa... don't they acquire a magical quality when you still hear people talk fondly, recall anecdotes and give us a sense of our lineage?

I never got a chance to meet my paternal grandparents - they both passed on before i was born - and to this day, just the old b/w pictures and the stories my dad tells me is what helps me picture them, and wonder how they will interact with me if they were here today...

:Poppy: You always seem to be tuned into my thoughts so finely. Karma was on my mind too when I saw his suffering... and I used to think that getting the kids & self dressed and ready, and waiting, just waiting a finite amount of time, for D to swing by and take us to the planned-outing was pure torture!


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