In kindred, stories on March 7, 2005 by carinasuyin

I last saw her during Chinese New Year, before the fall. She could still walk and talk a little. She had lost control of most of her bodily functions. Senile dementia has liquefied most of her octogenarian brain. She struggled to recognize her children and grandchildren. She laughed when someone told her it was the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Her hands are as smooth as a baby’s. She has long slender fingers with immaculate fingernails which I wish I had inherited. She is so light. I could lift her easier than a child. Her skin hung onto her bones like a cloak to protect what little remained of her flesh. She has a nasogastric tube attached for feeding as she could no longer eat through her mouth. My heart ached to see the changes in her.

Gently I stroked her hair, amazed at how remarkably smooth and soft it is. Despite her age, she still has a full head of hair, mostly black with hints of grayness. How elegant she looks. Despite being the only mobile limb on her body, her right arm is lightly strapped to the armrest with a bandage to prevent her from pulling out the nasogastric tube. With limited mobility, she fiddles with her blanket, the armrest of the lazy chair and the buttons on her pajamas. Periodically she touches the ring on her left finger or lifts her lifeless left hand as though to check that it is still there.

I am still here…
As I looked at her, my right hand clasped in hers, I felt sebak. I will not cry, I told myself. There is nothing to cry about. She’s old. It is almost time. Just talk to her. Keep her company. Let her know who you are. I traced the spidery veins on her hands and observed the rhythm of her chest going up and down as she struggled occasionally with her breathing. I told her in my tonal-less Hokkien who I am, how old I am, how old my brother and sister are and what each of us are doing now. I told her that we are all really big now. I asked her if she wanted water to sip or to wet her lips.

Deep inside, I wanted to ask her `Why only now?’. I wanted to tell her that I’d love to have been able to be this close to her when I was younger. I would have loved to comb her hair or have her comb mine. I would have told her many stories about my siblings and me – our mischievous exploits, our academic pursuits, our hobbies, our silly conversations… I would have loved to apply Nivea cream on her hands for her and massage her stiff legs. I would have loved to do all this and more. I wished she could have let me do all these when it still mattered.

It doesn’t matter anymore, does it?
I don’t know if she knows who I am. Does she understand my stories? Does she wonder who and why this girl is showering her with so much affection as though it would make up for lost love and lost time? I wonder why it was hard to love me or to have let me love her. We had a whole lifetime and yet in this one moment towards the end of hers, I felt I am closer than I ever had been and thus so privileged.

Tears glistened as it flowed down the side of my grandma’s cheek. I clumsily wiped away the tears on her hands and on my face. I should not cry. Amah does know who I am…


2 Responses to “forgiveness”

  1. Dear Carina,

    Do buy a video camera or borrow one from me to shoot your’ll be a beautiful gift to her and your family…

    Great to get word from you and hope you are well…I see yasmin posted in your you’ve found your mentor…she’s a great person to be with so do grab whatever chances…btw, have a 12 trivia on sepet on my blog.

    Ironically…I got kermit in Germany…saw one in thailand years ago but was expensive so I left it with a heavy heart…funny thing was the one from germany cost far more due to foreign exchange…but I’m like heck…money can be earned…it’s kermit!

    Are you in Singapore or Malaysia?


  2. carina,

    it’s so sad. reading your blog made me even sadder. recently my amah got into hospital because of jaundice and discovered that she has C too. well, at least u can still see yours. i’m too far from her…

    my stories for amah would be through the phone… *sobs*–>

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