“One day all of a sudden we all have to go. We go to make space for good things, better human beings. But that does not mean life will stop for you. Remember work is life, dream is life, not stopping ever is life. We’ll be alive in your thoughts and stories,” my grandmother told me. I remember, I didn’t understand anything, except the part “One day, we all have to go,” which made me cry. I was in my pre-teen years and my grandparents were the grandest part of my life then.
A week and a few disturbing days ago, my very handsome and charming grandfather passed away. I was 6000 miles away from many loved ones already, so I did not bother to count the distance between us that time. It was like a cloudy horizon, an invisible line that no one cared to erase.
From the time I heard the news, my days became kind of restless. I worked more. I read more. I wrote more. I stayed out more. I did more laundry. I thought less. Usually those things I do to woo away my mind from grief, whenever grief knocks on the door. I don’t cry, mostly, even though sometimes that seems the best solution. I didn’t want to gift tears to the person who gave me gorgeous memories. I didn’t know if giving back anything was possible ever. But then on third day I cried. It was not hard; wiping sadness that way was pretty much easy and cathartic.
For a year now we all wished him peace. He was in lots of pain after a surgery. Living was quite painful for him. Philosophically though I felt, death healed his wounds. We discussed a lot about his health, life, achievements for years. Sometimes you value a man by his wisdom, sometimes by age, and sometimes by his success. He was a man of immeasurable grace, wisdom and success. We go through so much hardship to make our life beautiful and then one accident takes everything away within a second. “All of a sudden” is not my favorite term, but it appears so frequently. Everything in life is so fleeting, except nostalgia. Nostalgia is permanent, maybe because it appears like an illusion after a while, maybe because it’s unreachable.
Sometimes I think, this whole growing up process in life is a paradox. When I was a child, all I wanted was to grow up and live my dreams. Now, most of the times, I look back and wish if I could change the time, if I could stop people leaving me this way.
My grandfather was a kind and hardworking man. Just like every other middle class family man. In my very much unsettled childhood his wonderful home seemed like the permanent address for me, like a welcoming place where I could go back anytime. His telephone number was the first number that I could memorize and use, pretty frequently. I was happy to have a set of people who my parents were scared of. How amusing was that! I could call him and Grandmother anytime to express all emotions, complain about all the sweet things I had to eat, or how my mom forgot to switch on the TV on certain Sundays, or why they did not visit me during holidays! They answered all my questions and solved all my problems. Almost all summer vacations I spent with them. Almost all festivals we celebrated together.
“You have to be very strong so that I can depend on you when I’m old,” he used to tell me.
“You cannot grow old. You cannot.”
In India, in last 4 decades parents hardly focused on building their daughter’s emotional strength. India, with all its heritage and mixed culture, mostly taught daughters to behave, to cook, to sacrifice everything to make an unknown family a home. My grandparents were slightly different. They were always a part of my mother’s life, they didn’t abandon their daughter after sending her to a different family, they encouraged her to take new paths; they gifted me the brightest, the strongest mom, not like the usual women I saw during growing up years. I’m forever grateful to my grandparents for that.
My mom once said, “Love is pretty much one-directional. It flows downward. We’re giving our love, life, and time to you, you’ll give all of them to you next generation. Sometimes it’s selfish, it’s hard. But that’s how generations are built.”
I remember, I protested, ”No, love does not have any direction. It flows where it wants to flow. In our family love floats everywhere, almost like the picture of Brownian motion of the particle theory.” “Other than that, I call you every day,” I had to add that too.
Now, I feel my mom was correct. In last decade, I hardly could meet my grandparents. I was travelling to places, meeting new people, living my dream, and replacing old memories. In short, I didn’t have time for them anymore. But my grandparents always had time for me. Whenever I called them on their birthdays and anniversary, they both reminded me of my old days with them. We three felt happier each time we spoke. A part of me wanted to be with them, just like the old time. But life didn’t happen that way. We move forward. Most probably to follow the confusing direction of love. We confine our past in a bag of nostalgia that continuously calls us back. We hardly get time for people who made us what we are today. That’s life. Very common story. Now I’ll have to relive my nostalgia for the rest of my life. I have to store all amazing childhood anecdotes for my next generation, just how my mom envisioned.
In this busy and ephemeral world, when people give their children every modern gadget and world-wide holiday memory, I sometimes wonder if those children will ever have amazing memories like the ones I have; memories of summer vacations with grandparents, memories of freedom from books and school work to be with two amazing people, memories of favorite food in Grandmother’s kitchen, memories of lullabies and fairy-tales, memories of hearing grandfather’s wise life journey, memories of knowing their role-models and reading their books, memories of two people who never stopped loving me since the time I was born, memories of selfless love that nothing ever could replace, at least, in my life. Those memories are more precious than all the stories of my world travel.
One day, all of a sudden, we all have to go. I wish we could keep the good ones forever!