A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell

A Story by Agyani

“Why on Earth is that man crouching on that house’s roof?” said grandma in her speculative, shallow voice.

“I don’t know, grandma. He’s probably busy reflecting on his vicissitudes in life.”

I let a few seconds pass before turning my head to see what my grandmother was looking at. We were sitting on the sofa set in our spacious lobby and she was facing the side door. The crow perched on the tapered roof in question sprang and flew out of my sight on cue. I threw a brief glance towards my grandmother before turning my attention back to Oscar Wilde’s wisdom.

I’d often heard people mention how someone they knew died a good death. This phrase always annoyed me. How can someone die a good death? One might say the amount of pain and suffering involved in the final moments is a good indication of how good or bad their death was. But that doesn’t change the end result. Besides, I’ve always considered people who die in their sleep, the usual poster-people of the ‘good death’ proponents, to be extremely unlucky. It’s terribly sad to sleep and never wake up. It leaves the dying in an inescapable limbo. All their affairs left out of order, all the important things left unsaid.

It wasn’t because I had just discovered and subsequently gotten entranced by Oscar Wilde’s works that such thoughts invaded my mind as I sat looking at my grandmother’s worried and confused face. It was because as her mind played scenes from her past, mine was intent on showing me the future; a future where the seat to my right would be unoccupied.

I put the book down and sat gazing at the spot vacated by the crow. It wasn’t the first time my grandmother had said something like that, and it wasn’t the first time I’d heard an elderly person make such a remark. But what if the things they say and see are real?

What if the brain, to see things not visible to the average eye, has to undergo a process that deteriorates its general functioning but boosts one’s receptiveness to things unknown and invisible? After all, there are many who argue that you don’t remember any of your previous lives because your brain can’t bear the burden of even one lifetime. If there is a school of thought that says babies cannot talk because they know secrets of the universe, then why is it so hard to believe in an elderly person’s heightened perceptiveness to the hidden? People have believed in stranger things.

I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. I simply stood up and walked my grandmother to her room.

“But my daughter hasn’t returned yet and I must go look for her,” she said anxiously.

“She’ll be back soon, grandma. Your son has gone to get her. They’re on their way.”

“Oh. Well, okay. I will give her an earful though. It’s becoming a habit of hers to be absent without any notice!” she said, taking my explanation half-heartedly. I could see that she was unconvinced and she still worried, but she was also aware of her frail body. No matter how much her mind forced her to live in the past, her body muddled her consciousness by showing her reality empirically.  

Her room wasn’t adjacent to mine but I have always had sharp ears. Since it was an early winter evening, there was little noise in the streets. It would be no problem hearing her call out to someone from her past, desperate for them to return and take her from this place she didn’t recognise as her house anymore.

I never tried reasoning with my grandmother when she said something preposterously wrong. I’d seen family and relatives try and fail enough to follow the same path. When you look after a grandparent, you have to learn from what you see and not just do as you’re told. Taking care of someone in need isn’t done as per your comfort or thinking. It has to be governed by the situation of the one who needs the care.

When you start thinking like that, you start taking care of the person without even realising it. It’s usually a collection of trivial things. You might try to make a symphony out of those little gestures of care, but there’s no fooling anyone that it’s actually a requiem. It might feel smothering, but it’s only going to be for a short time. Oh, the irony.

I always felt my grandmother’s natural clock of life had stopped months or maybe a couple of years before she breathed her last breath. Medical science delayed that eventuality as long as it could. Her final days followed the usual path. The geriatrics and neurologists tried their hand before she was handed over to the Ayurvedics. All the while my parents and relatives would have known that these were but gas stations and small eateries on the highway she was on. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. People understand. So did I.

But the one silver lining - if there’s ever a silver lining in these cases - was that she smiled more often in her final days than I had seen her smile all my life. She would even chuckle as babies do; without any reason and only requiring someone to look at them with a jovial expression. As days passed, her body’s functioning deteriorated at an alarming rate. Different tests revealed lack of a variety of vital elements in her body. But her smile remained an unchanging feature.

I remember saying to myself at one point during her last days that I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. I wanted to keep things the way they were before she had really started to lose her way. Her condition was far from ideal then, but it wasn’t terminal either. However, there was a fine balance that hardly ever comes in someone’s life. She didn’t have to do much work, slept well, could eat most things she liked and had all her sons and daughters close to her. For the person she was, there was little else she’d ever wanted. My own life had that elusive balance then.

If someone were to ask me today whether I wished to keep things as they were for my sake or for her, I would say it was for my sake, for that’s the truth. But if I were to be granted that wish now, I wouldn’t wish for the days I had in mind earlier. I would now wish for the days just before she got admitted to the hospital. The reason for that is the picture that hangs in my home. The happiness on her face escapes the confines of the picture frame and saunters all over the viewer’s field of vision.

It is reminiscent of the days when she didn’t have a clue where she was and who the youngster sitting with her was. But my one lingering memory of those days is that despite the unfamiliarity of her surroundings, she would break into a smile when I smiled at her. It showed me that when you have a connection with someone, you don’t need your brain to tell you how to react. Your body reacts reflexively, and none of those reflexes is wrong.



The last time that all her children gathered together and spent time together without wearing glum faces, my grandmother mixed up their identities quite a bit. She spoke little because she knew deep inside that her words would seem absurd to others and she wasn’t one who could take a single blot on her pride. Most elderly people are.

“Was it not Shakespeare who said people resemble their infant self when they are old and frail?” my aunt said when she observed her smiling but timid face. There was a murmur of agreement within the gathering. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t agree with it, but I didn’t voice my disagreement either. I knew it was futile to show them my viewpoint.

When I walked my grandmother to her room after everyone had left, I couldn’t help but think about the way she had lived her life. While she needed my support to walk during the final days of her life, she had depended on my grandfather all her life. All her children, following the example set forth by their father - an uncommonly kind soul �" ensured that she never had to learn to get things done by herself. Like many women of her time, she had restricted herself to looking after the house and her kids, with little or no knowledge of how things worked in the wide world outside her domestic boundaries. For most the walls of the house would be prison bars. For her, they were the edge of the map.

Old age is merciless to such people, for they are unable to get involved in the housework they’ve done and known all their lives. That’s the only thing they’ve ever learned, and when they lose their ability to do household chores, they lose their foothold on things. Their kids are all grown up and live away from them, and if their husbands have passed on, then it’s a precarious situation alright.

“But you don’t care about all that, do you?” I said. She merely looked at me with her eyebrows raised and a smile on her face. That was the one thing I could do to amuse myself without being rude or insolent towards her. I could reflect on things by talking to myself, and she wouldn’t mind in the least. You could call it a symbiotic relationship; she needed me for support, I needed her for this growing practice of mine.

But this doesn’t mean that we didn’t have problems in this bond of ours. There were times when she would refuse to listen to any of my assurances and arguments to pacify her. There were times when she would glare at me with unrestrained rage and when I would return that gaze with a similar one. There were also times when she would surprise me with a loudness in her voice I thought she had lost the capability to use, and I would surprise us both with a pitch and crispness in my voice I never thought I’d use against someone much older and related to me. She would forget it all in a matter of hours, but those episodes would stay with me, reminding me of the work in progress my patience and tolerance was, and serving as an example of behaviours to control.

It’s strange to wish for someone you know to die, but stranger still is to wish so without any malice. It’s as peculiar a thing as being okay with someone you love with all your heart to live away from you and have a life of their own. Unless you are the reason for their unhappiness, I can’t wrap my head around that situation. Love, like most primal emotions, is selfish in nature. It’s not that you don’t care about the person or don’t make all efforts possible to keep them happy. But the fact remains that you do those things to make yourself happy. Don’t let anything or anyone convince you to think otherwise.

I wished my grandmother dead on many occasions simply because I knew that prolonging her life would only hurt and disgrace her further. It’s for that reason that when I learned she had been put on a ventilator, my first feeling was of relief. No tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw her lifeless body being laid down on the floor for the final rituals to be conducted. I watched her intently as relatives read passages from the Bhagvad Gita and mourned her. It hurt me to see her, but not because she was dead. It was because of the anguish that had become a permanent form of her face due to her suffering in her final days.

It’s for that reason that her picture is so dear to me. It helps me remember her as I had seldom seen her but how she looked best. The picture reminds me that at the time, her memories were few and jumbled, and she was constantly lost trying to decipher and link them together when alone. But when she was with others, she didn’t have any shackles on her. She had lived an entire life keeping herself in check and never fully expressing herself. It took the deterioration of her brain to give her the freedom and courage to break free from it. I hadn’t known her all her life, but I had known her long enough to know this.

But thanks to that photograph of her - the photograph of one lost in their memories and unable to create new ones - she was free. Her body had been freed from this world, but it was that photograph that made me realize the fact. It was a desire caught in a photograph, which is now a memory. No, it’s more than a memory. I’m no photographer, but as an observer, I can say that it’s rare to see emotions oozing out of a photograph. Those emotions of joy and tranquillity envelop the onlooker and arouse similar emotions in them. So it’s more than a memory; it’s a fond farewell. 

© 2018 Agyani


Author's Note

Agyani
Comments on everything about this piece welcome

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Featured Review

This is one of the most multi-layered & authentic things I've read about this topic. At first, I marveled at your command of English construction becuz you use complex sentences upon complex sentences in ways that natural-born English speakers usually never master (pardon my assumption you are not a natural English speaker, being from India). The drawback of your amazing sentence-crafting is that the first part of this piece is not as engaging as the rest. At this point: "I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it . . . " your story becomes more engaging (to the end) becuz you dive into the day-to-day details more than philosophical pondering, altho your analysis along the way is always fresh & honest. You deliver your observations in a sure-footed way, as if your experience represents all, but I disagree with some of your conclusions, seeing this from an old person's point of view myself. But your sure-footedness (even tho I disagree with some points) it's a refreshing way to deliver this monologue about caring for your grandma (which I assume is real life becuz nobody could make this up). It's as if your somewhat controlling way of delivering your old-age observations could represent how you've become accustomed to assisting your grandma as she soldiers on. People tend to stop discussing things with an older person. It becomes more like being ordered around or corrected much of the time. That's why I do not consider it to be the ideal situation to be surrounded by loved ones as one approaches death, (I think I remember you implying at some point). I'm only giving you contrary feedback on some aspects of your delivery becuz your storytelling & writing are top-notch, so that doesn't need to be said every time! *wink! wink!* Fondly, Margie

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

I did not mean that generalizations are numerous "here" (in your writing) . . . I meant "here" (in t.. read more
Agyani

4 Years Ago

Haha, I don't just hate generalization in my writing, or any writing, I hate it everywhere!
.. read more
barleygirl

4 Years Ago

AMEN! *smile*



Reviews

This is one of the most multi-layered & authentic things I've read about this topic. At first, I marveled at your command of English construction becuz you use complex sentences upon complex sentences in ways that natural-born English speakers usually never master (pardon my assumption you are not a natural English speaker, being from India). The drawback of your amazing sentence-crafting is that the first part of this piece is not as engaging as the rest. At this point: "I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it . . . " your story becomes more engaging (to the end) becuz you dive into the day-to-day details more than philosophical pondering, altho your analysis along the way is always fresh & honest. You deliver your observations in a sure-footed way, as if your experience represents all, but I disagree with some of your conclusions, seeing this from an old person's point of view myself. But your sure-footedness (even tho I disagree with some points) it's a refreshing way to deliver this monologue about caring for your grandma (which I assume is real life becuz nobody could make this up). It's as if your somewhat controlling way of delivering your old-age observations could represent how you've become accustomed to assisting your grandma as she soldiers on. People tend to stop discussing things with an older person. It becomes more like being ordered around or corrected much of the time. That's why I do not consider it to be the ideal situation to be surrounded by loved ones as one approaches death, (I think I remember you implying at some point). I'm only giving you contrary feedback on some aspects of your delivery becuz your storytelling & writing are top-notch, so that doesn't need to be said every time! *wink! wink!* Fondly, Margie

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

I did not mean that generalizations are numerous "here" (in your writing) . . . I meant "here" (in t.. read more
Agyani

4 Years Ago

Haha, I don't just hate generalization in my writing, or any writing, I hate it everywhere!
.. read more
barleygirl

4 Years Ago

AMEN! *smile*
This is exactly the type of death I pray for, for myself and for my loved ones. I think only saints and the very blessed die so surrounded by their loved ones, so well cared for and looked after. The body is destructible. Her spirit rejoices at the love with which she was bid farewell. Superb writing Agyani!

Posted 4 Years Ago


Agyani

4 Years Ago

I guess the type of death we want differs for everyone. But I do agree it is fortunate to meet the G.. read more
Dhara_Ditzy Kat

4 Years Ago

You are welcome
(Jeff) Theave this poor person to greave for grandma afteral she wrote a nice peace of trash about her

Posted 4 Years Ago


(Jeff) Micky, dont be mean.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Agyani

4 Years Ago

This was the only comment (I can't call them reviews) that I could understand. Trolling is not the t.. read more
The Immortal  Phoenix

4 Years Ago

(Jeff) Hashtag ouch. Jeff 1 Micky 0
(Micky) I laughed when the grandma died. no one cairs about you when you die.

Posted 4 Years Ago


I found this piece to be well written, and I like the depth of thought on this subject that some may find too difficult to write about with such honesty and introspection. There is a complexity to the subject that could come off as callous, but I think you've addressed it in a way that is clear and kind. A very interesting read.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Agyani

4 Years Ago

I'm glad that you found this interesting, Melissa. What's written here and what happened in reality .. read more
This one pulled hard my heart strings. I felt like it was telling stories of memory of my life. Only difference is I was caring for my grandpa. Great story. My only problem with it. It sounds more like a essay.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Agyani

4 Years Ago

Hi

Thanks for the comment.

Hmm, I never saw it that way. But now that.. read more

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Added on August 21, 2018
Last Updated on September 1, 2018
Tags: old age, death, suffering, bond, relations, memories

Author

Agyani
Agyani

India



About
A novelist by heart, but a freelance ghostwriter by necessity. It's only pen and paper (or my keyboard) that help me 'show' who I am and not just 'be' who I am. I am a storyteller and try to m.. more..

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