The hardest thing to do, is to say…
My grandpa passed away almost eight years ago. A solitary tear rolled down my cheek as my relatives wept, as I watched the misery on Grandma’s face, as I heard the flat-line from the heart monitor, as the medical staff methodically pronounced him dead. At his funeral, I did not shed a single tear. I remember how thin, how frail, how different he seemed before he was cremated, behind the glass, lying on the metal bed, in a room with bleak white tiles that looked almost grey.
For the next two years, I cried over his death in the shower every night. It was the only time I was sure no one would hear me. I did not tell anyone about it, until now. Sometimes I’d lean against the wall, watching my tears mixed with the water that flowed down the drain; other times I’d sit in the bath, arms wrapped around legs, knees drawn to chest, feeling the water pouring over my head, trickling down my hair.
I promised him, years ago, that I would be the top, get a number one at something, academically. I was close; I got second place in the science exam in Grade 8. But that was the closest I ever got. It’s my greatest regret.
It’s a promise I failed to keep.
It never occurred to me that he’d leave us one day. He always seemed so healthy, taking me and my brother to the playground and pushed us on the swing; waiting at the school-bus stop with us; reading newspaper with his glasses on; or bringing us Koala’s March cookies whenever he visited. I remember the old building he lived in; how his flat looked; the wooden sofa which I used to hate; the dozens of framed pictures on the walls; the little fridge in the living room where we got our Vitasoy drinks; the laundry machine with newspaper covering its top, acting as a counter surface; the big electric fan on his tiny desk; the top bunk he slept in, which I always wondered how he got up there when the ladder was buried between the closet and the pile of shirts; the two kumquat plants he kept in the kitchen, which he would let us pick a leaf before we left on Sunday nights, as a symbol of safety on our way home. He didn’t get to live in, or even just see the new flat granted by public housing in the very summer he died.
Plants withered; furniture and appliances discarded; building demolished. Luxury property erected at where my grandfather’s home once stood. Structures can be rebuilt, but Grandpa can’t come back; his cool, overworked hands won’t be warm again. No one left to push us on the swing.
I never visit the new real estate built upon the once familiar land. I fear it will contaminate what little is left, the very memories I hold on to so tightly, the pieces I lock in a chest in my heart to prevent them from slipping away.
He didn’t recognize us in his last days. He appeared to be thinner and frailer every time we visited; he had trouble speaking and eating, even understanding what was going on around him. It would be considered a good day if he could sit up for a while and communicate with us a little. I couldn’t fathom how a man who seemed so healthy one day could fall ill and deteriorate so much the next. But I knew I needed to look after my younger cousins and brother from then on.
Perhaps a part of me had broken off, and died with him the day he breathed his last breath. You see, I’m not good at coping with loss. I act all tough on the outside, but hide the grief from everyone, including myself. I have remained a little broken from that day onward. There is no scar when the wound is still bleeding.
Being one of the most important songs in my life, it signifies how I feel towards my grandpa’s death. There is nothing I wouldn’t give, just to spend one more day with him, talk to him for one last time, but I also fear I wouldn’t be able to let go again. Perhaps I never had, and never will.
I tell myself I have to take care of my brother and younger cousins, have to be mature, but deep down I know I don’t want to grow up; I’m afraid of growing up. Not because of the responsibilities, but because loss is always more than gain; because people whom I care about will leave me, will pass away, one by one, till one day no one is left.
Because it is too painful to say goodbye.
Writing 101 – Assignments 3 + 4; first installment in the trilogy.