At this point in life, I wish there’s a reset button for it. Or rather, a random button that kicks me off into the unknown, the perils and pleasures of a different me, I want it all. At this point, I’d very like to abandon everything that encompasses me. My identity, my family, the bonds and memories of childhood, the bitter throes of favouritism, the harsh words slapped out of my mouth, and the harsh blows slapped by my own hands. I want to forget and drown in a nothingness that is neither me nor another person. I want to evolve beyond mere existence, beyond being confined by a physical body that keeps taking on weight and a heart that is fragile as glass. I thought I was strong. I thought wrong.
With his shit in my hands, the very thought of disappearing and reappearing as another entity unbounded by the norms of what we call as a human being resonates stronger and stronger inside me. I want out. That idea had been buzzing in my head since last Sunday. Or perhaps the Monday after it, when I came to visit him in the hospital. Grandpa was left with a pretty much defunct left when stroke took him by surprise. Or was it really a surprise? I had seen this coming miles away, a year or two before it happened. Now, I just lament at not believing in my own prediction. It wasn’t sudden. It was a series of negligence, both ours and his. But pointing fingers won’t undo it. A root cause analysis may as well be a topic for coffee talk and an ignition point for heated debates, family quarrels, and a good distraction from the task at hand; the care and need of grandpa in his current sad state. But one thing such analysis can’t do is the fixing up of a broken man.
I was not close with my maternal grandfather. Well, not emotionally. My feelings toward him were borderline indifferent. Borderline because there’s still a grace of warmth, the one you get out of familial love, and because there’s also a tinge of hate splashed on me from the rift between him and abah. They both hate each other, was what I told myself a few years back, about ten or so, when they were squabbling about a piece of land. They can’t fit in together, like pieces from two different puzzle sets. And perhaps they will never be able to achieve complete harmony between them. The most they can squeeze out of what little tolerance they have towards each other is a stalemate peaceful scenario which had transpired throughout almost all of abah’s and ummi’s married life. But the core feeling they have remain unchanged all this time.
They hate each other to the bone.
And I hate it when any one of them talks bad about the other. They look petty. They look pathetic, but I can’t mutter my thoughts on their thoughts unless wanting to be labelled emotional and an ungrateful ingrate. They bring with them an image of strength, abah in the brains department, grandpa in the brawns section. But when they have to say anything about the other, they shatter that image into a million tiny pieces, and tiny too they become. Small men with small stinking hearts, and I’m no better than any of them.
Grandpa always look at me and my brother with a somewhat disgusted look. That was what I thought 20 years back. With time, the disgusted look gradually disappear into nothingness, into indifference. Perhaps, in his mind, I am the product of an ingrate who came in and took his daughter’s hand while throwing tradition to the curb. And thus, his sin is my sin. Maybe that’s what goes on in his mind. He acted courteous to me and my brother when we were kids, but never did I remember him acting lovingly. It was different from how he treated my cousins. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of smiles, a lot of love brimming between them. Then when another uncle of mine got married to some divorcee, he showered his and her daughters with more love than my cousins before them. But not me and my brother. Not us.
I never cared about it, but grandma did, I think. She always worry about that stuff, when I had no room to care about it. And when she opened her mouth on that matter, it became apparent that she was aware of grandpa playing favourites. I told her that I was somehow aware of it too, but I do not give a damn about it, more so it being in the past. But she kept on saying that it was not right, and for the wrongness in her husband’s actions, she apologized when none is needed.
But perhaps her worries are justified. Perhaps her worries hold reason. And it became clear for when grandpa got stroke’d, I was not particularly worried about his life. I do feel sympathy, I am worried about his condition, but it feels hollow. That somehow disappointed me. It is as if I have no heart. But there’s logic behind the course of hypocrisy that had taken hold of my heart, and that logic is what grandma had feared all this time. It’s payback for favouritism. Try as I might, I am still convinced that grandpa is best dead than suffering any more and bringing those around him to suffer too. Those are my genuine thoughts since the day I visited him in the hospital, and for those thoughts, I feel disgusted at myself. I am a product of his product, his flesh and blood, but those are the genuine thoughts that course through me even at this very moment, and I can’t change it.
I do not like to care for him in the hospital, I do not like the discussions my parents and aunts and uncles, my grandpa’s children and grandchildren have about him, and as of now, I do not like him at all. But seeing him unable to even clean himself after shitting made my heart break. On the first visit, I had phlegm in the back of my throat and was thinking of disposing it after exiting the premise. He was choking on his own phlegm, unable to even accomplish the simple task of spitting. And then a cousin uttered in a low voice:
And what was lent to us will be taken back one by one.
And shattered it went, my non-existent heart.
Perhaps, even after all that I think about and after all that I write, perhaps, and truly perhaps, after all that had transpired all these years, I still care and love him. I am still his flesh and blood after all.
May Allah grant what’s best for you with utmost ease, atok.
26th December 2016