My grandpa passed away this morning.
I didn’t really know him well; I think we were close when I was a child, but he was sick for most of my adolescent and adult life. Nearly all the clear memories I have of him are from when he was frail, small, and old. I can’t really remember much about what he looked like before old age tainted him.
I do, however, vaguely remember some things about him and our relationship that I want to write down now so I never forget. First, I remember how he would take me to the park when I was little. Every time I visited Mumbai, I vaguely remember walking hand in hand with him, my little one in his big, strong one. I can remember the path to the park, I think. Or maybe I remember the path to a different park, ugh, I don’t know. But anyways, I remember that there was a Ferris wheel outside that park. A really small one, manned by the guy who pushed it so it spun. I would always beg to go on the Ferris wheel, I think I even did from time to time. The park had a small lake with a frog or a toad. I don’t know if it was real or just a decoration, but I would always love looking at that toad with my grandpa by my side.
I also remember our walks back from the park, close to sundown, when all the bats were flying overhead. There used to be so many bats. I never ceased to be amazed by them.
I remember how he would, without missing a single day, sit 3 feet from the television, the microphone of his hearing aid propped against the TV speakers, and watch the evening news. I spent many a day fascinated by him when he did that. His dedication to do so was unwavering. I think I really loved him.
I remember how he’d grind his teeth, the shaving blades he used to shave, and the way he brushed his teeth. I remember the way he smelled. I remember the tattoo he had on his arm – of his father’s name. Ram. The ink had faded to blue on his old skin; the letters were now wrinkled from the loss of fat and muscle. But it was his father’s name.
As I got older and he got older, I watched him get weaker, smaller, and frailer with each visit to Mumbai. His hands were wrinkled, no longer the strong and big ones I was used to. His voice was fading, his vision was worsening, and his hearing was as good as gone. It was harder to communicate with him. But I think I really loved this man. I respected him, revered him. He raised my father. He raised a man who is principled, hardworking, and has traveled the world. My father loved grandpa, and as hard as it was for me to see my grandpa slowly fading away, my father’s pain was palpable. He loved this man like no other.
I remember one of my last coherent interactions with him. It was years ago, maybe when I was 18 or 19. Possibly younger. He was telling me about his life when he was young. The things he’d done, the school he attended. He was telling me about his experiences. The full, beautiful life he lived. I can barely remember it. But in those moments when he was describing his lifetime to me, he came alive. Suddenly he wasn’t old, small, or frail. Suddenly he was energetic, excited, and verbose. Suddenly, he possessed all the knowledge in the world, and I could learn from it. I remember the scene quite well. We were sitting on the bed, me leaning against the wall and him sitting at the edge. He used his hands quite a bit when he spoke. Like I said, he came alive.
I think he has lived an incredible life. He was loved, respected, and cared for. But old age is cruel. He was sick for so long, and we all knew that this day would come. But his presence was so constant. He was still there. He was always there.
If I had known that the last time I saw him, before I left the country, was the last I’d ever see of him, I would have done so much. Said so much. I would have asked for his blessing, and I would have liked his hand on my head one last time. I would have liked to hear my name from his lips one last time. I don’t know.
My father’s pain right now must be immeasurable. I think that was the person he loved most in this world. My grandma’s pain right now must be heartwrenching. They were married for more than 60 years, I think.
How can the world keep spinning and life move on after a loss like this one?