This year's birthday is most definitely the most mundane of them all. Grandpa was not well and was lying sick in bed. Despite receiving a few offers to hang out together on my special day from a few friends, I had to turn them all down and go out to the city all alone.
I thought that maybe having lunch alone and perhaps watching a movie all by myself might take away all the pain I was feeling. I should have been at home with my family, sharing their grief. But what could I do? God has sent me all the way here for a purpose. That sacrifice had to be made. Still, I so wanted to be my family's side then.
Early in the morning, I had a call from mum. I didn't answer it, because I was temperamental with her for quite some time. Typical attention seeker, I am. But also, I was still sleepy. So, I didn't bother enquiring why she had called. But as I got ready to leave for the city center, I had this bugging feeling that I should call home and see if everything was alright.
I called dad. The tone of his voice was not casual. But he promised me everything was alright. I was a little offended that he didn't even wish me happy birthday, as the wishes from my family is always most important to me. Call me selfish, but yes - despite everything going on back home, I was still thinking of me, me and me.
Then at the city, after I had treated myself to a nice, sumptuous lunch to get over everything that has been stressing me out, I headed for the cinema. Just as I bought my ticket and was hanging around as I waited for the movie to start, dad called. He told me something that just made my heart stop beating for a second or two.
Grandpa had passed away earlier that day.
I talked to mum. Oh, gosh! How I wish I was there by her side. She could hardly talk. All she could say was to pray for Grandpa. I don't know why. But my heart and mind just blanked out - like a book full of writing being erased thoroughly, word by word. Only, I was not sure if I was consciously holding the eraser or not. My feet just carried me into the cinema, where I watched the movie for an hour and a half.
As I got to the bus to return to campus, the truth just hit me. Grandpa was no more. I would miss his jokes, his laughter, his sarcasm... everything about him. Since coming here, I had hardly spoken to him. Stupid me. Stupid, effed up me. If only I had realized much earlier what was truly important....
I was never Grandpa's closest grandson. I use to get mad at him all the time as I was always the victim of his sarcastic comments. But towards the end of his life, he lived mostly as a different man then when I knew him as a child. His right hand became paralyzed, preventing him for doing most of the work he liked - like traveling on his motorcycle and tending to his farm.
The image of the strong, energetic and youthful Grandpa was almost completely wiped out from my mind. Instead, there was the somber, sarong-wearing, bearded, lifeless old man that had replaced that. He could hardly walk from one place to another after an accident he encountered when I was seven. I remember walking him around the temple, holding his hand half-heartedly as he often walked slowly and all I wanted to do was get away and do something esle. But despite noticing my insincerity in helping him walk, Grandpa would still hold on to me with all his might and simply smile it off, also showing his thankfullness by telling me how grateful he was that I'd take him around, and that he was sorry I was such a nunsance to him. Back then, in my heart - my cold, black, devilish heart, I would just say to myself, "Whatever..."
Back in my room, I just let go. Sobbed all day... thinking of all those times when I could have told Grandpa that I loved him... and that I was sorry I was such a dick to him, while his love for me was genuine and unconditional.
I did not tell anyone about this. I did not need anyone's sympathy. After what I did, I deserve none. I decided to fast for a week. I told friends that a close buddy from my childhood had died, when in reality it was someone more than that.
Later that week, mum got better and she had made peace with Granpa's death. She told me my youngest aunt, who had just gotten married was on her way to Taiping from KL, but did not make it to see Grandpa. But there was that satisfaction in her that he was there for her wedding day. Another uncle from Ipoh also did not make it to see Grandpa as he could not leave his business before letting his partner know. He too, was too late. Mum also mentioned that Grandpa always spoke highly of me to his friends. I was the first of his children and grandchildren to go study abroad. He was very proud of me, and even Grandma often had to remind him that he always told the same story over and over again to the same friend.
But then, life goes on. Despite knowing a 'childhood friend' who is very close to my heart had died, a friend of mine had the audacity to tell me to choose between her and another friend of ours whom she had a big fight with. When I told her that I would never take sides as I love both of them equally, she became mad and avoided me for the next few days. Only today, I saw her sobbing dramatically over her phone. I feared the worst, that a similar tragedy had fallen upon her or something. When I text messaged her about it, all she complained about was me not taking her side and that I had to choose from either one of us. When I said I was not taking sides, she got pissed off and did the most awful and insensitive thing a friend could do... something too horrible that I cannot even mention. Thank God I did not tell her it was my grandfather and not some friend who died, or the pain of her insensitiveness would have been even more unbearable.
But, see? I'm making it all about myself again. I should be mourning for Grandpa, not talking about some insignificant, PMS-stricken self-centered turkey. Whatever... I just wish I could have been there with mum that day.
Today, a close friend lost her grandma and she posted in on Facebook. In the spur of the moment, I told her to stay calm and that since my grandpa had recently left me too, I could relate to her situation. Perhaps some might see it as attention-seeking, but it was a mere accident.
I suppose that's life. You value someone only when they have left you. But now I know, that I should always respect and love my loved ones while I still have the time, because they might not be around forever.
Aum... Lord please take care of Tata... and place him alongside you and the ones You love... Aum...