My thoughts are often morbid but they don’t start out like that. Lately, however, a transformation that I cannot recall, happening, drifts my morbid thoughts off to a place of soothe, a certain acceptance that almost bears happiness.
The sun glaring through the kitchen window blocks my vision. I have been planning to reposition the couch but something intercepts me on my way. I never know what it is.
“We should call grandma more often,” I say to my sister, blocking the sun so I can see her, “especially tomorrow.” She had eye surgery and is going back for her check-up.
Her eyes hurt and itch, and she has long stopped complaining about the pain in her bones because she is sure she is beginning to exhaust our ears. She can only eat certain foods.
She was young once, grandma, as we all are in the beginning.
With children, it is all hope and aspiration from the moment they land on the planet. The exit of the womb is the entrance into something grand. You stand in the gateway of their beginning, looking far into everything that lies ahead, often just hopes and plans that don’t go as precedented, but at least you have hope, something to look forward to. Even a change in plan, a diversion from a dream, only leads you into something else. You never run out of dreams to dream, the will to change course. It is a rise and descent. There is just an abundance of motion in the direction of things you desire, even people sometimes. You fall in and out of love, and fall in and out of love and fall back in love, concurrently running your career, starting a business, doing charity work, traveling, creating a social life…you are a rolling stone gathering moss.
But then slowly, things start to slip away. Could be your job paving way for retirement, or giving up your night outs because you have to be in bed by 9, and that doesn’t sound too bad, because it isn’t. It could be giving up things whose sparks could cause a fire you can no longer put out. You trade your young for something that is foreign but necessary and even when you have mastered the art of transition, you do feel a slight sense of loss. Then you settle into the idea and you are happy not being out as much.
You have aches where you didn’t know there were nerves. You attribute that to all the years of carrying loads of firewood, and water cans and bending over tilling land, and harvesting. Or whatever your equivalent of my grandma’s labour is. And then the kids move away, to school or into their partners’ lives. At first, they see you every weekend but later on, maybe once a month, and then every now and then. And then your partner of 60 years is taken to the hospital one rustic evening and a week later, they bring you a body.
You bury your husband, surrounded by your children, their children, relatives. You look around and marvel at how you started it all.
“Who is going to ask me how I slept when I wake up in the morning?” your grandma asks you at the funeral and fresh tears burn your eyes. You mourn your grandfather painfully but you mourn more, your grandma’s impending loneliness. You make a mental note to call her more often. And then a sense of your own mortality hits you in the face like an ocean wave.
The direction of life, whatever path we take, is one. The unilateralness of existence, all the billions of tributaries heading into one big ocean of death. And your existential crisis kicks in. You wonder how far along you are, how closer to the ocean of souls, if you’ll cause a wave when you depart and when you arrive. You wonder how well you are living your life because it feels like it will determine how well you die. And you want to die well, at an age that doesn’t make people say things like ‘gone too soon’, full of grace, fulfillment, and comfort.
You call your grandmother on a spur.
“How are you akko?” you ask and she sounds better, “did you sleep well?” you hope your asking after her fills a little bit of the permanent gap the loss created, and later, when you see her, you will ask her how she feels now that it’s been five years. And you hope and pray you have been a blanket of comfort in her grief, as she has been for you in yours.
You spend the next few hours contemplating life, and afraid that you will go too far in your mind and get lost, you let the sunset distract you. You think to yourself, that if nothing else, you will be grateful that you felt as much as you could.