I was sitting on the garden bench, having a cigarette. I can see you staring at me, squinting a little, almost trying to confirm who it is in front of you.
පොඩි පුතේ, මට සිගරට් එකක් දීපන්!!
Son, can you give me a cigarette!!
My maternal grandfather, a man who I’ve always known as “unafraid of anything or anyone”, now suffering from dementia, and due to old age, his lungs, and heart have gotten week. He was around 87 years old at the time, in year 2009.
So I refused to give him a cigarette. My mom, his daughter, also sided with me not to offer him a cigi. He scolded both of us, and Mom and I laughed.
I usually come home quite late in the night after work. But, on 24th September 2009, I came home around 7 in the night.
We had hired a Nurse to assist Mom. I greeted her and went to see him to his room. I walked out and told Mom, that I suspected it was his last night, and we will have to stay up all night.
Early hours of 25th September morning, he passed away.
Both Mom and I have looked after Seeyathaththi (grandpa) to the best of our ability. The last few years were rather difficult, as his demented state along with occational aggresive behaviour would tire both Mom and I qutie easily.
Yet, guess what we always talk about.
The last cigarette!!!
Both of us wish that we gave him what he asked for. He was a chain smoker. I’ve not seen any other smoke as much as him. The last year of his life, due to all the medical complexities, we forced him to give up smoking. He obliged to this, and was fine with it, except that day.
Oh well… We did what we thought was best… in his Living Years…
Eleven years ago he left his body behind…. So this is my attempt to celebrate his life cherishing some of the funny moments with him.
Ghost in the house
Somewhere around 2008, I had long hair, and also coloured it red. In the middle of the night, I hear a big halabaloo. Mom was pretending she couldnt’ hear, but I couldn’t. When I inquired, he said that it was pension day, and he had to cut his hair (2 a.m. on a Sunday or so…). I somehow managed to calm him down, but now I was hungry…. So sat on a chair where I could see him, and helped myself to some bikkies.
Next thing I know he is screaming to my mother, saying there is a ghost in the house. Once again, mom was too tired to respond, so I asked “Where is the ghost?”.
He came close to me, and intently looked at me. Then he felt me with his hands. Then asked “Are you human?”.
Apparently, I was the ghost….
The Pick Pocket
My grandma was in hospital. Mom, Grandad, and I were coming to the hospital in a crowded bus. We were all getting ready to get off the bus. I was standing very close to grand dad.
Mom and I got off the bus, but somehow grandad was fighting with someone. Next thing I know, he beat this other chap, and took an envelope from his pocket.
Apparently, his “pension money” was picked by this dude. He had watched the show, and let him take it, then beat him up.
I have never got into a physical fight. I’m generally scared of physical fights, and don’t think I have enough strength to fight. Naturally, on this day, I looked at him as if he is Superman!!
පොඩි පුතා තාම නෑ! (Son is not home yet!)
I come home late in the night, most of the time after work, but sometimes, I may have gone out on a “date” after work…
One such day, I hear my grandpa muttering, scolding me in words that I didn’t appreciate.
Of course, I had to ask him why he is scolding me, for which he would have given me an even more remarkable answer …
Following morning, I got to know, he was bugging my mother every half an hour or so, saying “Son is not home yet”. Finally, mom had said:
ඕකා මැරිලා පලච්චාවෙ… (Let him die out there.. I don’t care!!)
This had triggered an anger and a worry that had kept him awake till I got home.
The day his youngest daughter left
My mother’s youngest sister, migrated to New Zealand, either in 1989 or 1990. On the day she left, we all went to the airport. As one does, we wanted to wait till the plane took off. It was late in the night, a Singapore Airlines flight.
When the plane taxied to the run way, I was standing in front of my grandpa. He was holding me by my shoulders. I recall very vividly, how his body clenched, as the plane took off.. He squeezed my shoulders.
I guess I realised what he felt, years after…..
– Nim –