January 23, 2010

My Paati

It's been a week, almost, since my grandmother passed away. To say I'm taking the loss badly would be an understatement. People say you can keep her alive in your heart and memories, it's only the body that has died. But how can I not miss the body that hugged me, or held me when I cried, or fed me when I was younger and was part of all the major moments of my life? I won't see her smile, or eat, or laugh. I won't hear her call my name a hundred times in a day and I won't be able to laugh and scold her about how she lived in the bathroom. I won't be able to see her glitter or smell her lovely perfume nor will I be able to call her and talk to her about Jackie or Charlie. I miss her every second already.
There is a constant heaviness that makes me want to hide from the world. I know it's not what she would want for me, I know she herself has moved forward in life from loss - loss of her husband and mother, almost back to back, 20 years ago. But everyone has their own way of grieving. All the logical explanations don't matter right now. I feel a heavy sense of loss and sadness and I know I need to feel it to get through it. Life is about moving on and moving forward - this I know and understand, but my Paati is no longer alive. She's the last of the grandparents to leave and I miss the warmth and sincerity of the older generation.

My Paati was 86 years old when she died. In hindi there are a couple of words to denote death - mrityu and dehanth. When my family and I were talking about death, my father mentioned dehanth was a much better word because it signifies the freeing of the soul from the body, while mrityu carries with it just the finality of death. I like his explanation for it and was really surprised to hear my father speak in this manner. I hope my paati's soul has found peace. She suffered in the end. That knowledge makes me angry and sad because it did not warrant or compare to the life she led. I wish she had died peacefully in her sleep, not in an ICU, suffering complications and being in pain. She had such a zest for life, this end makes it unfair. I suppose the positive way to look at it would be that she fought till the end. This resilient woman was beloved to so many people. I've heard such lovely messages and words come my way from people who even met her for a few moments. She made everyone feel welcome and a part of the family and you don't find that too often. She didn't know English (maybe a few words and teaching her was sometimes funny), yet she managed to share her warmth just by smiling.

She's been there when I fell in school and carried me home because my knees were bleeding badly, she's been there when I had surgery, she was the first one to know about the guy I wanted to marry, she was the only one who interrogated/interviewed him when he first came to visit, she yelled at people who asked why I wasn't having kids 6 months after getting married, she's traveled with me, we've taken care of each other, she loved making me my favourite dishes, she fought for me, she really loved me for who I am. How am I supposed to go on without that constant in my life even though this is what life is about. I ask that question and yet I know time will temper things and I will move forward and she will always be alive within me.

She was married to a famous tamil comedian actor. She lived a good life. She became a great-grandmother in her time. She's a breast-cancer survivor. We saw her change over the years as she deteriorated in health, but she always took an interest in the goings-on of our lives and our general well-being. When I got divorced, she didn't berate me for it. Instead, she told me to be happy. She suffered two strokes in a year and was paralysed from the waist down. She needed to be moved into a nursing home for the last few months. She didn't even die at home. Both my grandfather and my grandmother passed away in a hospital in Los Angeles surrounded by medical personnel and inundated with tubes. That's the sad part of it all, I wish I had been there with her at the time. It was difficult to visit her in November, for a week, at the nursing home but I knew I needed to go see her and spend time with her. As I told my father, "There's no point in going after she's dead. She won't even know I'm there." I remember walking into her room at the nursing home with trepidation because I knew it would be difficult to see her changed. But when I walked in, she looked up at me and smiled in recognition and that was all that I needed. She said, "Veenu nee vandhutiya?" (Veenu, you've come?) and that was all that it took. It was almost like she had been waiting for me. I stayed by her side, fed her, helped with her physiotherapy and got her to speak a little. My uncle and aunt said that she hadn't spoken or eaten as much as she did until I got there. I know she loved all her grandchildren but there was something special between us and I don't say it to make it seem like I was the best grandkid, but we've been through so much - she's been a constant for the time that I've been alive. I really miss her and I wish she didn't have to die in the manner that she did. That one thought generates the breakdown in me. I haven't been able to eat for a week. I've tried. But my body rejects the food. Paati loved food, she liked trying new things. In the end she wasn't able to eat anything - maybe take a couple of sips of water or coffee. Of all the ironic moments, I wish that hadn't been it. I just keep seeing her face and how much I coaxed her to eat something and it felt like the greatest accomplishment on earth to get her to finish one meal. I guess we came full circle in our own way.

On January 17, 2010 at around 10p.m. EST, my Paati was no longer alive. She will always be loved and missed.

12 comments:

Priyanca said...

Vee, that was beautiful. You have immortalised your Paati beautifully

Vee said...

Thank you my Prudence.

Gary said...

Oh Veena...

I'm so sorry that your Paati has died and that it was not a comfortable departure. She sounds like a truly amazing woman, filled with love, wisdom and an understanding of people.

It also sounds so difficult for you just now...which is understandable.

But you must know that she wants you to eat, to find your heart, to look forward, to live... and to be happy.

With love

Vee said...

Gary: thank you. Your words are heartfelt and made me tear up.

Dimitri Alexander said...

Dear Princess,

I am so sorry for your loss. Your wonderful tribute to your beautiful Paati filled my heart with love. Veenu nee vandhutiya..

Her circle has become round now. May her precious soul rest in peace.

Take care Vee

Love from Amsterdam

Vee said...

Dimi: thank you. I can't say anything else really...

Kaumudee said...

Vee baby, I just read this...It was so beautifully written - you made your sweet Patti appear right in front of my eyes and made me feel her love for you.

She's been through so much and now she's passed on, but really I know she will always be near you and taking care of you. She won't be able to feed you now, but everytime you have something delicious that she used to make in her time, you will think of her and that will make her smile, as she's watching over you. Her joy will be that you're eating first and foremost, and that you are thinking of her.

I lost my grandma in 2008 and even though my heart was breaking over her tragic loss, I will always remember her smile when I saw her after ten years and how happy both of us were to see the other. That's all I can hold on to in this impermanent world. Love you Vee, hang in there...I'm glad you were able to express the lump that was in your chest for such a while...

♥nova-san said...

The loss of a loved one is so terrible. The pain from the loss is one that cannot be described, but it is felt so deeply, striking you down at the core. Although your dear Paati is gone, the love still goes on. And that love lives on in remembering her and honoring her, and doing your best to take care of yourself, because that is what she would have wanted.

All my love and hugs,
Nova

Pixie La Roo said...

When I saw pictures of your paati on your facebook profile, I wondered if she had passed away as you are suddenly putting up her pics. In those pictures you and varsha look very much adored by a lovely and strong women. You get that feeling when you look at the photo. Paati's are like that. One look at their face and you get a complete feeling for all their love and wisdom and strength. She sounds like an amazing woman. She's gone but you will live on in your heart. hugs

lindsaylobe said...

I can only endorse the other thoughtful and wise comments and say you have encapsulated a lovely eulogy for your dear grandma whose deep love for you makes her departure equally deeply painful. Those wonderful memories will always be treasured and I trust you will able to draw strength from her heart’s desire for the best for you to restore your mind and spirit.
Best wishes

Vee said...

Thank you all for your wonderful support. It has been tough on and off, but she lives on in our memories and in our hearts. I sometimes want to pick up the phone and call her, but I realize I can't. Time will temper things.

Veena said...

Big Love.

Beautiful piece, Veena. I feel it.

xo