It was my anxiety that I couldn’t get over. That stopped me from forming a strong grandfather-granddaughter bond with you. The anxiety was always there because of your authority, your lion like rage. The intellectual questions, my broken Urdu that made it impossible to reply. I was scared of being ridiculed. I was scared of being seen by you. I always tried to sit in the corner of the room where you couldn’t see me. Scared of your impossible questions, the first one I remember – ‘who is your favourite grandfather me – or your father’s father.’ How could you ask me to choose between you and my favourite person in the world? My mum always tried to encourage us to go visit you, but she didn’t understand why we didn’t want to go see you. It was all respect based on fear and that is despicable. I knew nearly everyone respected you out of fear. How you had been controlling. It all scared me. The first time I truly felt angry at you was when my grandad, my father’s father, my rock, my favourite person past away. I felt it should have been you. Not him. That was a terrible thought though, I should never have thought that despite anything.
Then I moved into the house, and I admit I did feel the dread of seeing you every day because of the anxiety I had every time I did see you. I felt so angry… you made me so angry whenever you talked about your self. Your achievements, the boasting, big headed stories. Your stories, I hated them. How you belittled other people, you even belittled my father. You repeated the same stories a hundred times, over and over and over and over. Like a broken casset player. You played those cassets repeatedly. It was partly your dementia, I worked with people with dementia so I knew how it worked but godamnit it, it infuriated me. I thought this was my chance to bond with you finally – but there was nothing there. Nothing personal, nothing to hold on to, nothing we had in common, just you and your old stories that I felt no pride or honour in listening to. I know the dementia wasn’t your fault… Dementia makes a person forget. And I knew you were just trying to hold on. Hold on to who you were, your life that you had lived, hold on to your memories, you wanted to not be forgotten. You wanted to pass on your memories to your family members so they remembered who you were. Selfish of me to have hated that when I too have a fear of being forgotten. I should have listened more carefully. Perhaps there was something in your stories for me, something my frightened ears failed to pick up on. Perhaps some day, I will remember.
You liked to have everything just so. An OCD – that made you put north, south, west, east on your table covers so that they were sitting just right. The table with it’s four children. The judges chair. The cassettes, your clothes that you had kept for many years. Your topees for night and those for days. Yet your table tops and sofas were always covered with your folders and papers. You were sorting your files out. You were trying to get everything in order. Sort everything out. But you went over and over the same files again. Sort of like me with my incomplete stories piled in my boxes. I wonder, right now, if they’re still in piles on your desk – did you get them just the way you wanted them to be? You wrote poetry. I always wanted to improve my urdu, I always knew urdu poetry was something special but I had not been able to. Perhaps that was what I could have discussed with you, I bet you never knew I too loved poetry. That one line you would say all the time, that I repeatedly forgot, perhaps one day I will remember.
You forgot my name all the time forgot who I was. I always thought this was another reason I loved my other grandfather more, because he named me and he always remembered my name – reminded me he named me. You hardly remembered… but when you did, it was always ‘Furkhanda Changa Bantha’ – Good girl. A rhyme you associated with me and that’s how you remembered me.
You collected clocks. So many clocks hung on every wall in the rooms of your flat. A little thing of yours I adored. You asked us once, why you collected them. Then you explained time is expensive, not to waste it. I think it was because you were trying to capture time… And now it seems, like you’ve almost ran out. Are we reaching the last seconds soon? The two hands you kept up in long duas might soon fall, with the tick, tick, tick of your heart beat. Like the mighty clap of your hand on our backs. We’ll come together one last time for you, and then, we’ll break and scatter too – taking hours of your memory with us.
I’ve seemed to barricaded myself from feeling too much as I look at you, in your current form – in this way you’ve never been before weak and vulnerable. Free of your troubles. The oldest member of our family, whilst I sit here with my daughter in my arms – the youngest member. I love you though, I do, because you’re still my Nana. You still gave me what is most important to me – my family. Your blood still runs through me, the blood will flow through many to come, and we, will remember.