Always too late to say goodbye...

The first time it happened, I was devastated. This second time, I don't know what to feel. Is it some weird coincidence, or just a really twisted cosmic joke? I don't know, I probably should not read too much into the meaning of it all.

My maternal grandfather had a stroke some years before, but his condition worsened in June 2004. My mother and brother went up by car the same day they got the call, while I was still at work. She told me not to worry as they had quite a few false alarms before, plus I was supposed to leave for Okinawa to attend ICRS in two days. Somehow, I couldn't stop worrying. I took the first flight out to Penang the next morning, but he passed away shortly after the plane took off. All I could do was to attend the wake.

My paternal grandmother lived in Kuala Lumpur with my grandaunt. I suppose she always liked to be independent, and still drove around on her own in a manual car. A few weeks ago, my sister emailed saying that she suffered a fall and broke her hip, and so was hospitalised. My brother stayed back in KL to keep an eye on her for almost three weeks. I tried calling my brother to speak to her, but the first time I called my uncle's cell instead, and the second time, my brother was going to visit later. I meant to call again, but time passed, and I guess I just figured I would talk to her in person instead, once I returned to Singapore. There were a few moments when her condition would worsen, such as when she suffered a partial lung collapse, but she recovered a lot, and even moved from the surgical ward to a normal patient ward. So we made plans to visit KL on Saturday, and I thought of bringing my laptop to show her pictures of my life in US.

After a rather gruelling 20+ hour flight, I met my brother-in-law outside the arrival hall, and he told me that my grandmother passed away earlier in the morning, around 5am, probably when I was still somewhere over Alaska on the plane. It was certainly not something I was expecting. So we're all still going to KL tonight, but this time, it's for the funeral.

It's really cliched, but you do think of the times you could have said or done something, but didn't. Like if only I had tried calling again, if only I visited more often while I was in Singapore, if only...

She really was a feisty woman. As far as I could remember, she would volunteer with the St John's ambulance brigade, and always seemed to be travelling somewhere. In fact, she was planning to visit Australia again, but fell a few days before departure. She always doted on us, and brought us souvenirs from wherever she went. I knew she was the independent type, but I didn't realise how strong she was until my sister did a project on our family tree. I never got to know my grandfather. He walked out of the house one day during the Japanese Occupation in WWII and never came home. As a widow with 2 young kids, my grandmother struggled to feed the family and reverted to her maiden name as my granduncle (or great granduncle) could get rations, but only for his family members. That's why I share the same surname as her.

The last time I saw her, was when I travelled to KL for an aikido seminar just before I left for the States. We had lunch at her favourite noodle restaurant, which dishes out huge servings of dumplings, and she insisted that she buy me satay for dinner, together with Aunty Mona, before I left. Driving there was quite an experience as Grandma's eyesight wasn't as good as before. I was thinking that the next time, I'll be the one driving her around instead. The power at the coffee shop was out that night and we had to eat by candlelight. The satay (and fried noodles), were really good though. As Aunty Mona dropped me off at the taxi-stand, they both told me to take care of myself in the US, and I told Grandma to take care of herself too...

Comments

Wai said…
Sigh. I always wish I could have said something to my grandmother before she died too, but if you think about it, you can't know the moment until it has passed. I mean, even if you had been there (which I was, she had moved in with us the last couple of weeks before she passed away, but I didn't think to say the things I wanted to say until it was too late), would you have known to say it then? Perhaps you would have thought you'd have a couple more days, or weeks or hours. I guess it isn't much consolation but at least you parted on a good note. :) And I think I will always remind myself to constantly affirm the important people around me.
Papa Jeff said…
Sorry to hear about your grandma's passing. :(
Applecow said…
Hi TL. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma. Hope you're holding up alright. HUGS.
bluebabe said…
heya all. thanks for your wellwishes. i'm ok, it's good to be home, and she was surrounded by friends and family for the last few weeks so i know she went peacefully. i know lah, even if i were in KL, i wouldn't have expected her to go soon. it's not so much the grand gestures of affirmation, but that i didn't even get a chance to speak to her while she was hospitalised, to ask after her. because of differences in time, my family being too busy to pass me my brother's m'sian contact number, and me thinking that i'll just catch up in KL in person whenever I forgot to call the night before.. just being able to talk to her about mundane everyday stuff i guess.

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