The last time my grandfather was here, he kept asking for me and to come back home. Days turned into weeks and they called for the months who then urged for the years to arrive.
When years back my grandfather sat on the sofa, I didn’t think about him the way I do. It’s true when they say that losing a loved one makes you remember them more often than when they are alive, living breathing creatures hungry for some affection. The last few times he could stand up, walk by himself, eat or take a bath, I didn’t think much.
That one afternoon, he fell down. Already battling with cancer, once his head touched the marble on the floor, he lost consciousness. He woke up, he didn’t die right then. But he wasn’t himself. His limbs became limp, nerves lost control. When they say old-age is second childhood, do they mean childhood afflicted with suffering? Childhood doesn’t lead to death. His second childhood did.
Not for days. Weeks arrived, looked at my grandfather. He was hospitalized. During those last weeks of his life when he played a careful match of chess with death, his life ebbing away every time he made a wrong move,he became solely dependant on others. He soiled his clothes.
The room reeked with the smell of urine when I entered every alternate evening for a visit. He sat on the chair and the food lay in front of him getting cold. Water slid down his mouth sometimes. He lay in bed and I would plant a kiss on his head. His white hair, soft as a baby’s, he wouldn’t look up but when I went every alternate evening, he would look at me.
His eyes glimmered with a kind of happiness I still can’t put a finger on. Was there a slight tear I saw? My grandfather was a disciplined man. Every morning he was up at dawn getting ready for his daily morning walk. He couldn’t do that anymore. Does your body gets accustomed to the sudden halt of a disciplined lifestyle? They didn’t tell me. It’s not that he didn’t try walking.
Physiotherapists came and went, money went with them. My grandmother slept in that room which was filled with the stench of his urine and excretion.
The air wafted through the kitchen. The bathroom the same stench filled concrete structure. The last time I saw him in the hospital, he looked at me and said, “Ami bari jete chai” (I want to go home). The last time my mother saw him, one day after I met him, he said, “Ami bodhoye ar bari jete parbona” (I don’t think I’ll get better to go back home).
The last time my grandmother saw him was when she saw him being taken to the hospital. The next time she saw him was his ice-cold body, wrapped in white. The next time I saw him was when he lay on the floor and I saw the same smile on his face.
They never told me if you smile when you finally die knowing your time in this world is over and you now get a pass to watch your kids and grandkids up from heaven. But heaven doesn’t exist, scientists say. My grandmother doesn’t believe in that. I don’t believe in life after death. But I wear my grandfather’s slippers at home.
They are bigger than my feet. I don’t know when I’ll be able to fill his shoes just like I do his slippers but the last time I was on the floor and saw him smiling at me, my wailing heart leaped on his body which had been brought from the morgue.
My tears fell on his smile, he still smiled. I sat on the crematorium and touched his feet before his body was shoved inside the fire. The last time I saw him was ash and bones.