Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Eyes Wide Open

The nurse opened the door with great alacrity.  She was swift but not rash, opening the door just enough to let herself in.  My grandma, my grandpa’s best friend, my parents and I were a few feet away from the door.  The nurse watched us askance before quickly shutting the door.  While everyone else looked in the direction of the entrance of the hospital awaiting a senior doctor, I saw through the miniscule opening that the nurse had left open for a fraction of a second, a sight that hides permanently behind my eyelids.  Whenever my eyes would shut, the doors of that hospital room would open widely behind them.  Inexplicably, much wider than the actual sight that the nimble nurse permitted me.  It was the sight of the doctor and his support staff pounding on my grandpa’s chest, as he slipped away rapidly. 

He was 61, and in very good health.  He had gone for a walk to his best friend’s daughter’s place, tried to test-drive their newly acquired SUV and in the process, rammed the car into a wall.  His spleen got ruptured and within two hours of this rather freak accident, he was gone.  Just like that.  No warning, no proper goodbyes, nothing.  The sprightly old man who had gone for a walk in the morning was a pot of ashes submerged in the nearby beach by the end of the day. 

Meanwhile, a sea of tears engulfed my grandma.  She was 58 then.  Having married my grandpa when she was 18, they were in their 40th year of a very happy marriage.  Her wailing lasted days, not hours.  But I misread one thing as inaccurately as an inept stock broker.  I thought that his death was going to crush her.  Far from it.  Within a month, when my family was deep in thought around the future of the factory that my grandpa had owned, she stepped in and said, “It was his labor of love.  I shall be the proprietor.  I may have only finished high school but I will learn the ropes and continue to run this instead of shutting shop.”  That was a moment of great truth to me.  Truths, really.

I could see two things.  Some people have a veneer of strength that obscures a frail inner structure.  Grandma was the opposite.  The tempest that had threatened to demolish her very existence only ended up proving how strong her inner structural foundation was.  The cruel twist of fate that I thought was paralyzing her on multiple fronts was, in fact, strengthening her resolve to stand on her feet and move forward, taking along her fellow sufferers, despite the magnitude of her suffering being much larger. 

The second thing I learned from her was something captured eloquently in the movie, Burnt - “There is strength in needing others, not weakness.”  When my grandpa passed on, my grandma did get a lot of moral and emotional support from family members and trusted friends.  She did share her grief with others.  As a teenager, I shut my eyes only to open a window for the unfortunate incident to play continually in my mind’s eye.  Whereas, my grandma shut the door on grief only after she had come face to face with it.  That she was not averse to getting people’s support and yet very quickly, stepped in to take over my grandpa’s factory showed that she leaned on people, perceiving them as transient pillars of support, not permanent crutches.  There are, of course, some people who possess tremendous inner resolve to deal with crises themselves.  To get back on their feet, they do not rely as much on external support.  That is strength of another kind, but not the only kind.  I say this because there continues to be a popular misconception of people seeking support – of various kinds, be it therapy or personal outreach – as weak.  People need the license to go through tragedy and adversity in their own way.  As providers of support, we only have to help ensure that their wounds don’t turn into indelible scars that incapacitate them permanently.

Last month, my grandma passed on, aged 81.  This time, my eyes were wide open.  I registered my grief, while striving to provide support to my mother and 13-year old cousin who were most affected by this.  I did not have to look far for inspiration – it was hidden in plain sight in our own home until May 22, 2018. 

18 comments:

Anu Warrier said...

What a lovely post, Ram. So life-affirming and so positive despite the grief I know you feel. That grief will go away, leaving you with wonderful memories of an undoubtedly indomitable woman who has taught you some very valuable lessons. After all, death never really takes people away from us. I think, people only 'die' (and I'm not talking about physical deaths) when we forget them. Otherwise, they live on in our memories, and our collective retelling of our experiences. As I am sure your grandmother will live on.

I have said this before, and I'll say it again - your personal posts are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

True Ram. She was a person of strength...her example will serve as an inspiration to all those who knew her...
Anu

ravishanker sunderam said...

"People need the license to go through tragedy and adversity in their own way" SUPERB !

Again you are in your element when writing these introspective pieces on the human condition.

And very perceptive takeaways.

Nirmala gopalan said...

You are a great support to your mom as your dad also is. I am sure patti is in a better place blessing you all. Very well written blog .Balanced as well as emotional.

Ram Murali said...

Anu W / Anu / Ravishanker / Nirmala Aunty -
Thank you all for your kind words. I am glad that the piece resonated with you.

Margaret said...

Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman, and such a good role model for all of us.

Ram Murali said...

Thank you for your kind note, Margaret. Yes, a "wonderful woman" and "good role model" were perfect descriptors of her.

Anusha said...

I left a comment here yesterday, not sure where it went! Nicely written, been a while since I read one of your personal essays.

Ram Murali said...

Anusha - thank you for commenting. I didn't see any comment come through yesterday. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Michelle H said...

Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman. I'm so sorry for your loss, but grateful that you shared her with us.

Rowan Grigsby said...

You have a fantastic solid structure and organization here with an emotional hook that's hard to resist. The only thing I'd change is I might dial back a little of the vocabulary and rhetoric so that it feels a little rawer and closer to the heart instead of seeming processed through a series of formalities.

Ram Murali said...

Rowan - thank you so much for the valuable feedback. Much appreciated. I shall certainly incorporate your suggestion into future essays.

Ram Murali said...

Michelle - thank you so much for your very kind words.

Rekhs Hc said...

Ram, I love the way you say 'passed on' than passed away
Poignant writing is an understatement:)
Your grandparents live thru you, like the song I love, 'Papa' by Paul Anka
If you haven't heard it pls do

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Rekhs, for your sweet words.
I shall certainly listen to the song.
Thank you, once again!

Unknown said...

Nicely written

Ramadhyani Narayanan said...

Very well written da! I feel proud that u r the grandson of that wonderful couple and prouder that I'm your good old friend (if not the best)😂😂!!
Tell me about adversity, I have been living through it for some time now but a few people have always held my hand to make sure adversity doesn't translate to tragedy.
Meeting you in may has changed me da. It's taken me so many years to read such wonderful posts and stories!!

Ram Murali said...

Dhyans, thanks for the lovely words, da. Just know that you have friends in your family as well as a family of friends to stand by you in good times and not-so-rosy times.

"good old friend (if not the best)😂😂!!"
--> unaku udhai confirmed!