‘Where are you?’ asked my uncle.
‘I’m working.’ I replied
It’s always the way I detour when I cannot, or do not want to, answer the question directly. It’s the way I will give the other with a snippet of information which is not by all means relevant, but which will quench their curiosity and prevent them from asking further.
‘So you has yet to know. Your maternal grandmother passed away. I thought that you were coming back home.’
‘No, I don’t know. And I don’t come back.’
And that’s how I get the news.
I called my mother. And after I pulled up, my limbs were shaking in their numbness in my memories of her, Grandma, which were just fragments. All memories are fragments. And I imagined her, a young woman coming there to a new economic zone, from her lowlands, fearless and ambititous to find something new, to make her own life far from the village where she was born. And she met her would-be husband, who died eleven years ago, whom she survived with dignity and deeply concealed sorrow, from then onwards her health worsened, as did her memories. And she had five children, my mother was her first.
It was not until I was four or five years old did I come to visit her for the first time. My mother had not come home for such a long time then that she lost her way in the city. And we, I and my older sister, visited Grandma’s almost every summer, until I went to highschool, far from my parents.
She was a stern woman, who quickly gained her notoriety as the most cantankerous one in the neighbourhood, of whom we, I and my cousins, would be very afraid when we were playing around with our mischievious games and pranks.
All came flooding back, her house, its enigmatic smell, which I usually fondly refer to as ‘the smell of Grandma’s’, her orchard, where I would bath near a well always full of fresh water, her tea hills, where we would come to harvest green tea leaves, as did her way when she looked after my youngest aunt and Grandpa when they fell ill, always stern, with her own love, which was hardly describable.
She was my last surviving grandparents, and of whom I had most memories. She was also the only one among my grandparents well enough to come to visit us when I was a child.
And I missed her dry bamboo fence, and the strange plants in her garden, which I would bring home, with bliss, to grow among my patches of peanuts. And I missed the way she would scowl at us when we did something wrong. And I tried to imagine what she did when my mother came home from her school, cutting her hair short, by which Grandpa was enraged and chased after her in the garden.
When I visited her last September, she hardly remembered a thing, nor even her first child, my mother, but she somehow managed to call my name, at which I did not give a response, as reckless and unapologetic as I have always been. And it was the last time she could ever properly call a name.
‘We never prepare for the last time.’ Patrick once told me. Yes, we never prepare, nor will ever do.
The house that Grandpa and Grandma had built, in which we enjoyed playing, was abandoned for good. The grand old longan tree was gone, chopped down. A star must fall, somewhere in the universe. And so was gone Grandma.