Thursday, July 31, 2008

coming to terms

I still can't get used to the fact that she's gone. Market days on Saturdays will not be the same anymore. That familiar hunched figure in her wheelchair will not be seen being wheeled among the stalls, among the colourful racks of clothes on sale, checking out the fruits on sale. No more will she sit with us for breakfast with her usual cuppa. No more will she josh with KH (on that final morning, she had joked with him about "why KH tak ada blanjah?" and then when KH quickly whipped out his wallet, she laughed "Cakap main-main sajah lah!") and caress the cheeks of my children. [She loved to poke sly fun at us and I loved to take the mickey out of her too. Many were the times when mom frowned disapprovingly at me when I teased her. But she was never offended. She always took it in good spirits.]

Just yesterday after the funeral, I caught a glimpse of another old lady in a wheelchair being wheeled by her maid and for a quick second I thought it was her. But it wasn't of course and I know I will be feeling these little wrenches of grief many times more in the months to come.

Yesterday was the funeral. But for me, the reality of her death really hit home between then and the time that mom first told me she was gone.

On the third night of the wake, Trin needed to be showered and washed - she had had a jolly good time running around and playing in the nearby playground. So I took her up to Popo's flat for a shower. Like a chicken, I asked KH to come with me. I don't know what I was afraid of - it was just Popo and if she was around, she would not hurt me. I felt sheepish but asked KH to come along anyway.

I regretted it the moment the lift doors opened on the 10th floor.

A huge tidal wave of emotion just swept right over me. And I just wanted to cry so badly. As it was, I could not help myself and tears did escape me but I tried not to let KH see. I have never been comfortable crying in front of him. And this was one of those big ones that needed release and I could not release it in front of him.

It got worse as we neared the flat. The sight of her familiar slippers at the door always told me she was home whenever I visited her. And that night was no different. The slippers were right there. Except of course, she was no longer home.

As I fumbled with the lock, the door opened to the familiar flat - the green terazzo floor, the cream walls and the blue-tiled walls of the kitchen. I grew up here. Here, was where she fed me, washed me, clothed me, nagged me and took care of me in my early childhood years.

The sight of the neatly folded wheelchair undid me. Her room was in darkness. I clicked on the ancient switch and saw her bed where she lay as she died. Her comb still lay on the table, as her bedroom slippers lay beneath her bed. It all looked as if she was still around.

I took a towel from her cupboard and her scent filled the room. That familiar whiff of baby talc and medicated oil.

I brought Trin to the bathroom and bathed her. And as I bathed my daughter in the tiny bathroom, the tears came. Years ago, she had done this very same thing for me here. I wept soundlessly in the bathroom, taking care not to let KH hear me. If he did, he was careful not to allude to it or to offer any comfort. It would make him feel very uncomfortable I'm sure.

After I'd finished drying and changing Trin, I wandered to the fridge and took a packet of cold chrysanthemum tea. Popo always had a six-pack of packet drinks in the fridge in readiness for visitors. She would not mind me taking one then - she always urged us to do so whenever we came to visit.

Trin took Popo's comb and ran it through her hair. I took it from her and combed her hair neatly - as Popo once did for me too. Then I replaced it on the table.

I wanted to linger in the house. I could still feel her there. But KH was in a hurry to go down to the wake. I tried to switch off the light in her bedroom but it would not be switched off immediately. It took two or three clicks before the room resumed its darkness.

As I locked the main door, it was still so hard to believe that she's gone. I had trouble believing it yesterday at the funeral even as I saw her casket go into the flames. I will have trouble believing it today as I go to collect her ashes. I know I will continue to disbelieve the fact that she is no longer here.

4 comments:

Rita said...

Pat, she had a good life surrounded by her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.

And from what you told me, she had a good and gentle death too, in the arms of her favourite child.

Rita said...

Pat, she had a good life surrounded by her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.

And from what you told me, she had a good and gentle death too, in the arms of her favourite child.

Cory said...

sorry i couldn't make it... we'll talk more soon, ok? *hugs*

Anonymous said...

condolences, barbs