Friday Reflections #4
How easy it is to remember. It seems like only yesterday when I was at this park. The kids’ playground was never this empty then. Three or four were queuing to climb up the steps onto the slide before, well, sliding down. There was no fear. The slide was just a few feet tall, but none of us would wait to climb up, or slide down without giving an elated whoop. Those few daredevils would try to slide head first too when their parents weren’t looking. But this park means more to me because of the swings.
You took me to those first. On a summer morning, when the other children were still asleep, when the sun hadn’t begun beating down on the earth, you had held my hand and walked with me to the playground. When cousins who came for Vishu talked about swings they had back in Kerala, I couldn’t have felt more out of place than I had then. I couldn’t tell anyone, but you knew. And the next day morning, when we came here, it was the first thing you showed me. The wooden plank handing from steel chains hung on a frame. You asked me not to be afraid, I lied to you that I was not, but you knew it. After I sat down, looking as nervous as I ever was, you pushed me, slowly at first, then faster and higher. I don’t know when, but I was asking you to stop. I was afraid I would fall. And you did. You’d insist on me playing on that swing after that, and I did humor you. But it didn’t quite work out, this love-hate relationship between the swing and I. I told you I liked the monkey-bars better.
This park means much because of the path that goes around it. You used to bring me here when I first began to ride my bicycle. It was you who put the training wheels on it. You would slowly run behind me as I’d cycle around the park on that path, ringing that bell to tell people that I’m behind them. I would be smiling, and seeing that, they would smile too, and seeing that, you would smile as well. It was you who decided when the training wheels would be taken off. I had no say in it. I fell a few times, but you did not let me quit. When I could balance and ride on my own, you’d applaud. When I rode it to school, you’d follow on your moped, make sure I was okay, that I had locked the bicycle properly. I wonder when I grew up so much, that I sped away not looking back to see if you were near. Did I leave you behind, or did I know you’d always be there behind me? I don’t know.
Years have passed since then. I’ve moved to a new house. I’ve gone from toddler, to school kid, to college student to a working professional. You have been the same through those years. And I love that. You’ve stayed true to who you were, instead of changing because others around you wanted you to. As easy as it has been for me to love that, it is just as hard for me to see you hold on to it at a time you need to let go, to understand, to let sense prevail. I wonder how you feel, because as much as you say that nothing is wrong, I know you are not. I know you might be feeling afraid, just like you knew when I was. Nothing feels right when you slip and fall, but refuse to walk with support; or hallucinate and imagine people who aren’t there. Nothing feels right when you adamantly stop taking your medication, and then complain that they never worked. I wish you understood how we feel each time our patient explanations are just tossed aside.
But most of all, nothing feels right when you don’t remember who I am, or who takes care of you. We might keep smiling, pushing forward, being there by your side. We will do that. But I wish you understood what needs to be done. I know those big words being almost casually told around by the doctor, and what that means, what that may lead to. I can’t even bring myself to say it. But as much as I know it may not happen, Gramps, I wish with all my heart, that you’d remember… remember my name, who I am, who you made me to be; remember the morning walks, the bicycle rides and the way you pampered me. I wish I could do much more than tell you to be strong, as you told me when I sat on these swings, which are now empty.
How hard it is to remember, and how hard it is not to remember. And how impossible to forget.
(© 13th May 2016)