When days get too heavy, I sometimes imagine that it'd be a nice feeling to simply vanish. How liberating, to be relinquished from the problems that weigh you down.
It happened one day, when I called out to my grandma who suffers from dementia. She neither responds to my voice nor give the slightest impression that she heard me. At that moment, I felt like I was invisible – I've disappeared.
My grandma – a shrewd woman with a character as strong as the steel wok that she used to handle everyday to prepare her grandchildren's favorite dishes. The woman who ran the household while my grandfather gladly takes the back seat, all 7 of us grandchildren grew up under her care. I remember how much of a struggle it was trying to win over her affections while growing up. I was always seen as too mischievous and a bad influence to my younger cousins. And it used to bother me a lot when I was a child; when you have made your grandma the Queen in your own little constructed world, you kind of grow up feeling you are less special. Even though we live together, I could never be close to her.
My grandma's favourite drinks are coffee and fizzy cola, she also especially loves spicy food. I wondered if it was the amount of chilli laden food that she has consumed that gave her her fiery temper. Over the years, as illnesses gnawed through her hard shell and through the string of bitter memories from the past that she refuses to let go, the fire within her gradually simmered. She slowly grew frail and child-like as if she lost her cause to fight. The grandma whom I have grown up to know has disappeared. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, she became a happier person and life is much simpler.
Two Sundays ago, I woke up with a very bad dream. I dreamt that my grandma was drowning and I had to resuscitate her. I made a pact to myself not to tell anyone as it was something that I do not wish to remember. While at work, I received a call from my brother asking me to return home immediately. When I headed straight for the A&E, I prayed for God to fight the battles that my grandma cannot. I later found out that my grandma had fits and my cousin had to perform CPR with the paramedic's instructions over the phone.
She is home safe now after spending a few nights in the hospital.
At that instance when I realized that I have disappeared from my grandma's memory, I only felt heaviness in my heart and at a loss. To be completely forgotten by someone whom you love is indescribable and somewhat confounding. I desperately wanted to be remembered, but we can never win back time that is lost. Looking back, maybe I was away too much; working, traveling and having fun, I did little to protect the scratch of memory in her head from fading away.
Some people think that memories last forever. Unless one experiences the sense of loss that I felt, they don't. Disappearing is real, dementia is real. Memories don't last, but it is the value that you give to the shared memories that do. She may not remember who I am anymore, but I am going to make extra effort everyday – to remind her that she is still the Queen of my world.
Here's a photo of us together, our birthdays are one day apart. ☺