listen and learnpublished: 2011-10-12
There’s a benefit to moving house: you discover things you’d already long forgotten. An essay you had once written about bridal burnings in India. Wow, you think. Wow. Did I write that?
I also found a book. It’s called: “About consolation and sadness.” I remembered there was something special about that book. I opened it and there it was: “from Grandma for me” in my own handwriting. Perhaps I knew I’d forget. Clearly I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t. I’d need it one day. I’d need her.
Grandma. She was divorced at age 32 which was rare in that time. She never remarried. She often talked of her fears, her pills, her pains, her loneliness. She really wanted me to learn stenography, and to learn to type.
“Become a secretary,” she said, “everyone always needs secretaries.”
I was 25 when she gave me that book, a book about grief. The book gives us a dry, almost mathematic analysis of grief. But it’s not necessarily my sadness I’m thinking about while reading it. Rather, I’m thinking about other people’s setbacks, including hers.
My Grandma died in a psychiatric institution. She preferred living there, that’s how afraid she had become of being alone. Also, living amidst crazies made her feel more confident about herself. It confirmed she herself wasn’t insane. At one stage, family members found her a new apartment. But Grandma had a heart-attack the night before she was to move.
Listen, she is now telling me. This time listen. And learn.