“Don’t worry, you’re grandmother will be alright” I received a text from my friend Smrithi who was patiently trying to stabilize my emotions on the 17th of January this year. Three days ago, we’d brought her from Mysore to Bangalore for the treatment of her gall bladder stones. I remember when they brought her home, there was a certain distinct anxiety hidden in her pale eyes, I hadn’t ever seen her this physically weak. Over the course of the three days, she spent most of it in my bed, tired and restless. I’d look at her from time to time instead of looking after her, I couldn’t comprehend the severity of whatever she was suffering from. I had been very ignorant towards the idea of suffering and death, simply because I hadn’t experienced it and also why would I?
On 16th of January, I got home from college complaining about how stupid I was for screwing up an easy physics problem in my exam, there was an extreme uneasiness in my mother. I went to my room to find my grandmother howling and grumbling gibberish. I tried to calm her down while my mother called the ambulance. Her wrinkled face, didn’t not carry the faint smile of hers, instead it looked pale, dry and her eyes were surrounded by dark circles. Even at this point, I couldn’t understand it. The possibility of a deviation, is something I can’t get used to. My grandmother’s sister and my dad along with the ambulance rushed into my apartment, while they tried to inject drips into her body, she fought it. She fought in a sense to be left free, my mother tried to comfort her while my father gripped her legs so the medic could give her drips. At that point, her sugar level was 10, which doesn’t require a science student to know that it is fatal.
At the hospital, they took her directly into the ER along with my mother and aunt, while my father and I filled the form. I filled her name and age but stumbled at her date of birth, I simply couldn’t remember and the thought that I had never made an attempt to remember is something that keeps me up at night even today. I will remember this moment and how shitty I felt forever, I don’t think she would ever forget mine, even if Facebook didn’t remind her.
The doctors later informed us that she needs to go into immediate surgery, my father and I returned after a while back home while my mom waited outside the operation theatre. I remember going to bed at 10 pm and setting an alarm for 6 the following morning so that I can study for my math exam but I just couldn’t sleep, I still feel I didn’t understand the severity of it that night until my mother came home in tears around midnight, the doctors informed us that the gall bladder was infected and it ruptured spreading the infection to the neighbouring organs and finally into her blood or this is what I understood of it. She showed me the bottle which held my grandmother’s stones, it was horrible. They were more than 20, the amount of pain she must have endured is unimaginable, she never complained, never threw a tantrum. My family members started coming down from Mysore, they started the treatment immediately and effectively. Survival rate was fifty percent and we all prayed that the odds are were in our favour but as the hours passed, her survival rate decreased inversely.
She wasn’t responding to the hundreds of injections and antibiotics they were injecting into her.
I went into the ICU, to look at her. Every part of her was attached to some kind of medical equipment, tears were inevitable. This isn’t who she was, she dosen’t belong in a hospital bed with a ventilator attached to her mouth, so heavily sedated that she couldn’t feel what she was leaving behind. The doctors reminded us of our ignorance towards her health and how a simple procedure led into so many complications. There was a heaviness in the air, filled with guilt, self-anguish and prayers.
I began to think of my grandfather’s plight, to have your wife of 47 years to be battling between the two sides of grave is traumatizing. They’d travelled the world together and made built a family together. My grandmother was a woman, whom I knew but never understood. She’d always be sidelined or lost in the shadows of others, content from life. I deemed it as her weakness, as someone from a girls school who had a fairly liberal upbringing, her lack of individuality prevented me from discovery who She really was. She was a ‘vanilla’ person, like how vanilla flavour blends in with every other flavour and gives it a distinguishing taste. She’s that kind of a person ,I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone show any feelings of dislike towards her. Exactly a year ago, I took her to my high school graduation and made her say ‘Our father’, never took a photo with her or anything because she wasn’t superficial in any manner and her affection was pure.
Around 10 pm, while all of my immediate family finished dinner on the eve of sankranti in my aunt’s house, a call awaited us. Nobody asked why, we all knew what may occur. Rushing into the ICU, we all tried to take in the last of her. When the doctor called us back into the ICU for the second time, we knew. Her ECG didn’t show a variation and I stood there, unable to comprehend the death of my grandmother, the wife of my grandfather, the mother of my mother.
She passed away a few minutes short of mid-night, leaving behind an empty void in probably a lot more lives than she anticipated, transferring her physical pain into the emotional weight that we, as her family have to carry. Each of us, family members are still dealing with the guilt of ignoring her unspoken pain and some nights, the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of arguing with ourselves gets the better of us. We, collectively as a family were ignorant towards her health and focused on all the other organs that worked fine instead of the ones that didn’t but I’d like to believe that this only a form of death she has acquired. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. The concept of death is unsettling, it is dubious and stubborn and I’ll never fully understand it.