A lesson from a Sick Grandpa

With his uninspired face, my grandpa smiled when I saw him at the hospital today.  He looked pale, hopeless, and frustrated. The disease, that no doctor is sure enough what it is, has been bothering him for a while now. I remember when I went to my village in East Bali, it was two months ago if I am not mistaken, he complained about headaches caused by a canker sore under his tongue. I checked his mouth, and I knew that was not simply a canker sore. This morning, the doctor identified the blister-looking thing as some kind of tumor, but he was not 100 % sure.

As I massaged my grandpa on his shoulder, I got to see him closely. His body shrank; from a fleshy man into a skinny one. His hands, in the past, used to do a lot of stuff; he only used them to hold his chin. His mouth, not long time ago, told a lot of interesting stories; this morning he only said a few words. It was heartbreaking to see him in that condition.

My grandfather has never been this sick in my whole life. He has always been an energetic guy. He is the kind of guy that will get antsy when he has nothing active to do. I used to dub him as Mr. Fix It. When he found a piece cleaver with no handle, for example, he made a handle out of a piece of wood and fixed the cleaver. When there was a leaky roof, he didn’t bother hiring a construction worker. Despite his old body, he climbed to the rooftop and fixed the leak.

I secretly admired my grandpa long before I left Denpasar, not only because of his Mr. Fix It title, but also his life principles. I said ‘secretly’ because my grandpa was considered stingy by his children. My father often shared about his young life with very little financial support from my grandpa. My uncle always mentioned how he wished my grandpa would have sent him to school so he didn’t end up working as a farmer. Though I totally agree with my father and uncle, I find reasonable excuses to defend him. He was born in a tough time where he had to work super hard to put food on the table. The word ‘school’ never appeared in his mind simply because he never experienced it. Yes, he is stingy, like he won’t give things away easily, but he doesn’t want to take things for free either. He works so hard to get what he desires and always treat people fairly.

Nine years have passed since I left my family in a small village in Karangasem. During those times, I always had a chance to visit my village at least one a month. Spending time with my grandpa has always been one of highlights of my ‘pulang kampung’ (hometown visiting). I can sit for hours and listen to his stories. How my great grandpa was once an influential shaman and crimes like stealing, fighting, even killing were very common in the village are among the stories that stick in my mind. His stories are not only pleasant to hear, but also give me a sense of belonging, that I belong to this place. He reminded me about my roots that it will remain to be my identity wherever I go.

His current condition, however, is like a slap in the face. I regret I didn’t spend more time with him, how I wish I could learn more about him. It upsets me even more when I notice how much my other beloved people change: loosing-weight grandma, timeworn face of mom, gray hair of my father.  Or should I be upset about it? I then realized it’s part of life. Though it’s a sad fact, I just can’t avoid it. In fact, it’s a reminder that I have to balance my ambitious work and time with my dear family.

I learned my lesson. I know that I need to spend more time with my loved ones before I regret it. I am aware that I need to enjoy the time with them and take a good care of them because I never know how long I will see them again.

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