Life is death, and death is a kind of life.

I have been lucky these few years, never really having to grapple with the subject of death or carry the burden of the death of a loved one. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was still too young to fully understand the meaning of loss. I think of her sometimes and have only pleasant and nostalgic memories of her.

Recently I have been told of the news of how close my maternal grandmother had come to a heart attack and how she refused surgery. My mind balked at the thought of coping with such a heavy subject. Some selfish part of me wished I was still a child and did not have the mental faculties to comprehend painful subjects like these. When I visited her she showed no overt signs of having suffered – she laughed gaily and freely – although it was hard to ignore the way her skin covered her bones and her sunken cheeks. You know how the smell of death hovers about a person when they are haven’t yet crossed the threshold – my grandma had no such smell. She smelled like she has always smelt – of talcum and dusty Chinese roses. Over the years I have grown bigger and it is now me who hold her frail body against mine – a ripple spreads through my mind – and I think –

– Of my parents –

– How my mom and her sisters would take their mother’s passing on…

And whether I am ready to think about them dying. It so happens that while I was in the library, Paul Auster’s Invention of Solitude slid into my hands and I had since then promptly devoured it. Reading it was like wading through quicksand. It was difficult meeting a few gazes and I had to struggle with the idea of age and time, grapple with my imagination as I feared that if I did not keep a hold on it and it leads by the hand a string of images into my head, I could never forgive myself for thinking up such noxious scenarios. I am reminded of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and I feel sick in the gut that I have lost time to make up for and that I won’t have enough time.

It pains me to see my parents age. The shapes of their bodies holding the weight of the years…I see it in their hands, in their faces, the way their skin gets softer and more translucent. I wonder if they still love me the same way they loved me as when I was a little girl. My father has become more assertive and sure of himself again, and my mom ever the more reticent and introspective, and the fights they have even more nastier. Their smiles pull at my heartstrings in a bittersweet way. Advanced age is not supposed to be a resignation from the world, but who am I to say. I can only hope that age for them is like fine wine, the longer kept to ferment, the better.

She is for marriage counselling but he is against it. We kids are tired of deciding for them – this time they must agree whether to tear up the skirtings to install the new optic fibre internet cables or to get that new plan that includes the cable sports channel. It’s like they have a dead kind of hate for each other that it begins to appear like another special kind of love. In some way I am glad I am no longer in the thick of their quarrels. Other parts of me feel like I have lost an essential part of myself; I am no longer in the midst of things; I have to form my own nucleus.

This loss, which I would think would be the end of the life I have been having up till the time I moved out, is my safety. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, where consciousness and awareness is captivity as well as liberty. How long can the soul be content with its own society? Not long, for how does one form memories otherwise?

One year and already a wealth of memories between us. I love him and he loves me. I want him to live forever. In this commitment we have to each other, we are constantly forced to reveal ourselves – and therefore, constantly obliged to look into ourselves, to examine our own depths. I wonder if I am helping him grow as much as he has helped me grow? I want us to grow together. He can be a stickler for old things and habits. I hope I didn’t just fall into his rhythm of life and paced myself according to his steps. What old part of me is retained since I lived with him? When searching for answers or the truth, one is seldom ready for the unexpected. Or one simply never finds it. Or stumps you when you find out.

Maybe I have become lazier, covering up the modern nothingness that seeps into the house with late night tv series and movies, neglecting my care for the self as I slap on anti-wrinkle serum on my face and primp and preen in front of the mirror. Maybe I am too absorbed with him – I can stare at him for hours, watch him go about his things, lie in bed with him by my side and stroke and caress him until he gets annoyed, kiss his face and inhale his scent until he tells me to stop and calls me a creep.

I am starting to believe that happiness takes the edge off everything else. No more days coloured with overtones of melancholy and brooding loneliness and the pain of the world, I have somebody beside me to share everything with, who makes me laugh constantly and hang on to the tender feelings that love brings. I don’t want those depressing feelings, I am merely nostalgic for them. It’s nice to look back once in a while and see that it is still there and you possess it.

‘Yes, it is possible that we do not grow up, that even as we grow old, we remain the children we always were. We remember ourselves as we were then, and we feel ourselves to be the same. We made ourselves into what we are now then, and we remain what we were, in spite of the years. We do not change for ourselves. Time makes us grow old, but we do not change.’

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