Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Did you cycle here?"

... My grandma's favourite question... every time i see her.

in fact she loves this question so much, that she can literally ask me an average of 3 to 4 times in half an hour.

of course, she is also one who likes variety, so she'll interact in different ways:
1. are you cycling home?
2. don't cycle home

whatever form the question or comment is made, my answer is always the same:
"no poh-poh... i drove here."

my grandma (mom's side) is 87 this year.

a lovable old lady with a gentle heart and loves spoiling her grandchildren. i like to think i am her favourite because she is always feeding me whenever i visit. and not just feeding me with everything.. mainly fruits.

she knows i love fruits and she always says with a cheeky smile and a twinkle in her eye, "a-senn, there's fresh fruits in the fridge". this, of course, is followed by the usual tale of how, as a kid, i had loved fruits so much that even the ones on the altar is not safe. i would give a courtesy nod and say a little prayer (my way of asking 'permission' to the god idols) and whoop! the apple is taken, washed and chewed on before anybody can stop me. i am almost certain i am her favourite because after awhile, she would place more fruits on the altar when she knew i was coming by.. kinda like 'contingency' fruits in case i went for the altar instead of the fridge. so if you asked me, placing extra fruits on the alter just so i can take them makes me pretty special.

we had a lot more to talk about in the past but our conversation has not progressed much since i started cycling. now, it's become very predictable:
senn: hi poh-poh
grandma: hey! did you cycle here?
senn: no poh-poh... i drove here
grandma: that's good... it's too far to cycle
(she breaks to fuss over her plants/channel/boiling water)
grandma: there's fruits in the fridge
senn: no thanks, maybe later
grandma: did you cycle here?
senn: no poh-poh... i drove here
(she breaks to watch her favourite chinese soap)
senn: ok poh-poh, i'm leaving now..
grandma: so soon? there's fruits in the fridge..
senn: yes, i've had some..
grandma: are you cycling home?
senn: no poh-poh... i drove here
grandma: dont cycle home
senn: i won't... i drove.

by now you would have probably guessed that my grandma's somewhat senile. and i believe so too. on some days, it can get much worst! these are the days when she would say i have mistaken my roots and i'm actually my granddad's sister, and not grandchild. mistaken identity, which she strongly believes is my confusion. apparently she does the same with my other cousin su-en.. claiming that su-en was the one that cycled, not me! a full dialogue would happen with su-en involving my grandma telling su-en that su-en's forgetful and confused and should remember that su-en is the one cycling, not me. (my cousin, by the way, is candle white, plans to stay that way and thinks i'm mad)

but poh-poh isn't as bad as my other grandma (dad's side).

My other grandma is 88 this year.

Not as strong, but just as sweet...when she remembered who i was. this is how my conversation has been with her for the past 3 years, maybe more:
senn: hi mah-mah!
grandma: who are you?
senn: i'm a-senn
grandma: who?
senn: senn-senn la..
(she turns to the person, any person, next to her)
grandma: who is she?
senn: hinn-chai's (dad's nick) daughter
grandma: oooooo...
(she falls asleep at the table while we eat)
senn: ok, bye mah-mah
grandma: who are you...?

i kid you not... it is that bad.

she was recently hospitalised and we had the same conversation. but it was a little different this time. when she remembered who i was, she stroked my cheek and smiled. then her memory would lapse and i had to tell her who i was all over again (those of you who have watched and remembered the old movie "the notebook" would understand what i mean by goldfish memory.)

she touched my face and stroked my cheek and forehead 4 times during my last visit when she was hospitalised. at first is was sweet, then somewhat saddening.. as if she knew her memory would lapse again and she wanted me to know she knew me and loved me very much while she could.

with an ailing mah-mah and a blissfully senile poh-poh, i can't help but wonder if goldfish memory syndrome is hereditary. (my granddad (dad's side) past away with perfect memory when i was about 20.)

my other granddad(mom's side) passed away last weekend. he was 91 and had perfect memory.

his health started declining july 2007 after a series of colds/fever and diarrhea. towards november he had to be wheeled around and spoon fed. he had also stopped talking.

but he never stopped smiling.

that's how he greeted me. always with a bright smile and as firm a grip as he could manage on my hand or arm. he knew who i was, what i did and what transport i took to his house.

though i am greatly sadden by his passing, i am also happy that he went peacefully and filled with memories.

i am happy he led a life full of love for his grandchildren (of course to the parents he was a tyrant) and was adored by all. i am grateful his passing was quick and he did not suffer much discomfort. in his final days he was surrounded by his loyal children who took turns feeding him and grandchildren who took turns giving him light back rubs and massages and telling him funny stories which he couldn't contribute but managed light giggles and shoulder shrugging.

above all, i am happy he kept his memories right till the end.

thinking back and seeing how my grandmas are living, i would want to take after my granddads. i would want to remember all my adventures: what it felt like during my first tri, my first marathon, my first over-distance ride

and MISadventures: my first fall, and able to categorise them as first ever, clipless, uphill, downhill, high speed etc. my first wilderness during a race, first time i squirted gatorade into my eyes thinking it was water... you know.. sh*t like that.

i want to be able to repeat these stories to my children, and my children's children.

i realise how much we take our days for granted. how each session is a "o! a training ride/run", a "o! a recovery ride" or "o! my timing was better last session". these are memories we are living each day now and god forbid, if grandma genes are superior, memories forgotten as i age.

so next time you go on a routine training or race, take a step back and realise whatever you are about to do or achieve is a precious memory that might just disappear later in life.

i know i'll be trying to appreciate the moment because for all you know, this could be me at 90, pointing at an old photo of me at some race, to my grandchild and saying "...and this is your grandcousin aunty su-en, she did the ironman you know..."