I met my 102 year old grandfather. What he did not ask surprised me
Wise words distilling what matters.
Excitement is the right word.
Last time when I saw him — he was 98.
I crossed my fingers to get another chance. And across the seas from USA, I have traveled again.
Last time I met him, he was in his usual setting. In his terracotta roofed home, his father had built 100+ years ago in a small village on the banks of a seasonal river called Cauvery. In that home, my grandparents ensured I had lasting memories — every growing summer when I escaped the city to be in their embrace.
This time, my uncle built a modern home in its place and my grandpa had his own room.
In that room, I sensed his positive energy.
Zest for Life
My 9 and 5 year-old daughters wanted to take a picture with great grandpa after the customary hugs. He was seated on his bed. He was holding his cup of coffee. When I told him I am going to take a picture, he told me to wait. He gulped his coffee, gave the cup and asked me if he was facing the camera in the right direction. I adjusted his face. He gave a big smile.
His zest for the best picture just blew me away.
The dimension that really moved me — my grand pa is now officially blind.
I sat beside him on his bed. We had our quiet moments. We spoke. As always, he was a great listener.
Now that I am a family man, many things that escaped me came back with reverence. I asked him, “You never called grandma by her name?” All he said was, “calling each other’s name is overrated.” He should know. They were married for 80+years and spoke to each other with their eyes. I still pushed back, “what did you do when she was not within eyesight?” He smiled and said, “I would ask one of the young ones to gently tug her and let her know.”
I remember playing that part in my short pants — many moons ago.
During those summers with an army of grand kids in the house, all of us sat around grandma in the morning. She would pour us heated milk that was freshly milked. He would enter the spacious kitchen quietly. He would sit at the other end and cut all the vegetables and leave. No drama, no big conversations.
As I touch his weathered hands now, I cannot recall ever bracketing him as perfect spouse for my grandma. I always felt my grandma’s talent were curtailed in the village setting. Today, I see him as a thoughtful husband. And that nuance is worth cherishing.
As I drove back, I was stuck by the one question he did not ask.
In all those quiet moments together, one on one, he never asked me about my work.
His closest question was different.
“How many friends did you make at work?” And he followed it up with “Why them?”
As I collected my thoughts, he said, “Can I lie down, my back hurts from all the sitting.”
I gently guided him back to bed. He rested while my thoughts exploded.
Architects do blueprints of the entire house, where the pipes run to how many rooms and how high the roofs will be. My grandfather is more like a gardener - just dig a hole, sow the seed and see what comes up. Every time I meet him, he makes me think on what matters — by asking a different question.
Like every grandchild, I have this question — will I get another chance?
To enjoy the blooms of the flowers through the seeds he sowed.
P.S. Why I felt like writing this experience?
“So often like this…. he would come upon something — beautiful beyond all words, if there had been a soul with whom to share it. Beauty is meaningless until it is shared.”
― George Orwell, Burmese Days