Another long while passed since I’ve last blogged. It would appear that not only have I lost my writing mojo, my laziness has also reached an all-time high. Life’s been life, that’s to say it’s as usual, there’s up and there’s down.
Today I would like to post something, a tribute if you will.
My paternal grandmother, my Eyang Putri (or Ibu as I call her), passed away 45 days ago today. Ibu was the main reason behind my trip home last year. I can safely say all of us in the family have expected the moment to arrive, though the sadness is undoubtedly palpable. She has lived a long, full and happy 75 years and her memories and spirit will always remain with us forever.
I will forever remember the last time I spoke to her on the phone, eleven days before she was gone. She had called me the day before, Monday, but I missed her call. I returned her call back the next morning on Tuesday. She had heard from my Dad that my son was sick so she inquired about that. I talked to her for a good 30 minutes. She was asking about my new niece (my husband’s sister had just given birth to a little girl), she was telling to me to amp up in teaching my son his letters and numbers.
Before I hung up, I told her the same thing I always told her, “Nanti aku telpon lagi ya Bu. Sehat sehat ya Bu.”
She replied, “Iya. Terima kasih ya ‘nduk.”
She always thanked me for calling her. I always told her she shouldn’t thank me. It is my duty to call her, to check up on her. And that I should’ve been a better granddaughter and call more often.
that i should. that i really fucking should.
That thank-you would be her last words to me. I wish I could say no regret, I wish I could say that confidently, but the truth is,
i really, really wish i stayed on that phone a while longer. a lot while longer. another half an hour, another hour, another two hours.
I am happy that she’s in a much, much better place. Like my Grandfather before her, she chose for her body to be cremated shortly after her passing. She was cremated in Jakarta. My family spread her ashes in the sea. On a chilly Wednesday afternoon, my husband, son and I went to the Mississippi River bearing a bouquet of flowers we picked up at Schnucks and picking the flowers by the sprig, throwing them out to sea and said prayers for her.
“Say your prayers for Yangti,” my husband told our son.
“Tell Yangti to have a good rest,” I told my son. (My son calls my grandparents Yangti and Yangkung.)
In his childlike voice, throwing the purple geranium sprig, he said bravely, “Sleep well, Yangti and Yangkung!”
off went the purple geranium, out into the river, flowing with the water. going to sea, i hope. my ibu loves flowers. i can only hope the bouquet i picked meets her standard.
My husband threw the yellow geranium sprig, then he looked out into the sea. He probably whispered some good words to my grandparents. He’s never met my grandmother, he’s seen her a few times on Skype over spotty connection and spoke for a few minutes on the phone. Her with her broken English and my husband in all his awkwardness. She would tha nk him profusely for taking care of me. The last time, over the phone she told my husband in her frail but confident voice
i love you.
My husband was taken aback. For all his western sensibility and the way they throw their i-love-yous rather freely and sometimes lightly, he was taken aback, that this woman he’s never met, a woman who certainly wasn’t raised to say something so profound so easily, he was taken aback. A smile appeared on his face and he replied,
i love you too. thank you.
And so I am sure, at that moment, as he was throwing his yellow sprig off to sea, he whispered those same words to her.
I threw the pink geranium, and I whispered to the sea, I know they are listening somewhere up there. I told my grandparents my hope that their reunion would be sweet, and that they are happy together now, inseparable.
I told my son that Yangti is now happy up in the Sky, reunited with Yangkung and that even though she wouldn’t be in her house anymore the next time we come visit Indonesia, she will always look upon us and take care of us.
One day we were in the car. I was driving us to my husband’s grandmother’s house. My son was looking out of the window, the same thing he always does when we’re in the car. Suddenly from the backseat, he said, “Mama, does Yangti live in the Sky now?”
Something about the innocence, clear voice in which he asked the question stirred up a certain pang of sadness in me.
I turned my head up to the sky and smiled. I told my son, “Yes, yes she does, baby.”
A few weeks ago it snowed in our city. A blanket of whiteness. My first thought was, “Bu, sekarang Ibu bisa lihat salju deket rumahku kan?” It’s funny now that she’s gone, I am so certain that she gets to experience everything she always said she wanted to experience when she was alive. She always said she wanted to see my house. Wanted to see my town in the snow. Wanted to see my son’s daycare and his friends. Wanted to meet my dad in law.
After she’s gone, now I found myself quietly talking to her, introducing her to all the things she wanted to meet, all the things she wanted to see.
“ini daycarenya franklin, bu. ini gurunya, miss carol, ini gurunya yang satu lagi, miss rhonda. daycarenya di belakang gereja.”
“ini papa mertuaku. orangnya aneh, tapi hatinya baik. dia sayang banget sama franklin.”
Because I know, now she sees. Now she meets them.
A few mornings ago I woke up, and you know how sometimes when you wake up, you have a certain song stuck in your head?
that morning my song was the traditional javanese song ibu used to sing around her house. she’s a hummer, she hums a lot of songs as she pittered-pattered about the house. sometimes, more often than not it’s a church song, something from the Madah Bakti or the Puji Syukur. sometimes it’s this song, lir ilir.
I went onto youtube and listened to lir ilir a few times.
Today, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend Lindsey called me. She told me that she had just lost her grandma to cancer. I don’t think I’m in any place to console her, but I found myself telling her, “don’t worry, your grandma is in a much better place. i heard heaven is a very cozy, awesome place. i mean, i’ve never been, but i think it’s pretty awesome. maybe your grandma will meet my grandma up there. they’ll have fun.”
she said, “are you sure you’ve never been?”
then, just like that, we laughed. we shared a laugh. i said, we should celebrate our grandmothers and their lives. (maybe next time we’ll share a meal and some cheers for these kick-ass ladies we get to call grandma.)
as I hung up the phone, one of my writing blocks dissolved into a puddle of inspiration.
and so this post was written.
Rest in Peace, Bu. You will forever be remembered, loved, and prayed for.