Saturday, September 30, 2006

in the family

I cannot imagine a single civilization that does not honour its dead. That's something about humans, surely? That we recognize not just our own mortality, but also the mortality of others. That's probably where religion comes from; the knowledge that we will all die; that we all will die.

Yesterday I watched my father and his siblings bid farewell to their father; and watched my grandmother reassess her idea of herself as a woman, rearranging her thoughts to accomodate the idea of herself as a widow. Here was a woman who, almost singlehandedly, raised four children; who turned out, every one, into successful, happy adults. A grandmother with an open mind and an enormous heart. A grandmother who would take English lessons from even such a capricious teacher as a ten year old me; who would, uncomplainingly, satisfy every whim of five demanding grandchildren. A grandmother who would think nothing of cooking omelettes for her grandchildren if they wanted them.
And there she was, rearranging her mind to accommodate the idea that she was now a widow. I stood behind her and watched her hold on the iron railing of the window into the room where the ceremony was taking place, and I held her hand and wished I could do more.
This morning she is in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

There is not a woman in my family who does not deserve respect. Aunts who have handled demanding and thankless in-laws, scraped and scrounged to make ends meet, worked for eight years to reach a PhD, refused to go on their honeymoon so they could finish their MSc. Grandmothers who will, everyday, teach you that there is a reason to be glad that genetics mean you might just turn out to be half as wonderful as they are someday. If, before I die, I can look back and say I lived with a fraction of the dignity these women have invested their lives with, I will be content. Every cliché about the strength of women is an understatement.

No comments:

Post a Comment