Lost

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

–e.b.
***

So my grandma died today, in the wee hours of the morning just after my plane touched down in Changi. I didn’t get to see her (alive) one last time. Actually, I think her mind may have been gone weeks ago, so we’d lost a part of her then, and we’re losing the whole of her now.

I haven’t nearly had any time to think about it, really. But sometimes I catch myself drifting off at work, and remember that after my time clocked in the office, I have to go to the funeral, and it’s depressing as hell. I did not bargain for this denouement, but life deals, and you get on with it. It’s easier not to talk about it, so I haven’t really told anyone at work. For future reference, if you have to deal with me when I’m sad, you should just let me get on with my moping. It doesn’t last very long, and there’s hardly anything you can say that will mitigate anything, unless you’re Emily Dickinson or something.

I have one grandparent left! About the grandmother that left us this morning:

She was quite a character. She could speak maybe 5 languages (including various chinese dialects), but only a little bit of each one. So most of the time when she spoke to me it was in a hodge podge of languages, trying to get me to understand, and I understood very little. I guess I regret not picking up Hokkien (her primary language) to speak to her.

She made rather good chilli according to everyone else, but since I didn’t eat chilli for most of my life before I was 21, I have no opinion on this. Everyone mentions her chilli in ther wedding speech though. In other things she’s not such a great cook; her signature dish is red bean soup.

The clearest (and probably most unflattering) memory I have of her is at her House Dedication. Now house dedications aren’t all that common in my church – probably only for old people who used to practice idol worship and who wanted to “rid” their house of all those spirits. The main reason she called the pastor to do the house dedication for her new apartment (back in 2009 or something) was because my maternal grandmother had had the pastor over to her house for chinese new year, and since my paternal grandmother didn’t want to lose out, she held a house dedication. All through the time the pastor was giving his mini sermon my paternal grandmother was whispering to my maternal grandmother and getting out of her chair to settle various things and getting generally distracted, like a twitchy little kid. The pastor had to tell her to shush and sit down lol, which is not easy for a man about half her age. My dad had ordered a catered buffet, so when there was a bunch of food left over (old people don’t eat that much), she actually grabbed a styrofoam plate, loaded it up, and went over to her next door neighbours, pressing the button in rapid succession in the manner you would fire a Para/M249 in CS. DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG it went, and nobody answered. I was appalled and faintly amused. She didn’t think she was disturbing them at all!

Only my dad and my youngest aunt, and youngest uncle was brought up by her. The two older kids were actually sent off to be mothered by her sister in-law, which I think was quite common in those days when you are poor, so they aren’t all that close to her. Their family is one that is rife with feuds and bad behaviour for many generations, but I guess we do pull together when things like this happen.

She used to pop up outside my apartment when I was young to deliver food and things (that my mother didn’t want). None of us particularly liked the food she brought, but it was cute how she kept popping up unannounced. She had a direct bus to my flat so I thought this delivery service was just for us, but it turns out she did it for all the grandchildren, even all the way in Ghim Moh (when she stayed in Ang Mo Kio). Crazy! She liked giving us stuff, and she also liked giving us money, all the way until I started working.

She was fiercely independent, and was self-sufficient for her entire adult life. Once she found out how much money could be made by subletting rooms in her apartment, she basically rented the spare room out I think even when my grandfather was alive. Rent in Singapore is pretty ridiculous, up to $3000 for a full apartment. I think for a room in a flat you pay about $800 or so. So she had this steady source of income which none of her children can even claim to have after they retired. She was so concerned with saving/making money that she even split her own bedroom in half, renting half of it out to a chinese immigrant. I’m not sure how much of this was legal. It’s amazing how little personal space she cares for, and how enterpreneurial she is. But essentially nobody had to pay for any of her hospital/hospice fees or even for the domestic worker (Hubbard refers to them as live-in servants), which were a song anyway, considering all of her children have retired. I wonder what will happen to the maid now. She was really professional wrt geriatrics.

I am especially sad that she will not be there to see me get married.

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