Last Tuesday it was six years since my maternal Granddad died. This made me reflect not only upon his life, but on how difficult it was to be so far away from your family; my grandparents, cousins and most of my Aunts and Uncles are in India and Malaysia and this can make seeing them frequently very difficult. Of course, I do remember my Grandfather, but I do not have as many memories with him as my cousins back in India do.
This idea made me think of what it was like for many people who have settled in the UK and have their parents – and their sons and daughters’ grandparents – far away. I was quite fortunate to visit India (roughly) every three years or so, yet I did not know my Grandfather nearly as well as some of my cousins did.
Even with the wonders of Skype and instant messaging on Facebook, it’s nothing compared to living down the street from your grandparents like some people have the luxury of having (no matter how much one might complain about their in-laws). When you go see your relatives every few years, the talk can often be the same. “She’s grown so much!” “What year is he in now?” “Do you still like to do…” As a result (at least in my experience) you don’t truly get to know them.
I discovered far more about my Granddad after he died than after he was alive. The more I heard about him, the more I wished he was still alive. I have so many questions that I wish he could answer.
Of course – and as horrible as it sounds – I did not experience as much pain and sadness as my Mum and relatives back in India did when he died. I was very upset, but for different reasons; I never knew him like they did.
There are times I actually forget that he died. I’ll be thinking “I can tell tha tha this…” and then I’ll remember I can’t. I think of all he missed: the entirety of my time at high school; my graduation from high school; and me starting University. He was keen to hear me how I would get on at school, and I used to like telling him.
One of the saddest parts is that my younger brother was only six when he died; I was twelve. He doesn’t remember tha tha as much as I do. He never even met my paternal grandfather, who died when I was very young. One thing that being far away from your relatives teaches you is how precious your time with them really is: you want to make the most of it while you are there, because you don’t know if there will be a next time.
However, I’ve not lost all hope. My maternal Grandmother has visited many times and we are seeing her soon. Thanks to phone calls and such, we still communicate and will catch up a lot when I next see her. I know the last thing my Granddad would want is for me to be sad.
I also realise that it’s probably not nearly as hard for me as it is for my parents, who of course do know our grandparents well and have to deal being so far away. I suppose they get used to it, but it doesn’t mean they never miss them. Yet, this is just part of the wider experience of having your roots elsewhere in the world; it’s one of the many difficulties to be endured.
Nevertheless, I want to end on a positive. I have been incredibly lucky compared to some other people. Both my grandmothers are still alive. I intend to see them both – and spend as much time with them and my relatives as possible. I’m still young and have lots of time to make many more memories. My grandfather’s death, over many years of reflection, has taught me you have to make the most of absolutely everything. You just don’t know when it will all go; seeing my Mum with regret was one of the most painful things I’ve seen.
I want to do everything I set out to do – and better.
This article is a tribute to my late maternal grandfather.