There was a boy who was very close with his granny. Both of his parents were working and he spent most of his childhood at his granny’s house. It was more like a childcare centre. Every morning, his dad drops him off at school. Every noon, the little boy walks to his granny’s house and spent the entire afternoon there. Every night, his parents fetches him home.
No one stays with the granny. She stayed in an old 3-bedroom double-storey terrace house. All alone and lonely. Regularly, she had some visitors. Her sons and daughters have moved out to start their own families. During most days, it was just the little boy and his granny. While they were 80 years apart, both of them spent countless afternoons together, filling each other’s void.
Both of them were waiting.
For the little boy, he was waiting for his parents to pick him up. That was an old house with no toys or books. He couldn’t wait to go home.
For the granny, she was waiting to see her son and daughter-in-law., hoping to catch some conversation with them when they were there to pick the little boy. Everyday, she will sit by the gate, watching cars and people outside her house, hoping to catch a glimpse of familiar faces. She was always there, waiting at the same spot, be it rain or shine…
For the little boy, this granny of him is no more than just a "Figure of Respect". To him, "granny" was a loving caretaker, a servant of his needs, a mother who nags, a historian of family stories and a teacher of his love. "Granny" was someone who stuffed coins and cash into the boy’s schoolbag (so that he has extra pocket-money to spend). It was his granny who gave him his first lesson of cooking. It was also his granny who taught him about love.
There was this one particular story which his granny loves to recite. It was about his granny’s happy moments with his late grandpa…back in the 40s… The boy’s late grandpa was a sea-trader and they both had a house by the sea. They spent many happy moments at the beach…digging sea-clamps in the sand and watching sunsets together.
Of course, the little boy won’t know much about love story at that age of 9. To him, it was the same old boring story he heard time over time. It was only after many years later when he understood the true meanings behind his granny’s tales.
This was pretty much of their lives until the boy turned 15. Day by day, both of granny and boy drifted apart. Like most teenagers, he would spent his afternoons roaming the malls and fast-food chains with his classmates. He no longer needs a "caretaker".
Old granny miss her grandson a lot. For no one really know how much she has miss him. For days when she didn’t get to see her grandson, she would ring his house number, hoping to hear his voice. It was always the same questions-and-answers routine.
"Boy, have you eaten?" Granny asked.
"Granny.. yes I have. What about you?"
"Yes, I have eaten too. Where are your dad and mum?" Granny asked.
"They are busy. Call you back later. Bye!" The boy hanged up the call.
Granny would call the house almost everyday without fail. Soon, everyone in the household took her calls for granted. After some time, the boy no longer wish to pick up the call. When he saw the number on the caller-ID, he would ignore the calls. For he knew that he was going thru the same Q&A again.
Many years passed and the boy was 19. He still visit his granny but no longer on a regualr basis. More like 2-3 times a month. Every time he arrived at his granny’s house, his granny would sit by the same spot, waiting by the gate. Whenever she saw him approaching, she would gave him the brightest smile. The boy always wondered how his granny was able to do so, sitting patiently by the gate, passing time and waiting for the next visitor. He started to feel sad for his granny. What about those fruitless days of waiting when no one comes, he wondered.
There was one particular visit when his granny made a strange request.
"What is that yellow stuff on the TV? I kept seeing it on TV…" Granny asked.
McDonalds was screening their TV commerical. His granny was referring to a pack of fries.
"Granny, that is fried potato. For kids." The boy answered.
"Is it nice?" Granny asked. "Can you bring me some the next time you visit?"
A simple yet unusual request from a 90-year old granny. The boy nodded.
For the next few years, the boy spent lesser and lesser time with his granny (due to his National service and school). His granny’s health worsen with time and one fateful night, she suffered a bad stroke. That year was 1999. His granny was 94 years old.
His granny was hospitalised and the boy was worried for her. He cares a lot about her and starts to spend more time, accompanying her by her bedside. The boy would sit by her bed at the hosiptal, almost every afternoon. Like the old days, except this time, his granny was a lot inactive and could not converse much.
During one of his visits, his granny asked him for that "pack of fries" which he promised to bring. He laughed, amazed by his granny’s memory. He promised his granny that he will bring her the fries the next time he visits.
The boy never come back with that pack of fries. The following week, he flew to Australia for a 2-month backpacking vacation. When he was there in Perth, he made regular phone calls to his granny, updating her of his life there.
His granny’s health improved and very soon, she went back home to stay. However, her memory was failing. Within a short span of 2 months, she lost a big chunk of her memory…even forgetting her loved ones. When the boy came back from Australia, he visited his granny immediately. That visit broke his heart so badly. Despited her healthy outlook, his beloved granny no longer remember him. She stared at him blankly like a perfect stranger. Withholding his tears, he whispered these words softly at her ears "I hope you can hear me granny, I love you so. Please tell me that you remember me…"
But it was too late. Her body was well, her mind wasn’t.
Over the the next 4 months, the boy visited his granny daily…hoping she will gain back her memory. Strangely, the only thing his granny can recalled was the love tale she used to tell him when he was young. The tale about her and his late grandpa, digging sea-clamps by the shores. It was at this moment the boy truly understand the power of love. His grandpa has died and left his granny for more than 25 years. Yet, this was the only piece of memory she kept with her till the last days of her life. She must have missed his grandpa so deeply that no one…not even death..can take that memory from her.
Nov 1999, his granny passed away. At her final hours, the boy withnessed the pain and sufferings his granny went through. It wasn’t a peaceful death. Her lungs collapsed and she literally suffocated to death. After many hours of struggling, she departed at the same old terrace house they both shared before.
His granny has met his girlfriend before her memory lapse. There was one evening when the boy and his girlfriend visited his granny. She asked who is she and the boy joked "my wife". His granny gave him the most puzzled look and laughed. She wasn’t prepared for this surprise answer. His granny replied "When you are a little older, give old granny a treat to your wedding dinner. Do not bully your girlfriend. Take care of her."
The boy eventually married his girlfriend ~ 3 years after the departure of his granny. The boy and his wife visited the old terrace house on the day of their wedding. At the alter, the boy broke his christian tradition holding joss stick for his granny. In his heart, he prayed "Granny, tonight is boyboy’s wedding dinner. I just wish you are here to see all this."
That was the last time the boy visited the old terrace house. He has kept the tale of his granny in his heart. This tale will be his classic tale. The one he will recite to his children and grandchildren for many years to come.
It wasn’t just a pack of fries. It is about fulfilling promises you made to your loved ones. The boy has neglected his granny for many months. Till the day she died, he never has the chance to fulfill his granny’s simple request.
It is never easy to live with regrets. And there are some regrets that you cannot rewind or redeem.
For the "Ah Mah" I loved so deeply. The boy never forget his granny.