My grandma has been unwell of late. So I made the snap decision to do a quick overnight trip to Jakarta and visit her this weekend. When she saw me, she could not recognise who I am. This is the first time she has been unable to recall who I am, even when I tell her my name. I could barely keep the tears from my eyes as I tried to explain to her that I’m her eldest grandchild who is visiting from Singapore.
Our family was warned a few years ago that my grandma had the onset of dementia. We have been fortunate that she has been in relatively good health and with the exception of her hearing that has been deteriorating, she’s been in good shape. Even when I visited her just 4 months ago, she knew who I was and could entertain Zoey at the dinner table. However, this time she cannot remember who I am.
I used to call my grandma every Monday at 3 pm. She would sit by the phone and wait for my call every week. She loved to hear my voice and I enjoyed chatting with her on whichever random topic she would bring up. However, as she aged, her hearing started to fail and she began to get impatient on the phone. Many times when I call, she would only say a few words before yelling that she can’t hear and quickly hang up. Eventually the calls dwindled. I even tried to arrange to have Skype calls with her on weekends when my uncle was home. While she was excited to see me on the screen, her inability to hear what I was saying meant that she refused to do it after a while. With that, our interaction became limited to my twice yearly trips.
We think we have all the time in the world to be with the ones we love. Even though I live just a 2 hour plane ride away, I normally only visit twice or thrice a year. This trip has reminded me of the danger of “out of sight, out of mind”. My family lives all over the world and we are so lucky to be living in the age of hyper-connectivity. Yet I’ve not been taking full advantage of it. I need to be less self-absorbed with my life and start making sure I get more time with her. In particular, allowing Zoey to get to know her great-grandma better. They are 82 years apart and have such a great connection. I really want Zoey to have some memories to keep before we run out of time.
Picture of them together on our trip in October 2015. They had just shared an ice-cream.