Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Swiss Snippets: portraits of my grandmaman

Portrait #1:
G'ma: What's that you're doing?
Mom (painstakingly doing a Sudoku puzzle): it's like a crossword puzzle, but with numbers.
G'ma: Oh. (Pause). Is it in English?

Portrait #2:
Mom (shouting to my cousin downstairs): We're going to have supper, do you want to eat?
G'ma (sitting a few feet away from Mom): Eat? Oh no (in incredulous tone). You know I just ate half an hour ago, why would I want to eat again now?

Portrait #3:
G'ma: Have I taken my pills yet?
Mom: yes you have.
(they spend a few minutes in the kitchen, looking at the one-week pill box thingy, helping her see that she *has* indeed taken her pills to date)
G'ma (Half an hour later): I don't think I've taken my pills yet.. have I taken my pills?
(This happened like FIVE times in 12 hours...)
A few days after her 92nd birthday, my grandmother was rushed to hospital due to breathing difficulties, and was warded in the ICU. For a while, it seemed like her time had come. Then she got better, and was moved to a long-term-stay thingy within the hospital. The doctors didn't want to discharge her, or rather, they wanted to discharge her into an old folks home, because they said she wouldn't be able to look after herself properly alone. She refused to be in such a home. As far as I knew, they were at an impasse.

Then about two weeks ago my mom says that my g'ma is being discharged, so she (mom) is going to be with her for about a month. Based on the information above, i assumed g'ma was going to be in a home, and that my mom was going to be commuting or whatever, wherever that home was. Turns out she was in THE home. As in, HER home. As in, my g'ma was discharged because my mom was coming. Huh. Roundabout logic.

So my mom's duty while in switzerland is to kinda assess if my g'ma can indeed fend for herself, alone in that big house on the top of a hill, with fading eyesight, with almost no hearing ability despite her hearing aid, tottering around with the aid of a cane, with her mind that is nowhere near as sharp as it used to be...


I feel my grandma is REALLY fading, but at the same time she is amazingly (and stubbornly) independant, so I really don't know if on my next trip to switzerland she'll be dead in the ground, alive but in a home, or alive and still at the house on top of the hill.

Frankly, I'll be happy for her if it's #1: after all, she's lived 92 years, buried her husband about 7 years ago, and has said goodbye to all her five (younger!) brothers (two of whom passed away within months of each other around this time last year). Her only surviving sibling is the only other female, who happens to be the youngest of the lot (i suppose this just underscores the fact that Swiss women are particularly long-lived?).

Two years ago, we had a big hoo-hah for her 90th birthday. Earlier last week, someone mentioned organising something for her 100th. Her reaction: aghast! Oh my, I sure hope I don't make it! In fact, sometimes, she just mutters to herself Oh, I wish I could just depart now. I'm so tired of living.

Don't get me wrong, she's not suicidal. In fact, she's about as pious as they come. She's just tired. It must be totally frustrating to be almost blind and deaf, and to not be able to interact in a fulfilling manner with anyone.

My (then) office colleagues were impressed when, 2 years ago, I essentially boasted that despite her age, my g'ma was still very mentally active, doing her daily crossword puzzles without fail. Now, her eyesight prevents her from doing that. But even if her eyesight wasn't so bad, i wonder if she *could* do her puzzles... she seems... easily confused... less sharp than before.

Then again... Portrait #4:
Sunday's lunch involved a creamy mushroom sauce poured onto & into a puff pastry. There were 8 pastries. G'ma had had one. She then left the table, while the rest of us continued with our meal.

A few hours later:

G'ma: Did you finish the puff pastries?
Mom: Yes, all gone.

(Pause. Mom whispers to me: she's going to ask about the one extra pastry, I'm sure! You could see g'ma was thinking hard, wondering how 3 people would have consumed 7 pastries)

G'ma: Who had three pastries?
Me: No-one.
G'ma: But someone MUST have had three, there was one extra!
Me: No-one had three, but two had 2.5 each.
G'ma: Ah (satisfied).
Yep, she still *has* her mental faculties.. just maybe not 100% of the time anymore...

And she's still the petty narrow-minded one-track-minded person from before.
I mean, this is the person who, when I was much younger, thought that if i were to consume pork, I could no longer be a Muslim, so when me & my brother stayed with my Swiss grandparents for a few months, she would not actually feed us pig products since she had been warned against that, but she *did* cook our beef/veal sausages together with the pork sausages. Yum. For those who wondered why I am very "liberal" when it comes to pig products and exposure thereto, well, now u know.

Then there was the time, a few years later. Yet another visit to switzerland. My parents, maybe even my brother, were out, and for some reason I didn't go with them. My g'ma furtively hands me some book entitled Injil Bahasa Indonesia, and points out some passages or chapters that she thinks are the ones she likes, and asks me to read. I do so, since at that time I had no idea what "injil" was. Didn't understand a word. Indonesian *is* different enough from Malay, for sure. But I figured out what it was she was asking me to read. Told mom when they came back. I think my g'ma got an earful :p But what was amazing, was that my g'ma had gone thru all that trouble of somehow sourcing a bible in Indonesian, in the hopes that I could read and understand the Word of God and hallelujah I'd be saved!

But not saved by / converted to just any form of Christianity, however. Protestant. To her, them Catholics are as non-Christian as Muslims and any other religion.


A recent "conversation": Out of the blue, she asks me something about Jews in the U.S. I just smile vaguely, nod, roll eyes, and try to concentrate on my book. She then talks to herself, but loudly, so you know she means to be heard. And what does she say? "Yeah, the Jews. They are still waiting for the Messiah. Little do they know He already came. And they crucified Him." Sigh. All i can do is just ignore her mutterings even more, and concentrate real hard on the page which I've probably read three times but still didn't get anything out of it :p

And another out of the blue thing: she asks "Don't you want to embrace Jesus as your Saviour?" A few days later, she says worriedly to my mom "Say, I asked *lynne* whether or not she wanted to embrace Jesus as her saviour, but she didn't reply. Why do you think she's silent about it?" I hear my mom growl in disgust, and also not answer.


After 33 years, you'd think my g'ma'd finally quit this whole attempt to "save" her two "heathen" grandchildren! ... then again, I guess she's thinking that after over 30 years maybe they'll finally crack! If nothing else, I suppose her persistence is to be applauded?
I've alluded to my cousin a few times: let's call him Nate. he's living in the "basement" of the house, and commutes to another town to attend college. This is a recent development (since maybe end August). He has a computer (of course! what student can live without one in this day and age?), and recently managed to get it hooked to the 'net. We were having a conversation about something related to that, when g'ma chimes in "I do wish you didn't have that computer in the house. I don't like it. It's diabolical, it is. Television and computers. Diabolical."

Yep, she's lived all her life without television. She has that trusty old radio, which she uses to listen to the news, and to religious broadcasts. That's it. Glad they *did* get a telephone - when you think about it, it's kind of a miracle that there *is* a phone line to that house, eh?

Yeah, running out of anecdotes and memories here....

bottomline: my g'ma is very much the product of her upbringing, of the very conservative mindset of the older European generation. The world has moved on, well beyond her comprehension. All she has ever known, and all she has now, is her religious belief and faith.

I trust that when her time comes, she will go peacefully to The Creator, who will welcome with open arms one of His most steadfast and faithful children.


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