Dula enjoying fresh durian from Nenek’s orchard.
The four of us back in the day! We were spoilt with love, care and lots of green juices by Nenek.
If only she could see us now. Four of us, with two additional amazing add-ons. Three investment executives, a soon-to-be psychology graduate from Canada, a British engineering student and Iman!
Amal obviously uninterested in Nenek’s flowers.
Nenek and I on the way to Singapore! She was born in Singapore but moved to Port Dickson in her early 20s with her family.

DEAR Nenek,

I left the laundry in the dryer for three days again. There’s dust on my vacuum, I can’t remember the last time I used my oven and my plants have turned grey. Work is keeping me busy and I’ve been travelling quite a bit. We were in Brunei Darussalam last month and will be in Thailand next week. I also have a trip to Hong Kong planned for June. I’m going to take Ashraf to Disneyland. He’s never been there.

CHERISHED MEMORIES

Remember when you took me to Disney World? I was 7 and that was my first time away from Mama and Papa for such a long trip. Abdulaziz and I couldn’t sleep for a week leading up to the trip because we were so excited. I even got a new backpack especially for the adventure.

We saw Mickey, Minnie and Princess Jasmine. I got scolded by Rafiki for bopping his mask so many times. It wasn’t my fault, how is a girl supposed to believe that there was an actual man in that suit? He looked so real. I can’t believe you managed to catch him wagging his finger at me on camera, who knew you could work a video camera Nenek! I still laugh when I watch that video.

I recently had a free night when nothing was due, no one texted me and I had no where to be. I found a file of videos that we copied from old VCR tapes (I think Mama bribed Abdulaziz to finally do them) and I binge-watched hours of family home movies.

My incessant wailing of not wanting to share my lollipop with my brother, Abdulaziz’s first steps on your Persian carpets, me and my unruly curls eating with you at the breakfast table, you playing with Amal around your house by the river, our trip to Disney World and SeaWorld, Dula smothering his face with durian from your orchard and countless other memories frozen in time.

There are so many things I wish I could freeze and keep in my heart forever. There are also some things I wish I never had to go through.

NEW PEOPLE

Amal’s university convocation is coming up soon. She’ll be a Carleton University graduate, just like me. I showed you pictures of Carleton, remember? Going to university and living in Ottawa was the best time of my life. I met Ashraf there, we fell in love and got married. You’d like him.

We both really want to go to Amal’s convocation ceremony in June (and to visit our friends, and to buy more mini tootsie rolls. I can’t find them in Malaysia!) but it’s a bit too expensive for our new working life budget. Plus there’s no way we could get that much annual leave from work (how would girlboss function? You’d like her too.)

I am so grateful to have so many new people in my life. Like my husband and his family, girlboss and her teams, new and old friends who have reappeared. It almost seems that people who have always been in your life have to leave to make way for the new people who want to be a part of it.

But why do people have to leave? Why can’t they stay in our lives forever? The pain of losing someone you love is worst thing I have ever gone through.

Ashraf and I were thinking of getting a cat because we’ve never had a pet together, and it may be good practice for our responsibility skills before we start having children. Ashraf is pushing for one of those miniatures kittens with short legs and folded ears.

I don’t know how I feel about cats because I’m highly allergic to them. He said I can get an immunisation injection that can get rid of my allergies but I read up on it the other day and the science behind it is still under testing. Thanks, but no thanks — I don’t want to be a part of a science project. I know you’d feel the same way.

Did you feel that way when you were sick? Like you were part of an experiment by the doctors who couldn’t make you feel better? The tubes, needles and machines always made me feel like I was walking into a laboratory when I visited you.

ALWAYS ON MY MIND

I know this letter is out of the blue and I haven’t written to you since you left but I think about you every day. Obviously this letter will never get a reply but Insha Allah (God willing), I know and hope that one day we will all be together again. That is my guiding solace.

Ashraf asks about you sometimes — how you passed away, what you were like as a grandma and how we spent our time together. I can’t tell him about the last months of your life or the day you passed away without getting a lump in my throat or breaking down into tears. I always tell him about how generous, caring and funny you were. But we both know you were more than that.

I try and explain your hilariously strict healthy lifestyle and how you would cart around a juicer and fresh vegetables to your friends’ houses when you went to visit them! You always said that juices should be consumed fresh and that was the only way you wanted it. I’m trying to lead a healthier lifestyle too — I think you’d be proud of me. I’m not bringing my juicer around to social events, but I’m staying off McDonalds #backoncleaneating.

Sometimes I share about how you picked me up from school before lunch time so you could take me to my acupuncture appointments. I don’t know if you realised but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I said I had a “long lunch break”, I actually lied. I just wanted to miss math class and go for a fun meal with you (even if it was at the organic cafe in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, the only one back then! There are so many now, you’d be spoilt for choice!) I loved our time together. What I would give to be with you for just five minutes now #alltheworldsandeverythinginit.

I told Ashraf about your amazingly extensive wardrobe of clothes, bags and shoes, and if you liked a pair of pants, you would buy it in every colour! Cleaning through your belongings were hard — how could we give away your things when we hadn’t even wrapped our heads around the fact that you were gone? Mama, Amal and I still have and wear your things till now. We can’t part with them.

But we’re alright. We’re taking care of Mama, don’t worry. I’m okay and Insha Allah, I know you’re in a better place.

I have to go now because I’m actually in the middle of a work day and I know you would be mad at me for not focusing and not giving 110 per cent to my job. Perhaps you’ll let me off the hook just this one time.

Love always and forever, Iman.

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