Continued from A Grandfather’s Prayer: Part 1
“What happened Nana? Did you fall?” I asked between sobs. He nodded at me. My mom was struggling to help him up.
“Mom, Mom! Let me help you!” I shouted.
“Let me handle this,” she said, her voice strained and tense.
“Come on, you can’t do this by yourself,” I said, walking over and grabbing his hand.
“I said, let me handle this!” she yelled. I stepped back, my fists clenched. I could feel my anger rising as I watched her fumbling. It was as though every vein of my body was about to burst forth and I had lost all self-control.
“Oh, so do you want to shield me from this too? I’m not blind…I see what’s happening!” I shouted. She had managed to get my grandfather onto the bed and was wrapping a blanket around his frail body. “I’m so sick of you! You can’t protect me forever okay?” She looked up at me. I had never seen such a pained look on her face as I saw in that instant. Before I knew it, she had left and I was alone with my grandfather once again.
“I need to pray,” he said closing his eyes. “I just need to pray.”
My mind was spinning, my heart racing. Abba, Abba. I felt as though I was about to be sick. My fingers clenched the edges of the counter as I leaned over the sink. Maybe a drink would help. I softly supplicated above the stream of water, “Ya Allah, help me. Please, please help me. Help me to let go of him.”
By the grace of Allah, my grandfather hadn’t been injured. However, things weren’t the same after his fall. His health seemed to deteriorate more and more each day and my anxiety followed suit. Mom was a wreck too, checking up on him every so often, just holding onto him and sitting there with a distant gaze. Somehow, we were beginning to form some sort of bond over our mutual worrying and care giving. A strained one albeit, but a bond nonetheless. I would hold a cup to his mouth so he could drink water, watching his neck rise and fall as he swallowed.
“I love you Nana,” I would find myself expressing every few minutes.
“I love you too my dear,” he would always reply with such sincerity in his voice.
This pattern continued up until the day that changed my life. It was another bright, sunny afternoon as I walked home that day, my feet pounding the concrete beneath me, my eyes focused straight ahead and barely deviating. He’s waiting for me….
All of a sudden I felt a hard tug on my arm, turning me completely around to come face to face with my boyfriend. My not so little secret. My breath caught in my chest. “Wha…what are you doing?”
“You hardly ever spend time with me anymore. Why can’t I ever come with you? Why are you always ditching me?” he snarled.
“I told you, I can’t! My Mom would probably throw you right back out the door!” I said.
“Look, I don’t even see the point in you anymore! You’ve been dragging me along for months now and I’m done! You hear me?” he shouted.
I shuddered at his words, refusing to look at his face. I had to go. I couldn’t deal with this right now. A chill went down my spine as I turned to leave. I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily. Sure enough, moments later I was flat on the sidewalk, crying in pain with a bleeding gash on my arm. My necklace, the one my grandfather had clasped around my neck so many years ago, lay beside me, shining brightly in the sun. I closed my eyes tightly, my head pounding at the sound of some sirens from the next street over. Well, I could use some help…
After what seemed like a whole day, I managed to lift my aching body up off the sidewalk, taking hold of the necklace in one hand and dragging my backpack along with the other. My arm was stinging at that point, but I tried to ignore it. As I was limping as fast as I could, the front of my house came into view and I felt a wave of relief wash over my entire being. At last, I would be able to see my grandfather and take care of him. I was sure he was waiting for me. I was sure I would ask him if he had enough strength to put on my necklace for me again. I was sure…until I found the front door unlocked. Gingerly, I opened it and stepped inside. Nothing seemed out of place in the living room. Have we been robbed?
My thoughts racing, I rushed to my grandfather’s room. He wasn’t there. I limped upstairs and then back downstairs, checking every room, knocking on every closed door. Things seemed normal, but nobody else was in the house. I started to panic. “Nana! Mom! Where are you!?” I shouted.
There was no answer. Only a deep, encompassing silence. A silence that spoke a thousand words.
The reality began to dawn upon me as I stumbled once again into my grandfather’s bedroom, a room which I had entered innumerable times before, which I had once considered a sanctuary and which held a plethora of memories. Now, it seemed so cold and empty. The weight of my head suddenly felt too much for my body to bear and it landed heavily atop the disheveled mattress where my grandfather had slept so many nights. A rushing cascade of tears carried with it his gentle voice, his comforting hug and his reassuring smile. The image of a much frequented prayer mat still spread out in the corner slowly became clear to me. Despite his weakness and ill health, Allah still gave my beloved grandfather the strength to do his daily prayers standing, I thought.
Though I hadn’t been in the habit of doing so before, I began to supplicate, earnestly and desperately. My words were a jumbled, barely comprehensible mess, but within me, I had such a strong conviction that my Creator was listening and understanding perfectly. Even when I couldn’t find the proper words, even when all I could release were body shaking sobs, I could feel that He was completely aware of my plight and of what I meant all along.
“Oh Allah, pl…pl….please. Save him.”
I was abruptly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone. My hand swiftly swooped into my pocket to retrieve it. I glanced at the screen: Mom. A call that would normally go ignored, my heart skipped a beat as I answered it this time. As she spoke, my grip slowly loosened on the necklace until it slipped down to the floor. I soon followed suit.
Oh Allah, please have mercy on his soul.
The brightness of the early morning sunshine flooded the bedroom, illuminating a freshly rearranged bed, upon which sat a mournful mother and her daughter. Neither of them spoke a word, but nevertheless, they could both feel an immense sense of grief emanating from the other. Amina, scarred from multiple previous losses to the point of extreme reluctance to let yet another loved one out of her grasp, internally grappled to accept the inevitable once again. Meanwhile, Muniba was trying to make sense of an unfamiliar, strange and overwhelming sense of comfort from being close to her mother, knowing that she was experiencing the same pain that was coursing through her own body. It was almost as if they were afraid to leave this room, lest they should have to face an even lonelier hush lurking about the remainder of the house.
Amina couldn’t help but steal a look at her daughter’s face. She noticed that its childhood brightness had been replaced by a maturity that she had been struggling to accept, but a youthful glow still remained. Despite her sadness, her lips curled into a small smile as she realized that her daughter still needed her guidance and her care…and she still needed her. Maybe she just needed to loosen up a bit and let her taste the ups and downs of life, as her father had advised her for so many years. After all, she remembered silently, I can only protect her so much, for so long. But, I can give her the tools to know right from wrong, even after I’m gone. With this thought, she was full to the brim with gratitude to her late father for doing just that.
Muniba, unaware of the contemplation going on beside her, was lost in her own. For once, she was trying to put herself in her mother’s shoes, trying to understand why, perhaps, she always “suffocated” her like she did. Muniba had been so young, a mere three years old, when her grandmother had passed away, followed shortly by her father. She was not yet able to properly comprehend the concept of death or its implications, aside from things like cries when her Papa failed to come read her a bedtime story, and questions posed as to why her Nani no longer woke her up with numerous hugs and kisses. However, the attachments were soon to be mostly lost in the blurred excitement that is childhood. In the midst of all of this, she could clearly recall two people who had always been there to do the things that her Papa and Nani could no longer do for her, and so much more besides: her grandfather and…her mother.
In her mind’s eye, she could see her mother’s face beaming down on her chubby one, which was bordered so delicately by dark brown ringlets. She didn’t want me to have to feel her pain, Muniba thought. Sure, her mother’s behavior was overwhelming at times, perhaps even unnecessary, but as she sat in a post-loss solemnity that she finally knew the meaning of, she found herself unable to blame her any longer.
Hugging one’s mother or child might seem like an action so normal and mundane, perhaps even to the point of being done merely out of habit or with the sense of getting some unavoidable annoyance out of the way. But for this mother and child, a hug meant so much more, as if a rising tide of emotions, which had been growing larger and deeper with each passing day, was finally crashing upon the shore. As Amina felt her troubles washing away and Muniba felt her mother’s gentle hands fastening a shining gold chain around her neck, the same thought drifted across their minds…the sweet memory of a man sitting on his prayer mat in the darkness of the night, praying for this very embrace. Praying for a reborn closeness that he had hoped would survive, even when he himself could live in this world no more.