Tomorrow it will be five years since you, Rika – my grandmother – slipped away from this earthly existence. When I consider five years it seems such a long time; if someone had said “you will not see nor speak with her for five years”, I would’ve considered that an interminable age.
But that’s the funny thing: although it has been half a decade since I have touched you, I see and hear you speak more or less every day. I don’t mean this in an ethereal sense – I mean that you are such an inextricable part of my being that very little time goes by where I do not see you in mind’s eye, or where I cannot hear your commentary embellishing my experiences.
You are there all the time: I cannot look at summer fruit without conjuring images of you in the kitchen, elbow deep in some delicious fruit confection. More often than not you’d be covered in the fruit juice, and full of gleeful satisfaction about your industriousness.
You took such joy in your domestic routines; they were a true meditation for you. I cannot do washing without thinking of the precise way in which you conducted that process; the hanging, ironing, and folding had to be just so – the colour sorting however… well that was just being too pernickety. Just recently I came home to find a pile of folded washing on my bed, not a common occurrence since you’ve been gone. Instantly I remembered you, no washing was safe when you were around.
You were unfailing in your routines and eating was no exception. Your dietary habits were never foiled by the recommendations of the slightly more health conscious among us. Still, the numerous dinners you provided us with were very much appreciated. I think of you now when I’m in the kitchen, I think of all the things you used to tell me whilst you worked away at dinner – a job you liked to have more or less sorted by 10.30am. I find myself now re-stacking the dishwasher, something we used to give you no end of grief over. I get it now, and I think of you every time I do so.
I’m fully aware now that houses do not magically clean themselves, and food does not simply materialise. I know now the hours you put in, but I cannot for the life of me conjure up the grace with which you did all this. No doubt you would have some wise words for me.
I think of you when I smell cigarette smoke. I remember how you would be outside looking to the sky, ever present in your moment, your warm, intelligent eyes watchful and aware.
I walk around Wanaka and there are places I cannot go by without remembering you. You were a part of this community, dedicating your considerable energy and wisdom to helping those around you. No doubt you are missed by many.
I remember not so much the words you used to comfort me during my years of drama, but I can clearly evoke the feeling of lightness and security you left me with again and again. You are the person that helped me put myself, and my life in some kind of perspective. You helped me to feel that being me was inevitable and just fine. You gave me the ability to pass the feeling of lightness and security on to others – maybe not quite to the extent you have – but hey, I’m not yet 35.
So yes, I’ve not been able to touch you for five years now; but you are here in every sunny day, every puerile toilet humour moment, every domestic task, and all my existential musings and reflections. Your quips accompany my day-to day-routine. If I don’t try too hard, conjuring up a picture of you is easy. You really are fully animated and quite vocal in my ‘mind palace’.
I can only hope that I will leave behind me a legacy half as potent and useful as what you’ve left me with. I thank you, my grandmother for all the fun, the mischief, and the tools for life you’ve instilled in me. Most of all I thank you for your unwavering faith in me.